That energy -- so familiar and yet so foreign in its intensity -- crackled in the scant centimeters of air between us. I felt more than saw Nate’s free hand shift, rising up to hover just beside my face. Each tiny hair on my body rose, as if pulled by a magnet toward his touch. His eyes were locked on mine, the whites glistening in the dim light, and his unspoken question roared with the rush of blood in my ears.
He gave me a choice, in that moment. In those long, tense seconds I stood before a fork in the road. Down one path lay a stable, happy life-- contentment and a long to-do list full of check marks. College, check. Career, check. White wedding, check. Babies, check. PTA meetings, soccer practice, grandbabies, world travel, check check check check. Dappled sunshine played on the packed dirt of that path and birds chirped cheerfully in the trees that lined its long, straight length.
Then there was the second path-- dark and narrow, winding its way through dense foliage that captured the moonlight, holding it hostage before it had a chance to hit the ground. Lightning and thunder cracked over the second path, and the ground was treacherous and muddy. It was beautiful and wild and dangerous. It sang to me-- a sad and powerful song that skipped straight past my ears and braided itself with my spine, sending shocks of pure, electric passion straight to the core of me. I couldn’t see the future down that path, but as I stared at the darkness my list of goals and to-dos fluttered to the ground beside me, forgotten.
I had a choice. He gave me a choice. So I suppose everything that came after was, in a sense, my fault. I could have gone down that first path. I could have lived the rest of my life in the light, with the reins grasped tight in my hand and both feet planted firmly on solid ground. I could have been content.
Instead, I closed my eyes, pulled in a breath that smelled like soap, sweat, and comfort, and surrendered myself to the darkness. At the time I could not even have fathomed what that darkness contained. I could not have foreseen the agony I would encounter on that path, nor could I comprehend the sheer magnitude of the passion and devotion that would carry me down it.
It was momentous. It was pivotal. My whole life came to a screeching halt in that split second when his hand came to rest against the side of my face and his lips brushed over mine.
My first kiss.
Even knowing what came next-- even knowing what wrenching, treacherous existence that kiss begat-- I would do it again. A thousand times over, I would go back to that moment and let him kiss me-- let him drag me down that dark and winding path.
See, the first path might be sunny and simple. The first path might make sense. But the second path? That’s where he is and that’s where he’ll always be-- strong and sure in the chaos, unflinching, matching every evil with ferocious good and every pain with steady comfort. I’d weather every storm, endure every agony, and live every moment of my life in darkness just for the warmth of his hand in mine and the feel of him standing beside me.
I guess that’s love.