Most of us hope to experience a great love to last the rest of our lives, but none of us really know if we will find it. We might think we have it, only to find out how fragile it falls alongside the not-quite-finished school project still warm with glue, or maybe it falls between our fingers with a donut’s powder. Our moment to find it might be sparse, a moment falling too short of a Popsicle’s lifespan. Have we found it? We may not know. We might not realize it until the glue hardens, the powder stops falling, and Popsicle is long gone. It may be standing in front, behind, or beside us, holding out its hand and eager to continue this eternal flame.
I thought I found you. Maybe it was the summer air and the way the warmth seemed to soften rough edges of even the most rigid situations, but I thought I felt it. Then, when summer disappeared, I realized you did not.
We started the fire with a single match, a single moment, a single breath. It burned hot–almost scalding. Once we realized we could stand before it without receiving a burn, though, we danced. We danced around it while our hands intertwined with laughter–sometimes used to hide the truth–rising higher than the smoke climbing toward the stars–evidence of lives much greater than ours.
One question remained: When would the flames cease?
Would this happiness cease with it?
Was this even happiness?
Once the flames died and the smoke clothed us in its suffocating warmth, we used our tools to poke and prod the dying remnants of past happiness. Eventually, we unearthed the flames and we welcomed them while they emitted their magic, their comfort, and their desire to wrap around us until our last breaths. We thought we could fix everything. In reality, we were trying to fit the piece of a puzzle in the wrong scene.
We found ourselves overwhelmed by the all-consuming smoke while it buried itself deep within our throats and attached itself to the walls of our lungs. Discomfort turned into coughing, followed closely by goodbyes.
Even though this suffocation postponed my normal breathing patterns for a while, and I was the only one affected by the smoke while you wore a mask, it seems as though I came out stronger than you did. I learned what it felt like to be ignored, hindered, and unappreciated.
When I stumbled upon actual happiness–insecurity no longer finds its role in my present–it was at first difficult to comprehend. Was it too good to be true? It wasn’t, though. It still isn’t. It’s everything I wanted without the melodrama of suffocation and constant hidden imagery and symbolism so often drawn in with your presence.
While I had to bury myself within the smoke in order to find you, I now live without the smoldering ashes, without the suffocation, and without the pain of feeling burdensome and lackluster.
I feel appreciated, and that is all I have ever wanted.
The Girl You Never Appreciated
Lauren is a Ball State University alumna with a Bachelor's degree in English and a concentration in Creative Writing. She enjoys breakfast for dinner with a side of literary enjoyment.