Precisely two years ago, I sat down with this same laptop for the same exact reason — to wish Phineas a happy birthday. A bon anniversaire. Last time, I did it in the form of an email titled “The 22nd Year” (which is technically incorrect because while he was turning 22, he was actually starting his 23rd year of life…damnit). In said email, I wrote things that could only have come from a relatively untainted and naïve heart. Here’s a sample:
[Phineas], the one thing I want you to know above all else is that I believe in you. I don’t want nor need to know your history. What I believe in is your heart, which I am convinced is beautiful, sincere and pure.
Reading this now, I cringe slightly at my obliviousness. I am also confused as to why there isn’t a comma after “sincere”, because I always put one there. On a more significant note, however, I am almost jealous of my 18-year-old self. Back then, I believed in the good of people. I believed that love could conquer all. I believed that Phineas and I would be kind to each other.
Oh, believe me, kind to each other we were not. But we were real, and we bore to each other the most raw and naked corners of our souls. Before I met and loved Phineas, I hadn’t really lived. Because to live is to feel. To feel passion, lust, rage. To feel betrayed, wanted, forgotten. Merely weeks into our relationship, sitting across from each other at the dormitory dining hall, Phineas told me that he didn’t know if he could continue “this”. I nodded, knowing that he had every right to break up with me, but for some reason I wasn’t scared. I knew that our story wasn’t finished. A few weeks after that, not far from that very table, I demanded to know why Phineas was less than enthused by my writing. He proceeded to tell me that he didn’t believe I was a “real” writer, since I produced an average of 9.53 pages of fiction a year. Seething, I tore him a new asshole.
Phineas can be a dick, but his endless well of patience more than makes up for it. He’s chased me — and I mean that literally — everywhere. I think I’ve finally been broken of the habit (knock on wood), but for the better part of our relationship, I would run when I couldn’t deal with my emotions. When I ran away from a church retreat (back when I thought God could save me), Phineas found me. When I convinced him I had run away to the Arb (even though I was actually in class), he combed miles of forest looking for me. When I took a turn for the morbid and began running in front of cars, Phineas saved me. Even after I ran all the way to Paris and broke up with him for the umpteenth time, Phineas took me back. When I ran so far away from myself that I forgot who I was, Phineas taught me again.
Not only have I lived because of Phineas, but I am also alive thanks to him. Before I met him, I was quite possibly on a spiral to death, losing myself more and more to demons I never knew existed. In the past two years, I’ve stood eye-to-eye with my demons and I’ve survived. I am as close as I’ve ever been to becoming a “real” writer, and I could never have done it without Phineas. Babe, this one is for you and to you. You’ve had to deal with more shit in the past few years than anyone deserves. You’ve taught me that it’s okay to visit four different grocery stores at midnight in search of junk food. You’ve taught me that sometimes a Five Guys burger is worth as much as $50 steak. You’ve taught me that full-grown adults still enjoy kid movies, and that’s fine. You’ve taught me that I’m worth more than my achievements (okay, maybe this one is a work in progress). Most of all, you’ve taught me about love — I still know so little about it, but I learn every day.
24th 25th year, I will be unoriginal and wish you the same thing as before: happiness. You always say that I undervalue happiness, and ’tis true. As we grow old and jaded and we struggle under the weight of our responsibilities, let us not forget that nothing matters if we’re not happy.
With all my love,