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Lessons on Love from an AroAce

by Tonya Johnson about a month ago in Pride Month / Relationships / Identity
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In time, you'll learn that love was always going to be different for you. You'll learn that there's nothing broken here, only different and that too is a beautiful thing.

"Making Amends Panel 2" by Holly Wharburton (Website:

It wasn’t until much later that it all began to make sense. Hindsight is like that, blindingly clear when you look back at all the collected memories through eyes wizened by time. Growing up there’s a knowing, even when you’re little, that you’re different. This is long before you’ll learn about concepts like straight and gay and all the other words that exist in between to cut and bruise and leave shame scarred in the places you hide.

You’re seven years old in primary school at lunch time and the two girls in your class sharing the bench with you are talking about the boys they have crushes on. When they turn to you and ask, blunt and straightforward the way kids often are, “so, who do you ~like~?” your brain goes offline for a moment. At the time, you’re not really sure why you have no answer to this question but nonetheless feel compelled to answer. Some part of your still developing consciousness is aware enough that there is an expectation here, a reality that you need to uphold. You laugh all the while your mind scrambles through options and it lands on a reasonable choice — a boy that you’re friendly with. You like how he holds his hands together in front of him when he talks, something gentle and graceful about it even in his bony youth.

(There’s an irony in this choice later on. When you’re both older, grown, adulthood ripe on his face but his hands still graceful as ever and just as queer as you are. You’ll laugh at the irony, that perhaps you found safety in each other, knowingly yet unknowingly finding safety in these young but fragile senses of connection and comfort.)

The failure to provide an answer, at seven, at fourteen, at twenty-one keeps repeating. The dread only sinks deeper each time the question rears its head and you fear with every silent eye-roll, every vague response, every redirection, that omission feels more and more like an admittance. That there is no answer, that there may not ever be in a way that matters.

The concept of falling in love sounds great on paper, in fantastical stories centered on brave and courageous (sometimes insipidly vapid depending on the series) heroes that save the day through the power of love. In these fantasies, this type of love makes sense, all-encompassing, passionate, almost obsessive but they never quite translate well outside the margins.

Even when you fall in love for the first time, at least by your definition of falling, it never seems to match the stories, the poems, the movies, the songs, all of the ways this world tells us to swallow the syrupy sweetness of romance. But you are stubborn and the warmth in your chest when you hold their hand feels something like home so you press on and wait for love to play out like a wide-screen cinematic classic. You ignore the sinking dread that only seeps deeper when you realize you keep forgetting the lines to the script, when you miss your cues, until you’re left wondering how you can care and admire and love this person but always seem to come up short with what you have to give.

At twenty-four, after you’ve collected two heartbreaks and thoroughly soaked through both pillows with your crying, you’ll come to accept that maybe you’re not the type of person who can answer questions like “who do you ~like~?” and all the more complicated ones that follow with age with an answer that will satisfy curious minds. That the haunting sense of never being “enough”, of never having “enough” (enough love, enough romance, enough sex, enough energy, enough words, enough explanations for how you feel, what you want, what you need) was misplaced.

You’ll learn that love was always going to be different for you.

And you’ll learn that there’s nothing wrong with the way you love — deeply, lasting, without condition, without any requirement other than to see each other as we are and cherish that offering. You’ll learn that there is nothing broken here.

You know the shape of your best friend’s fingers as they twine with yours as intimately as your mother’s and the warmth from their palms pressed against yours feels like home too. You learn to define love in your own ways and when it settles over you it never feels heavy or weighed down with expectations you don’t know how to meet. You learn to pour all the sweetness reserved for “the one” into yourself and it fills up and up and up and still, there is always spillover. So, you let it run and it seeps, sticky and stained into everything you surround yourself with. This way you are always reminded, in your pitiful but persevering plant collection, the warmth of the setting sun, the laughter of your friends, the comfort of your favourite song, the easy playfulness of your siblings, that all these things and more are home, are love and they will always been more than enough for you.

Pride MonthRelationshipsIdentity

About the author

Tonya Johnson

trinidadian-writer/poet/creature. making a mess out of identity, culture & queerness. occasional deviations from topic to be expected.

Reader insights


Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

Top insights

  1. Compelling and original writing

    Creative use of language & vocab

  2. Excellent storytelling

    Original narrative & well developed characters

  3. Heartfelt and relatable

    The story invoked strong personal emotions

  1. On-point and relevant

    Writing reflected the title & theme

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