Last night, I was trying to explain to someone, looking for the words to describe what Albert meant to me, and the first thing I said was “He taught me everything I know about love.”
I said it without even fully understanding what I meant, yet it felt right. It felt perfect to summarize his role in my life. Thinking about him, and literally nothing else, for the past few days, and I can trace exactly why I feel this way.
When I was 12, I met Albert for the first time. I can’t list the infinite reasons I might’ve fallen for him, don’t need to. I just fell, so hard. I’ve never felt so completely enraptured by someone in my life. I was obsessed, possessed. I wanted to know everything about him, to be close to him, to mean something to him. The next few years were dedicated to just that. I found out he played trombone in marching band and I literally begged my mom to buy me a $900 trombone (a fucking trombone..) because I suddenly had this “burning passion” to play it. 7 am, 0 period, sitting next to him. Marching next to him in parades. Both content and dissatisfied with the 55 minutes I got to be 1.5 feet away from him. Of course he’d only joke around and tease me, as high school boys do, but it meant the world to me. The happiness so monumental from actions so small drove me insane. I wanted more. More more more of him, all of him.
I finally worked up the nerve to ask him to Sadies in 10th grade. We shopped for matching shirts and ate lunch. Took pictures and danced. I wish I could say that that sparked something more, but he only ever saw me as his “little sister.” Drove me insane.
I’m fuzzy on the timeline, but somehow, somewhere in those years, we ended up in my bed. I told him I wanted to lose my virginity to him. I loved him, (what I thought was love at the time. But who’s to say it’s not? It was, and still is.) and said “I want it to be you.” But even with the opportunity paired with raging teenage hormones, he couldn’t. “It’s not that I don’t want to, it’s that I care about you too much.” Rejected and hurt, young, and new to romance, I didn’t understand. But now I realize he loved me, he did, just not in the way that I loved him.
I moved on from my first crush, of course. But to me, he will always be “that boy.” He taught me everything about love, not because we had the perfect relationship, or a relationship at all, but because I knew from the day I went crazy for this guy, that this is how love is supposed to feel. I never once thought about the practicality or logistics of being with Albert. I never even really thought about being with him, in a relationship. All I thought about, all I wanted, was.. him.
Even after high school, even after he flew off to West Point, he never failed to remind me how much I’m worth, and how much deserve. Him refusing my body was the first time someone I loved put my well being in front of their little desires. He asked me to be his date 2 years ago to the West Point Ball in New York (he didn’t have a girlfriend at the time), but I couldn’t go because I was still in school. When I asked “Why me? Of all girls.” He told me that if he could choose 1 person to share that with, to show a good time to, to show off to his friends, it’d be me. Strictly platonic, but so lovely, nonetheless. He would always tell me, show me, simply exist to prove to me, that real love asks for nothing.
Albert taught me about sacrifice. I’d always ask him how he endured such vigorous training. The physical and mental demands of the military academy completely evaded me. But he never once questioned what he signed up to do. “I have to do it, so I just do it.” I felt so humbled, honored to call him my friend. Someone who serves without expectation. Someone who gives without taking. Someone who loves without needing. Someone I would be proud to measure up to be half as substantial as.
He would tell me about his flings, hookups, crushes. A part of me was and will always be jealous of the girls that had his attention in the way I never quite did. But I’d laugh at his stories (they were genuinely hilarious) and give sympathy for his headaches. Any girl he’d tell me about that didn’t like him back, I wanted to punch in the face. They have no idea who they could’ve had.
Earlier today, your organs saved 6 lives. Giving til the end. I want to look up each of these 6 lucky survivors and tell them. Tell them who you were. Tell them how blessed they are. To be alive, to have a part of you keeping them alive.
“Your heart, is a heart of gold. It beats stronger and harder than anyone else’s on this earth. Treasure it, love it back.
Your lungs, they breathe the air of mountaintops, beach winds, every person whose breathe he took away. Inhale positivity, exhale negativity.
Your liver, honestly- sorry, might be a bit damaged from past excessive alcohol consumption, but it commemorates the celebration of life. Party while you can, I’m sure he won’t mind.
Your intestines, I won’t be surprised if you end up constipated, because Albert never gave a shit what other people thought. In a good way.
Your skin, is skin, that’s not meant to cover up burn wounds or be smooth and flawless. Your skin’s function is to touch. To touch and be felt.”
But I know what you’d say to me. You’d say that it doesn’t matter if these people know you or your story. It just matters that you were able to help. There is always an action, and a reaction. You never cared about people’s reactions, only of your own actions. True virtue, true sacrifice.
In the same way, I realize now that it doesn’t matter that you didn’t “love” love me. Because I know that I loved you. For the first time. And that became the definition, the model, the essence of what I now call “love” in my life.
Thank you, for teaching me. Everything. I know about love.