I knew that they were laughing at me. I knew that I was the butt of the joke. I had been for a long time.
My boyfriend at the time used to tell me that it was my fault. I propagated the issue by drawing drama to myself. However, it wasn't him who used to get the suicide calls. It wasn't him who used to wake up to text messages telling him to go die or that he should leave and never come back.
It wasn't him who was afraid to go to school because he was worried about getting ruthlessly teased for his looks. It was his friends who perpetrated the issue, who called me and told me to kill myself. It was he who did nothing, and it was me who let it happen.
For years I let the memories of being teased and tormented guide every relationship, every friendship and interaction. I went into every environment thinking that people were inherently evil. That I was the punchline to a joke that everyone knew but me. I became a shell of my former self; an unhappy puppet who let other people move her whichever way they wanted to.
It wasn't until this summer, when I met you, that things changed.
The first time I met you, you were wearing a button-down white shirt, some plain black pants and ratty tennis shoes. We had agreed to rendezvous at a speakeasy called Dear Irving that my coworkers had told me about.
We laughed and laughed for hours. Your blue eyes sparkeled every time you laughed and your blond hair was messy but boyishly cute. You told me that I was beautiful and fun, something that I hadn't been told in a long time. You made me feel vibrant and alive.
The second time I met you, you had strawberry-blonde hair and your lanky frame towered over mine. You were clad in a hilariously adorable button-down that was dotted with paw prints. We snacked on ice cream for appetizers and had an amazing steak in a historic restaurant for dinner.
You made me laugh and smile, forgetting the world for a little while. You called me beautiful and interesting, funny and entertaining. You made me feel sexy and brilliant.
The third time you were wearing a suit. You had floppy brown hair and gorgeous blue eyes. You were an assistant at a law firm and prided yourself on your intelligence and confident masculinity. You and I conversed for hours about current events in the huge Starbucks down the street from my office, and your knowledge was sexy and inspiring.
You told me that I inspired you. That you wanted to change where you were in life because you knew that you were meant to go down another professional path. You commended me on my ambition and drive, two things that I had long since forgotten I had.
However, the most monumental meeting was at the very beginning of summer. I was walking down the block with my mother talking about my most recent heartbreak -- mostly the emotionally challenging nights I had spent with copious amounts of Ben & Jerry's and Netflix -- when you suddenly appeared beside us on the sidewalk.
You were wearing a tattered fedora and knee-high socks. The Converse on your feet were worn from travel, and your round glasses sat high on your nose. You were the most fascinating person I had ever laid eyes on.
You looked at me and politely said: "I'm sorry to interrupt, but I heard your conversation. May I offer some unsolicited advice?"
I looked at my mother and tentatively nodded, wondering what was going to transpire here.
"I hear that you're having a hard time, and I'm sorry for that. I think that we, as people, all struggle with the Ying's and Yang's of life: the good and bad and finding the difference. We have forgotten to learn from our mistakes and appreciate them for the lessons they are. Instead we look at things that are bad and say that they are horrible events that should never have happened.
Life is a journey and we need to remember to appreciate the ride. Don't focus on the destination and don't look at things in a bad light, even if they were bad. Find the balance between the Ying and the Yang, the good and the bad. You'll find happiness that way."
Then you smiled at me and bid me a good night. I turned to my mother, my mouth agape, trying to figure out if what had just happened was real. When I turned back to thank you for that wonderful advice, I turned to see an empty space where you had been. You had crossed the street and disappeared around a corner.
I stared after you, wondering if you were an angel.
Mr. Summer, you took many forms and faces over the course of these last few months. You came to me in romance, in friendship, and in inspirational moments of miraculous enlightenment . You reminded me that I'm vibrant, sexy, smart, ambitious, driven and most of all: alive. You reminded me that I need to balance the Ying and the Yang of life. To never forget the goodness in people; even strangers on the street.
Thank you for the lessons you taught me, and thank you for showing me the beauty in myself that I had long since forgotten.