Happy Esther Day, my loves! Esther Day is a celebration of the birthday and life of our friend Esther. It involves, primarily, telling our family and platonic friends that we love them. This expression of love was Esther’s sixteenth birthday wish. A few weeks later, after many years fighting papillary thyroid cancer, Esther died.
In honor of Esther’s birthday, I hope you take time today to tell your family and your friends that you love them. Don’t use this day as an excuse to tell someone you are interested in them romantically– instead, think about the people you have a hard time expressing your love to, or the people you assume know of your love without your verbalization, and let them know (with your words!) today.
Friends, readers, visitors: I love you.
This is what I mean when I say I love you, addressed to a smattering of the you’s I’ve loved this year.
When I say I love you, I don’t care about kisses.
I don’t notice your dirt-darkened skin or how the shining fire of your hair has been dulled by mud clumps. When you burst through my door I am subsumed by your zest; I give you my shower & my closet & I don’t care how many times you change, leaving my clothes crumpled on the floor.
When I see your beard on the Oval, I race to sit silently across from you while you meditate & when you open your eyes I hug you ever so gently because you possess the gentlest spirit & bones as fragile & hollow as a hatchling’s.
You will later shatter my heart so thoroughly I’ll use an entire year’s worth of tears in a single week, but there will always be that day you gave me a lemon square after those months when I lost too much weight because applying to graduate school was so expensive I could only afford plain rice & you remembered that lemon squares are my favorite & nothing has ever tasted so good & so thoroughly un-rice-like.
You show me what it means to survive, how to be brave, remind me that everything will be okay. You are kind & beautiful & faithfully correspond through the postal service & your handwriting on envelopes fills me with validation & appreciation. ;&
I scoop your tiny body into my arms & your eyes grow heavy & I watch as soft curls begin to cover your fontanel.
Not once, in that entire twenty minute presentation, do you look up at me. But months later, you tell me precisely what I was wearing & what my best jokes were.
Our personalities clash completely- we hardly get along, but there’s no one else alive who would drop everything, do anything for me, with a moment’s notice, anytime, anywhere.
You still talk to me after I sing that stupid church jingle from my childhood, even though I should a) never sing & b) should avoid conversations about religion.
I sleep in your bed but hardly sleep all night, waking up every half hour with your hand smothering my face, grasping my ski-slope nose.
You give me a discerning look, ask, “Doesn’t it ever make you sad? That you aren’t pretty like other girls?” It’s cruel but I admire the way you never mince words & I remind you that I’m smart & I work harder to prove it.
& when I tell you what he said you are so angry & you say, “Not pretty like other girls? Not pretty like other girls! That’s. No. Don’t. I don’t want you to ever believe that.” & it’s the first time I’ve ever considered not believing it & we’re both alone so I grab your hand & we run through the midnight sprinklers & in the icy water we blossom & bond.
You never forget my birthday. You read the things I write & are never anything but encouraging. I love hearing of your adventures, the amazing meet-ups & awful dates. I wish every Saturday was the second.
You understand what it’s like to care so deeply only to find your affections unrequited, or partially requited but mostly saved for someone else. You understand how difficult it is to balance feelings & feminism.
Everyone loves you instantly & I may be your biggest fan & the most genuine, because most of them are primarily interested in the size of your breasts & I am interested in the thoughts in your head.
You teach me how to skateboard & when the wheels revolve too quickly I get scared & put my hands back & they meet your arms because you are right there with me & nothing has ever felt so much like home.
I wake up & you are watching me, crying. No one has ever, or will ever, love me as much as you.
When I say I love you, I don’t care about sex.
When I say I love you I mean that when I’m having an Oskar day, you make my heavy boots feather-light; you unzip me from the sleeping bag of myself. I am lost at sea and your goodness shines out of you like so many lighthouse beacons. My love is an ampersand. There are times when I want to be snarky and flippant, because I get scared when I think of just how much and how deeply I love you. But we don’t have time for insincerity and you, all of you, fill me with happiness and joy. I want to be better, for you and with you.
Because I love you.
And when I say I love you I mean, our consciousness is fleeting and there is simply no point in living without loving.