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I lost my Valentine.
He’s somewhere in the heavens. He died in late January in his sleep. This wasn’t supposed to happen. This wasn’t part of the plan. We were supposed to move in together in two weeks. It was supposed to be the start of our life together.
Adam and I dated for three years; those three years were filled love, hope and over 2000 emails, which is actually how we fell in love.
We met for the first time in college — him at Michigan and me at Wisconsin. Just a friendly passing. Serendipitously, we both ended up working in Chicago five years later. He ended up being my go-to person for career advice — advice that turned into a love affair. He was one of those guys that, when you talked to him, minutes turned into hours.
We had a pure and equal love. And now he’s gone, ripped from me so suddenly, and I can’t make sense of this pain.
Valentine’s Day wasn’t a big part of our story; we weren’t into large, extravagant displays of affection. We showed each other our love in the small moments: a kiss in the elevator, making each other coffee, whispering “I love you” in the middle of the night.
However, in the spirit of this holiday, I want to share one of our best love stories.
When Adam and I started dating, I had just experienced the worst tragedy that anyone could face at 23 years old: my mother died unexpectedly. Adam was the first to send me his condolences. He almost instinctively knew to enter my life slowly and respectfully.
Suddenly, I found myself emailing him again and again. He made me feel like the only person in the room — like I could do anything or say anything, and he would meet me with no judgment. I wanted him to know what I was thinking and wanted to know what he was thinking about, too.
We would go on one or two dates a week, my favorite being Sunday dates, where we would watch Mad Men and drink whiskey. As a season was concluding that May, I thought, “Shit, Mad Men is ending, I’m never going to see this kid again.” He was just so calm and cool — my opposite. I had savored each date, thinking it would be the last. I had some unexplainable fear I would never see him again. Mad Men was this scheduled part of our life, and I wanted to keep that consistency.
I had to hold onto this budding love and I knew I needed to do anything to get another Sunday date on the books.
So the season finale came and went. I began racking my brain. At 4 a.m., an idea came to mind: The Blackhawks were in the finals. I would get us tickets. It was foolproof plan; he would have to say yes. And so I found two tickets — for $1000.
I am by no means rich (or even a big sports fan), and at the time, I was working a low-level PR job and barely had any savings. But I bought them.
I wrote a cool and casual email and floated the idea. I remember waiting for a response, impatiently beating myself up with the thoughts: Oh shit, I just spent a good portion of my savings on some guy. Me? What?
At 9:10 am, my intuition and huge investment paid off. He said yes.
I created this intricate web of lies: I told Adam the tickets were from work, colleagues were told the tickets were from a family friend, I did everything to conceal my crazy and not let him know that I just dropped a large chunk of money to take a chance on love.
Adam and I went to the game, and we didn’t even stay until the end. It was magical.
This year, I finally told Adam the truth. We were planning on getting married, so I figured he had to know. I looked at him in bed one day and said, “Adam, there’s something really important I need to tell you. Our whole relationship is based on a lie. The tickets weren’t free. I bought them.”
He looked at me in disbelief, chortling on the floor. He looked at me and said, “I love you,” and smothered me in kisses.
We didn’t need Valentine’s Day to tell each other we were, “lovers, best friends and true teammates.” (His words not mine.) As I sit here wishing he were with me more than ever, the only thing that seems fitting to do is to encourage others to put themselves out there, be vulnerable.
I’ll never regret taking a chance on love like I did. Life is short. Use love and any advantage to make it the best. Valentine’s Day may be one of those manufactured holidays, but who cares? Embrace it. I only wish I could this year.
And maybe if I’m lucky, one day, I’ll take that chance again.