Ten years from now I wonder if I’ll look back at this moment fondly or regretfully. Will I feel like I was handled properly or played? Made a risky decision that was true to what my heart desired, or an unwise one where I should’ve known better?

In this moment my mind drifts, circling around other questions I can’t really answer: Did sex put an expiration on the friendship we’d carefully built? Was our passionate love starting to weigh heavy on your heart because you wanted to do right? And did that mean doing us was wrong? Could we make it out of this thing without anybody getting hurt? And why did I care so much?

I’d forgotten that falling in love has phases. It’d been five years since I felt both the pleasure and fear and beauty of falling.

In the first phase your heart skips a beat every time his name pops up on your phone. You grin from ear to ear as you chat about everything and nothing. You want to know every inch of him, and hope he asks all the right questions to find out every part of you. He does. The sweet texts, the effort, his wanting to make you smile comes natural. It’s never forced. You never want your time together to end. The vibe isn’t something either of you have found anywhere else. The spark could cause a fire. There’s intimacy without sex. Cheek kisses, holding hands, putting your head on his chest, two souls soaking up each other’s energy from what is undeniably an organic connection. He seems so rare you place him on a pedestal, deluding yourself by placating him as a god.

But men are not gods. Not even close.

In phase two of falling, reality sets in. You’re still mostly happy every time his name flashes across your screen. You’ve made unforgettable days and nights that you’ll always look back on fondly. Getting high on rooftops. Expensive lunch dates. Sharing secrets. Listening to a smooth brother sing while playing the guitar. A Drake and Future concert here, a trip to Vegas there. And finally sex. Amazing sex. Bathroom sex. Sex so intimate neither person is being smart because it feels too good. You’re sad when he leaves to go home. You hold on to every time he said, “Don’t leave me.”

Now that sex has complicated what is the most beautiful and purest emotion, your mind does overtime to convince you what you’re feeling isn’t real. Somewhere along the line you remembered you’re the god if there is one between you.

It’s now phase three. You’re coming down from the high of phase one and two. By now you’ve had some miscommunications and hurt feelings. You’ve both experienced jealousy at least once when neither of you have the right to express that emotion. You’ve intentionally said some hurtful things; he’s unintentionally done the same. You no longer answer every time he texts or calls because his effort seems to have changed. Maybe it actually hasn’t, but you’ve convinced yourself that things are different. You hate feeling like this. Vulnerability doesn’t suit you. The lack of emotional control because love has taken over makes you go out on dates with other men to try to shake your true feelings. You’re disgusted that you’re afraid he’s slipping away when you’re the one pushing him away.

You snap out of it. You’ve been reminded he’s just a man. And men are selfish. He’s going to look out for himself and you have to do the same.

You take longer to respond back, not because you’re playing a game but you’re making sure you have a life outside of him. You’re busier now. Him as well. Text convos are shorter because of work; you’re convinced it’s something else. Lunch dates are hard to squeeze in. There’s talks about one of you leaving to live 3,000 miles apart. You wonder if he even wants you to stay. Everything has a perpetual question mark now. You know he feels what you feel, but you question if he has the capacity to. You worry so much about what he’s thinking and feeling you have to remind yourself to prioritize what you want and need.

Years ago daddy told me he didn’t believe in falling in love. His reason why was simple: If you can fall in love you can fall out of love. He believed you loved people and it was a choice by choosing them every single day. I understood then and I understand now. Love was a choice attached to an action— choosing. But I still believed in falling. Falling in love was just as real as the choice to love.

Falling in love is the most beautiful and terrifying thing. When you’ve been handled with such little care, have been broken by love, you tend to focus on the terrifying. Because what if they don’t feel the same. Aren’t all the signs there that you’re in this alone? And what if they hurt you, does that mean it wasn’t real? Can you really do this all over again with somebody else? And what happens to the love when you can’t stay?

So, ten years from now how will I look at this moment? It’s hard to say. But I hope I’ll be content with the memory of falling, and how good it felt to give love in what was the best of times and worst of times.

Falling is fleeting. Love doesn’t always stay. If you’re lucky, the memories will be enough.