You asked me if I was sure about my feelings for you and if I was brave enough to put them down on paper. You laughed about the paper part because you remembered my bad handwriting. But I knew you were serious. I shouldn’t expect you to share your heart with me if I’m not willing to do the same. So, this is what I share with you as I offer my heart:
I knew you long before you became the woman the world sees. Just a kid, I watched from the back of class as cowards called you names and teased you until you cried. I was a coward, too because I didn’t rescue you. I didn’t have the courage at thirteen. You were thirteen, too—your birthday two months before mine. I remember because you sent me an invitation, and I bought you a present—a box of sketching pens. My mom had helped me pick them out when I told her you loved to draw flowers and faces. I still remember how sad you were that day even after you opened my gift. The girl you liked didn’t come to your party. We both knew why but were too young to find the words. I knew we were different and not pretty enough. I used to wish that I was that girl because I would never have made you sad. And I wished that I had told you so. You moved away on my sixteenth birthday, and it was the scariest day of my life. I had no one to be different with anymore.
Now pictures of you adorn magazine covers, and critics announce just how good you are. When I first saw your exhibits hanging in a gallery, I wondered if you still had at least one of those sketching pens.
Fate must be real, how else to explain us meeting on the steps of the Smithsonian after all these years. Seeing you again and knowing that you turned out better than okay erased a fear that I’ve carried in me since we were young. It also reminded me of how much I loved you. I’m telling you this now because I realized that I still feel the same. Believe me, it’s not a lingering childhood crush or a star-struck infatuation. Getting to know you all over again this past year has been like tracing the path I took in finding and accepting myself as being gay. The only difference now is finding you at the end of that path.
Did I mention how beautiful you are? When we sat talking that day in the museum’s café, I tried not to stare at you. I won’t rehash the pain we suffered growing up. Kids can be so cruel. Let’s just say our melanin is our beauty, and it always has been.
So, here we are—you, a brilliant, famous artist, and me, a crime fiction writer who loves museums. And I love you, Maggie Simmons, and want to spend the rest of my life telling you so. That comes from my heart that now belongs to you.
With deepest love,
A.M. McKnight (April 2020)
Let your pen flow. Let your imagination run wild.