Love is Paying Attention

Ian Rosales Casocot
5 min readJun 8, 2023

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There is a dialogue at the beginning of Andre Aciman’s Find Me, his sequel to that tome of longing Call Me By Your Name, where we find Elio’s father on a train to Rome, and he’s having a conversation with a beautiful woman to whom he eventually confides: “It’s just that the magic of someone new never lasts long enough. We only want those we can’t have. It’s those we lost or who never knew we existed who leave their mark. The others barely echo.”

Once upon a time, the jaded romantic in me would have agreed wholeheartedly — but now, when I read that passage, I found myself thinking: “I beg to disagree.”

Of course, there’s some truth to that. The new always seems to lose its edge in the long run of things, and what once excited us about it becomes part of the whole white noise that becomes our lives. Many of us mistake that white noise as boredom and discontent. But I have loved the same man for the past ten years, and what I’ve found is that I actually love him more, and deeper, today than how I felt for him when I first met him. This is my understanding: when something true and real comes to our lives, I think it morphs from the excitement of the new to the renewable excitement of what deepens. And in that deepening you find your source of magic.

Take this, for example: I’ve been hugged by this man for so many years now, but just a few days ago, he came into my apartment when I was still sleeping, gently woke me up, and when I did, he quietly pressed his body against mine in a comforting bear hug, his head embedded in the cradle of my neck, as if to smell all of me. I felt the intensity of that hug. In the quiet of that room, it was an earthquake. It was an embrace for all-time, and in that moment I thought: “This is love.” All such realizations will always be new, even ten years into a relationship.

I love that my beloved laughs and giggles like an excitable baby when he watches Survivor or RuPaul’s Drag Race, or Trixie and Katya on YouTube. I love that he squirms in his seat when I force him to watch horror movies with me. I love that he allows me to drag him to horror movies, although he really hates them. I love that he cannot help but nod off to sleep in a church or a boring lecture. [I love it when his mother tells me stories of him as a toddler nodding off while still eating.] I love that he loves his dogs. I love that he sends me cat memes and videos to cheer me up. I love that he spends at least an hour a day going over his diary — essentially a list of things to do. I love that he loves doughnuts [and often sneaks away on his own to have me-time in a doughnut cafe]. I love that he watches endless food videos on YouTube, and takes what he learns to the kitchen, where he reigns supreme. [I love his cooking; and he knows his culinary stuff like a walking encyclopedia.] I love that he grows his own mushrooms [and I think because he knows I love to eat mushrooms]. I love that he loves noodles and knitting and trinklets and beads that he wears as bracelets [he’s never without them in his daily get-up]. I love that his fashion sense is unique and quirky, and I made a vow a thousand days ago never ever to impose my own sense of style on him because his own just fits him like a good floral shirt. I love that he’s a geek, and that we actually first bonded when he invited me to watch him cosplay. I love that he knows what irks me and what pains me, and saves me from myself often. I know he hates ripe papayas. I know he hates drinking Coke [but he loves tea]. I know that he loves milk tea to death, but denies it. I know that he had a traumatic time in high school, but I love that he wills himself to go on reunions with old classmates. I love that he worries that I don’t spend enough time with my own friends. I know that he cannot concentrate that much on long-form reading, but he tries to read novels anyway — and also read my long-ass stories because he is my first reader. I know that he loves and cares for his friends so much, and would go out of his way to help them, but I know he feels hurt when he doesn’t seem to get reciprocation from some of them. [He only ever gave up on a friend just once in his life.] I love that he is the nicest guy I know, but curses and rages in his car in bad traffic. I love that he loves his mother, who mothers us both with thorough devotion. I love that every time I see him do all of these things, I observe something more — reflections of a profound humanity in my beloved whose depth is endless and is always surprising.

Someone once said that love is paying attention. I agree with that, and I always strive to be attentive, the way the beloved has been with me. When you pay attention, everything about the beloved feels deeper, more magical; not new, but more profound and more intense. And his presence in my life assures me that I have broken from that prison of always longing for the one that got away, for the one that I lost. That’s a trap; and there is a reason they are no longer in my life — and in hindsight, thank God for that. They did make their marks, but they are scars. This one, this present one, is my balm, and the echo that resounds in my ears that says, “Thank heavens he found me.”

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Ian Rosales Casocot

Interpreter of hamsters. Author of Beautiful Accidents: Stories and Heartbreak & Magic: Stories of Fantasy and Horror