I still feel his chest under my head. I still hear his heartbeat–counting the pulses to lull me to sleep.
I still feel his fingers in my hair. His skin beneath my fingertips. His breath on my neck.
I’m 20 years old then, on my bed, inhaling our nighttime fragrance: Listerine and Irish Spring. The streetlamp outside pours into my room, through my curtain-less blinds, eerily… perfectly. The dim light expresses only the vaguest, but most desired, details.
We lay in silence, him petting my hair, us drifting in and out of sleep, desperate to stay awake to savor one another. This is no honeymoon, to be sure. We argue everyday. We yell and say things we don’t mean. We make each other cry because that’s what happens to people you love: you know their vulnerabilities, and to your attacks, there are no defenses.
But here in this moment, silent and absent of the world and its perils–this moment is perfect. I lift my head and look up at him. He has two pillows behind him because mine are so flat–he hates my house (I’m in college, what can I say?).
“What is it?” he asks.
“Do you still love me?”–a game we play.
He smiles, pinches my cheek, and in an exaggerated Southern accent: “A’course I love you, darlin’. You want me ta steal you away and go live in da woods? I kill us up some good eatin’ for dinner.” And he’ll throw me on my back, tickle me ’til I cry, and eventually we’ll land where we started: my listening to his heart. His twisted-humor, crazy heart.
Moments like these were some of the happiest of my life–the only moments I felt wholly myself, and felt wholly loved for that reason. There, counting his heartbeats. My lullaby.
We all have our lullabies. Lullabies are whispers only we can hear–like the ones we heard as children, quiet comforts that find their way inside and fill you with such security and euphoria that no trouble stands a chance. We feel safe. We feel happy.
Just as we use our loved ones’ vulnerabilities to drive them mad, we’re capable, too, of whispering to them this way–spotlighting their tenderness to drive them… happy. We hear these whispers from our beaus, we hear them from our mothers, we hear them from the joy we feel when we’re proud.
A sappy thought? Probably–I’m that way. I mean, my most euphoric memory is the sound of a heartbeat–how much mushier can you get than that? But it’s especially bad this time of year, when romantic comedies tell us we should be cuddling up with our beaus by fireplaces, unfolding quirky, but somehow perfect, romances. (For the record, I HATE romantic comedies.)
Truth is, a lot of us are single right now. And this time of year reminds us of loves past–no matter how normal–or un-sappy–we are. It reminds us of the haunting lullabies we wish we still had, and somehow makes us forget the reasons we got rid of them. Haunting, yes. Laying in bed, next to where he was. Still feeling the rush of our lullaby without him there.
Single or not, happiness isn’t guaranteed. Most of us are in a state of perpetual dissatisfaction, maybe in just one realm of life. Some people place this energy on their work (they call it ambition), others in their relationships (they call it romance)–we funnel our frustration into an incessant pursuit of success, because we have a need to always be chasing something–because we’ve heard our lullaby and we want desperately to rekindle it.
It never strikes you that you’ve heard your lullaby until it’s time to pull away. Getting out of bed at the sound of an alarm clock, prying yourself out of his arms–that’s when you realize how good it really is…
And I do. I still feel his chest under my head and his fingers in my hair. I hear his whispers. I taste his kisses. And I always will. Maybe not always with him, but I know my lullaby, and in someone else, I will hear it again.
Happy Valentine’s Day.