From Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul on Love & Friendship

The Sound of Silence

Telling someone the truth is a loving act.

Mal Pancoast

There comes a time in a relationship when someone will “drop the L-word bomb,” as they say, and in our five-month relationship, it was Micah who did the duty. “I love you,” he said. “I love you, too,” I answered back. The words fell like paint out of my mouth. They were unnatural and tasted funny: so easy to say, and yet they were like a tough steak and I was a vegetarian.

It was my senior year in high school. I was eager to break out of the silly little life I had awkwardly outgrown, and Micah was the sailor who could rescue me from my desert island of high-school kookiness. He did, I suppose, but it was more than that. He was like no one I had ever met. He treated me like I was the only girl in the world. If Cameron Diaz walked by, he wouldn’t turn his head. I was all he needed and all he wanted. Everyone else was out of focus in his eyes while I was crystal clear. No one had ever loved me the way Micah had. No one else could convince me that, even after a wisdom-tooth operation, I was beautiful, and that I had a “lovely” voice as I belted out Guns and Roses’ “Sweet Child of Mine.”

When Micah first told me that he loved me, I froze. We were lying side-by-side under the stars on the sand of Moonlight Beach when it happened. I had been told “I love you” before, but Micah was the first person who really meant it with every strand of his being. I had heard of out-of-body experiences, but had never really understood how they could happen. At that moment, though, I could actually see myself stiffen and visualize my words tumbling out of my mouth. He smiled at me, and we kissed. That moment stayed with me for weeks; in fact, it’s still with me in the archives of my memory. We exchanged “I love yous” like baseball cards. And within a couple of weeks, “I love you” became our universal language. “I love you” meant hello, good-bye, I’m sorry, I’m happy, kiss me and thanks for lunch. Those three little words, those eight little letters, could sum up just about anything. I said them without thinking or feeling. I forgot that there was actually supposed to be meaning behind them. And then one day I realized that, even though I loved Micah and knew that I could fall in love with him, I was not “in love” with him, not yet. I had to tell him. I had to stop the hollow words that became the bookends to our verbal communication.

We sat in the silence of his truck for what seemed like hours.

“I love you,” he said.


“Babe? I love you.” His voice rose, and his eyes became question marks. The sound of silence filled the interior and slowly rose like smoke out the window.

“Listen, Micah,” I said. “Don’t say that. Please. I’m not ready. I can’t say it back right now. I mean, I love you, I do, but I’m not in love with you. Please give me time. I want to mean it, I want to mean it with my whole heart, and right now—I don’t. I’m sorry.” I looked up at him, into those glass eyes, waiting for them to break.

He smiled softly and nodded.

“Okay,” he said. “You’re right. I know how I feel. I am in love with you, Becca, but you need to find out for yourself. You need to tell me without my saying it first.” He reached over and kissed me on the forehead.

“No more hollow ‘I love yous,’” he said. “No more reciprocation. This isn’t ‘monkey see, monkey do’!”

I agreed, thanking him for understanding, and we went on, acting more and saying less.

Three weeks later, we were at the movies when it happened. Suddenly, with great force, my heart was flattened against my chest like wallpaper. I looked over at him and I knew. He was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. He was glowing. All those times he had looked at me as if I was the world, and now I sat overcome by his presence and the tingles that filled my body. He was alive, the enigma of all that was heartfelt, and at that moment I was in love with him.

I lifted my chin and slowly moved my lips against his ear.

“I love you,” I said, and this time my words were soft like cotton. I could feel my heart echo as the words fell out into the darkness.

He turned, slowly, and with a tear in his eye answered back.

“I love you, too,” he said, kissing me.

And for a long time, even if Brad Pitt walked by, I wouldn’t turn my head.

Rebecca Woolf

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