What happens when someone asks you for the only thing you can’t give

It was the 23rd of December and we’d been together a grand total of three days. We met a couple of months earlier, on the day before she was meant to leave for the States to study, and had the kind of night that would have put Nick & Norah to shame.

She was back home for Christmas. She was back home for me. We spent the months in between falling in love through electronic love letters, living some sort of weird half-life where we left our bodies behind to exist in the vast world of servers and routers.

It almost felt like I had an imaginary friend. I could go about my daily life as usual — eat, sleep, drink, flirt, repeat — without ever having to think of someone else. Then suddenly she was here — a walking, talking, touchy version of the messages I fell in love with. After months of learning about each other’s thoughts, we now had to get used to each other’s physicalities. “I’m so much more charming through text,” I told her on her first night back as I spent some time absorbing every little detail about her: the mole on her left hand, the way her cheeks would turn red every time I said something nice about her, the way she would look at me from across a crowded room, the moment I knew her laugh would haunt me long after she was gone.

What do you get someone you’ve spent three days with? I didn’t know either so I asked her. She told me that all she wanted was a guarantee. It just so happened that that was the one thing I couldn’t give her. That I only had my doubts and excuses left to give. She was someone I never really thought was going to happen — so I jumped in heart first without giving any of it any real thought. She had a boyfriend when she left. She was living far away with no concrete plans of coming back. But somewhere along the way she became real and she was now standing right in front of me.

So I went to the mall and got her a DYMO label maker, the old school kind like the ones from our childhood. It was a physical manifestation of what I couldn’t give her. I opened it up and typed out “I BELONG TO SAM” in big, bold, letters before wrapping it up in a box and tying a gold ribbon around it.

Later that night, we were seated in my car waiting for the sun to rise. This would be the last time we would see each other before Christmas. We were talking about when we found out that Santa Claus didn’t exist. She told me that she found all her letters in her mom’s dresser at the age of six, I told her that I never really believed in him but pretended to anyway. She thought that was funny. I asked her to open the glove compartment, pretending I needed something inside it. She reached forward to open it, immediately revealing the box with the gold ribbon that was hidden inside. She opened it up excitedly and smiled when she saw what was inside. She turned to me to give me a kiss but not before I could say: “I know you wanted a label so here it is”. It was a Christmas miracle she would later discover to be a hoax, a gift she would eventually exchange for something else.


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