During a family dinner, my sixteen-year-old cousin leaned over and sighed.
“How do you not fall in love?”
I hovered my spoon above the plate and looked at my sister, who I thought would share sage advice to our lovelorn cousin. Instead, I was left alone to answer his simple yet poignant question.
But how do I tell him that falling in love for the first time is like breathing air after being under the blanket for so long; that feeling of relief after a period of sultriness.
How do I tell him that falling in love is like seeing color after growing up in a dreary gray cell. A wondrous sight. An incorrigible lust for more.
How do I show him how much it hurts when our I love yous meet silence. Yet we still say it anyway because some things need to be said, even if it doesn’t want to be heard.
How do I describe the taste of teardrops after aimlessly chasing an I love you too, only to fall short. There are things we will never hear. People we will never love again.
How do I tell him that falling in love is like seeing the stormy gray clouds looming above. The certainty of a downpour, but the hope that it won’t be a hurricane.
How do I show him the scars left from all the times I fell for people who never saw me hurt. How I scraped my knees as I fell head over heels and then bandaged the wounds with grit.
How do I explain that falling in love is like a chug of cold water after a run. Sometimes you just need a lot of it to stand tall again.
How do I tell him that there is no wrong person to fall in love with. Because everyone is a learning point, and every relationship is a step towards the final frontier.
How do I tell him that when you do meet the right person to love, they will pervade every crevice of your character and make you whole.
How do I show him that falling in love is not like the explosion of a supernova followed by the eternal emptiness of a black hole. Instead, it’s like the asteroids that hit the Earth and introduced water—introduced life.
How do I tell him that when you’re on your deathbed, you won’t remember the people you didn’t love, but the ones you risked loving.
How do I tell him that being loved in return is like jumping into a pool after a hot summer’s day. How walking out of the water will leave you shivering in the wind; longing to go back underwater.
But I didn’t say any of this because my cousin was lost in his own thoughts, and so was I.
“You can’t stop yourself from falling in love,” I finally said to him. “Sometimes your heart betrays your head.”