The Tranquil King

In the auditorium of my elementary school, I decided to sit next to my friend Cheyn. He had his nose buried in a book. In his presence, I felt a strong sense of serenity wash over me that I couldn’t ever quite forget. As I grew older, I found myself dreaming of him.

At the start of middle school, I moved halfway across the world with my mum for her work. The familiar place where I grew up and my friends would no longer be close by. I would be leaving the boy I loved behind too. I left with nothing but thoughts of him. Through social media, I watched him transform as we grew up. He grew taller. His features became more defined, with a strong jawline and striking cheekbones. It didn’t hurt that he developed a wicked sense of humor too. So naturally, I fell further in love with him. I wanted so badly to go to his high school back home just to be with him. I walked the hallways with him on my mind frequently. Though we barely knew each other anymore, I missed him.

I next saw him again during a July day in our hometown. Even though he and I connected online, we had not seen each other since we were kids. We were fourteen. We spent time walking the tree-lined streets of his neighborhood. My best friend hung back to give us privacy to catch up. I remember asking him what his name meant because I loved the melodic sound of it. He told me it meant “tranquil king.” It was in that moment that I fell deeper for him and the inherent poetry of his name. I felt like this simple exchange altered my relationship with both him and language itself. It is the kind of name that leaves tales and fables in its wake. It is imprinted in my mind long after he told me what it meant. I’ve carried the meaning of his name between my fingertips like treasure. I savor the sweetness of every letter. I cherish his name as if it were my own. I find it continues to inspire me in ways that I could never have comprehended.

That same night, we chatted online about whatever came to our minds.

“I only showed up ‘cause I was interested in meeting you,” Cheyn told me at one point.

My cheeks turned cherry-red as I quickly typed a response.

“Yeah. You’re pretty cool though,” he added.

“Thanks. You’re not too bad yourself!” I replied, attempting to be smooth.

We discussed our passions. We discussed what defines us. We discussed the pressures of finding a career path that satisfied both our parents and ourselves. We would continue to talk online on MSN Messenger when we had a chance. I loved these conversations. I considered them our little, sacred ritual. Anytime we spoke was the highlight of my day. Many things in my life changed since that July day but what remained constant were my thoughts of him.  

In astrology, binary stars are two stars that orbit around one center of mass. They are gravitationally bound to one another. They can be thousands of miles and can take a hundred years to complete a circuit. Others can be so close, they practically touch. I imagined him and me as stars navigating life together despite the physical distance between us. The universe had personally bounded our fates together with an unbreakable, invisible red string.

As much I tried to escape to his gravity, I couldn’t. As I much tried to move on, I couldn’t. Maybe I didn’t want to. Maybe I wasn’t supposed to.

While my feelings faded for other men, they never did for Cheyn. I entered his orbit at fourteen and never looked back. I had discovered unconditional love.

We had known each other before we even knew ourselves. This created an intimacy between us that allowed my walls crumble into dust. It is the kind of intimacy that made me recognize he was home long before I knew what home meant. Now we are still in the process of figuring out who we are in a world not yet molded for us. As we make names for ourselves in this world, my walls still continue to fall just for him.

Almost ten years later, Cheyn and I shared dinner at a restaurant in Harlem one September evening. We were in our twenties. But it was like no time passed since we last saw each other. Our conversation was natural and effortless. We talked about our favorite books and music. We talked about our parents. We reminisced about our school days. We talked about what we wanted in the future. His presence still brought the same serenity I felt as a little girl. I gently removed something from his black hair and studied his handsome face carefully. He was no longer the boy I was sweet on. He was now the well-read and intelligent young man I spent a decade loving with ease. In his eyes, I saw my past, present, and future staring back at me. I understood I would continue to love him for decades to come.

I think that is what love comes down to in the end. To me, love means always choosing the person regardless of the circumstances life throws at us. You’d pick them on your best day. You’d pick them on your worst day. You’d pick them, any day, every day without hesitation. And if I could go back and do it all over again, I’d still choose him. I can’t imagine choosing anyone else. I know he may never love me as fiercely as I love him. I know the day he chooses me may never arrive. But I know he is worth this enormous risk.

We made our way out of the restaurant. Before we parted ways, he gave me one more hug. I wrapped my arms around his waist while his draped over my shoulders. I marveled at how easily my cheek found a simple hollow in the curve of his neck. His chin rested against my hair. I squeezed him affectionately. He squeezed back. I never wanted to let him go.

“Text me when you get home, okay?” He said.

“I will,” I answered.

I walked right and he walked left. I watched him stroll down the streets of the city.  He had his head held high with a quiet, regal air—like the tranquil king that he is.

Happy Valentine's Day, dear readers! With hearts full of love, we're thinking of you today!