There was a time back in high school when I became obsessed with the perfect “I love you” moment. I was a nerd, yes, but I still went through the whole teenage in-love-with-love phase. Love was such an alien concept to me back then and I was curious at what it’s like, not unlike my curiosity for liquor. But unlike liquor, love had no age restrictions, and I got to explore on it freely.
Teen flicks were mostly to blame for my obsession. We used to have movie nights every weekend in our dorm and two-thirds of the movies we rented were about school romance. We were all giddy as Landon and Jamie developed an undeniable chemistry, we held our breaths with Zach as Laney walked down the stairs in slow motion and we choked back our tears while Kat read her poem for Patrick.
But the part that we really waited for was that moment when guy took girl’s hands, looked her in the eyes and said those three words. Then they shared that sweet kiss while a love song washed every other sound in the background. It was pure magic. No one was willing to admit it but we were all secretly excited for our own perfect moment.
I never actually fell in love in high school. The tension between me and love was never resolved and it carried over to college. It was during the end of my sophomore year when I finally believed that I was truly in love. It was with a girl (yes, you read it right) I met in a choir. Finally, I had someone I can say those three words to.
I got the courage to say it one night. The sky was filled with stars and sweet music was playing in my head. I was ready for my moment. Unfortunately for me, it turned out that my moment hasn’t come yet. She turned me down for someone else, and the supposedly-magical moment ended with me chain-smoking an entire pack of cigarettes while emo-ing in our auditorium’s steps.
But my defeated state didn’t last long. I met another girl a few days after and I decided to take my chances with her. I wooed her in the typical student-style ligaw – walks to classes, lunch and dinner dates, long walks around campus after class – though I never explicitly expressed my intentions. She eventually fell for it after a few weeks and she started giving me hints, subtly urging me to make my move. But I realized that I was unprepared.
One night, I said those three words to her, just to find out if they will mean anything once I let them out. They didn’t. They felt like just any other random sentence that came out of my mouth. I decided to stop seeing her after that.
Fast forward to a couple of years later, I had already gone through the whole self-acceptance thing and I was already on my second boyfriend. I didn’t really like him that much but back then I was bursting at the seams with pent-up “I love you’s” and he happened to be the first taker.
He told me that he loved me every chance he got, and I replied with an “I love you” from my surplus storage. But it ran out not long after. Those “I love you’s” were never meant for him, after all. I just wanted to get to say them to someone and have that someone to say them back to me. I broke up with him at the first chance I got.
I said those words again a few more times after that to different guys, each one ending in disappointment. By the time I met Philip, I was already wary of saying them. I was so into him, more than I ever was with the ones before him, but I could no longer let go of those words as easily. I had already carelessly said them too many times and didn’t want to make the same mistake again. I held back and waited until I was absolutely sure.
It wasn’t until a month after we became a couple that I finally said it. It was just another one of our nights together. We were in my room, lying on my disheveled bed and surrounded by my grimy pillows.
But it was different.
For the first time, I was absolutely sure of what I was saying. I felt vulnerable, but I also felt safe, and there was nothing else I would rather do. It was every bit as magical as I hoped it would be.
That was it, the perfect moment I had been waiting for. I finally got it. And every “I love you” I uttered on the days after that was just as magical as the first.
But you all know what happened next. The feelings started to wane after a couple of years and our relationship started to crumble, at least on my side. Towards the end, my “I love you’s” became mostly just a reminder for me that I already had a boyfriend and that I was supposed to stick with him. I still meant them every time but they could only be as real as the love they were drawn from.
It’s been over a year since we broke up but until now, I still haven’t said those words again. There were some close calls, when the moment seemed to beg for me to say them, but I always held back because I always doubted myself. I wasn’t sure if I was going to say them for the right reason so I chose to stay silent.
I had a lot of those moments with John. Heck, one of those near-I-love-you moments was even caught in an entry. It took a lot of effort for me to hold back, but I ultimately succeeded. Now that he and I are no longer together, I feel that I made the right choice. I was indeed going to say them for the wrong reasons after all. I felt something for him, something intense, but it wasn’t love yet.
But the closest of those close-calls happened only a couple of nights ago. Someone told me that he loved me, someone I met and had been harboring feelings for even before I met John, someone I had been wishing to hear those three words from for a long time. I wanted to say those words back. I wanted to tell him that I felt the same. But I couldn’t. Not just yet.
At this point, it’s harder than it has ever been for me to say those words. I’m no longer the dreamy teenager that I was and no longer have the excuse of youth’s ignorance. The only thing that still holds true from those days is how special those three words are. I don’t want them to lose their meaning and become something I can just let out whenever I feel like it. They should be told only when one knows without a shard of doubt that he is truly in love.
I’ll get to say those words again someday. When I finally do, the person I’m going to say them to can be sure that those three words mean simply and exactly what they’re supposed to mean.