I thought I had been in love before I met you. I'd been through all the right feelings, from the butterflies to the deep security that comes from knowing you have someone there for you. I'd been through the excitement of the first date and the routine pleasantry of going out for a one-year anniversary. I'd experienced the thrill of holding that certain someone's hand for the first time, and the comfort of knowing their hand like your own months down the road. I'd been through the first admission of liking someone to the rush of saying "I think I'm falling in love with you." I'd been through the first tentative proposal to come over and meet the family and then the assumption that part of every weekend would be spent together. I'd been through the awkward getting to know you questions and the more personal future goals questions. I'd been through the electric first kiss and the comforting, reassuring goodbye kiss. I'd been through it all before, and never thought that the romantic variety of love was something I wanted to invest much time into. Then I met you.

It took me one week to develop a crush on you, two weeks to admit that I wanted a relationship with you, and then three more to fall in love with you. It was like, boom—a month a half, and my heart was yours, for better or for worse. I knew I couldn't stop that feeling, and didn't want to; I'm one to take chances even when I know it's going to hurt me, and I follow my heart wherever it decides to go, especially when it's after something I want.

You told me you loved me before we were even official; you put all of your trust in me, showed me all of your broken secrets and told me all of your regrets and achievements. You put your arrogance aside and showed me a soft, scarred part of you that no one, not even your best friend, knows about. We were like the line from that Rise Against song, in our beginning: "I'll show you mine if you show me yours first. Let's compare scars, I'll tell you whose is worse." We compared scars. We compared horror stories; I told you about my dad's addictions, about nearly being killed by an uncle, about the pressure of having every cousin—younger and older—look to me for courage in times of need. You told me about your own mom's addictions, about getting arrested, about the suicide of a very close younger relative.

I bared myself to you. You bared yourself to me.

And after that, I decided to let life lead me on in our relationship.

I fell more and more in love with you every day we were together. I saw every side of you, and you saw every side of me. You've seen me cry from stress, sadness, frustration, and happiness. You've seen me with makeup and without it, in my best dress and my bare skin. You've seen me confident, crushed, grieving, and celebrating. You've slept with me and slept beside me, and were always there to wrap me up in a hug and whisper that you loved me when I felt like my world was crashing down on me. You made me happier than I have ever been before.

I never expected us to last forever. I cherished the time we spent together because I knew it was limited; every time we hung out, every time your nieces and older sisters hugged me goodbye, I wondered if it would be the last time. I dove headfirst into you, and you dove into me. I learned every little secret about you. I learned your habits, got adjusted to the way you did things, got used to having you in my life, all while knowing that it wouldn't last longer than a brief second. I seized the day, as the saying goes, and lived that part of my life—you—to the absolute fullest.

And I knew that I had finally experienced love when I was with you.

You made me feel like I was walking on air, like everything was okay in my life. When I was with you, nothing else mattered except you and your smile and our happiness. We were amazing together, every single minute, until we ended. And even when we ended, we decided to stay friends because it's easier to lose someone you love slowly than to lose them all at once. That way it just feels like a gradual heartache instead of a sudden stab to the chest.

Even if we are friends, I still love you. It's not easy to see you walking around and living without me, but I deal with it. The breakup was—is—hard on both of us. It's obvious when we look at each other and both hold back tears that there are feelings left, but we both know it can't work out. So I'll settle for remembering what we had and how amazing I felt with you. I'll be comforted by the knowledge that we are still here for each other. And on nights like tonight, when I'm tired and feeling lost, I will allow myself to cry.

That doesn't mean I don't miss you. I do.

I still miss you every day, everything about you. I miss the way you'd come up behind me and put your arms around my waist. I miss the way you'd lean down and whisper into my ear. I miss the way you could kiss me and make all of my anger disappear. I miss the way your voice sounds after you smoke the first cigarette of the day. I miss the way you would hold me and tell me you missed me. I miss that sexy smile you would get when I made the first move. I miss the way you would laugh at me when I was high and didn't want anything but to cuddle with you for hours. I miss the way you would sing to me when we were laying together or on the phone.

I miss the way you drunk texted me about how great I was. I miss the way you would get in trouble just to talk to me. I miss the way you would check me out like you had never seen me when I was wearing an outfit you liked. I miss the way you would play with my hands when we were standing next to each other. I miss how you would include me in your family. I miss how you would tell me you loved me out of nowhere. I miss how we could talk for hours about everything and nothing. I miss the way you would pull me closer to you in your sleep, like you were trying to protect me and use my strength when you were dreaming.

I miss the way I could look at you and feel like everything was okay. I miss the way you would start out a serious conversation and then tell me another heartbreaking story about you. I miss the way you would make me rub your head then fall asleep in my lap. I miss how we drew on each other's strengths and made the weaknesses better. I miss the way you would wrestle with me, rough enough to make me try but gentle enough to let me know you remembered that I was a girl and weaker than you. I miss being able to tell you how good you look. I miss your hands, the way they could be so gentle on my skin. I miss the way you would always look right at me when you told me how you felt about something. I miss your soft voice singing me to sleep.

I miss how we would have long talks about who we were. I miss how you would tell me about your intense faith, then let me explain my lack of faith and why I was okay with it. I miss how you would pray before you ate, no matter where you were—whether it was a swim meet or a family dinner. I miss how you picked up on my habits and always pointed them out. I miss noticing all of your little habits and tics. I miss the way you would get offended when I implied that there was something about you that you'd get mad about if you knew then told me to spill it unless I wanted to get tickled. I miss the way I would say "I'm fine" and you, unlike anyone else, would touch my face and say you knew I wasn't, then make me tell you what was wrong.

I miss how proud you sounded when you introduced me to someone as your girlfriend. I miss how you would tell anyone who was interested in you that you were in a relationship and were happy. I miss how people smiled at us when we walked places together. I miss the way you always tried to make me as happy as you could. I miss the way you flirted with me in the beginning then loved me at the end. I miss how okay you were with me. I miss knowing that I made you okay. I miss knowing that you made me okay.

I miss the way you would try to cover up feeling hurt by getting mad, then just shake your head when I knew there was something else going on with you. I miss how you would pull me down right next to you whenever we were together, no matter who we were with. I miss how you would try to piss me off just so that you could grab me and kiss me to make me feel better. I miss how you would call me randomly and ask me to come over. I miss how good you were at making me feel protected. I miss how you could drive me crazy with one simple touch.

I miss how you loved me.

I miss you as a person.

And even though I know I won't get you back—even though I know we're better off how we are—I know that I will never forget you. I don't want to.

You were the one I gave everything to. Thank you for giving me that experience.

I love you.