A few weeks ago, I woke up on seven hours of sleep ready to conquer life, the world, and Mars without a drop of coffee. I remember thinking, wow, this is what real sleep feels like.
I had gone to bed the night before somewhat early, but considerably tipsy, after an evening spent with an attractive friend of a friend. Nothing spectacular happened, but I discovered I even left a fully made sandwich on my countertop before going to bed (ham, no less!). I scarfed the sandwich down and skipped down the sidewalk, practically singing bonjour to every human and squirrel I passed.
On my way, I texted the attractive friend of a friend and asked if she’d, by chance, want to grab a drink and go to some museum exhibition opening that evening. At my school desk, my friends exclaimed at my perkiness. I began to blame a good night’s rest, describing it as a glacier that had melted, though that made no sense, before I launched into a narrative of the evening’s activities. I gushed over my friend’s friend and the possibility of seeing each other again tonight. The question was posed, “Do you like her?”
And then it all came crashing down.
Crushing down might be most accurate. Like a Mac truck crossing a median with the brakes cut, I realized I had a crush. “And what the hell is this?” I recoiled from myself.
I mean, nothing about the above should surprise the reader. Duh, yes, I definitely had a crush. Even I know that, and maybe knew that, but it’s the dawning recognition that shook me.
For context, I don’t think I’ve had a crush since 2013. Back then I was in love with this wanderlust hipster who wore bracelets and used dry shampoo and also her hippie soul sister. Even now I sometimes visit their Facebooks and project a future that never will be.
But I moved to Richmond in 2013 and never met anyone who struck my fancy, at least enough to have me waking and thinking of thawing glaciers and singing ballads to the local wildlife.
In seventh grade, I remember I fell for a girl named Madison. She was adorably cute and smart and we got along. I decided I really, really liked her the week before Thanksgiving break. The day before Thanksgiving, we had a half day. I didn’t get to see her. And I wouldn’t see her until the Monday after Thanksgiving at the earliest. And I liked her so much that I had palpable butterflies and felt actually nauseated. To this day I cringe at the nausea I felt in the backseat of my parents’ car on a gray November Wednesday afternoon driving down Virginia Beach Boulevard because 12-year-old me loved a girl named Madison.
Since then, I’ve had a few close encounters with that sort of lovesickness, but gosh, it’s been ages. I was also a different person back then. Besides being young, fat, and geeky, I was young, fat, and geeky - and terribly submissive and shy and unsure of everything. Cut to today. I am weathered, svelte, and suave - just kidding. But I am pretty opposite bespectacled, chubby, cherubic me.
Today me would never feel like seventh grade me in the back of that car driving down Virginia Beach Boulevard crushing on Madison.
So what the heck was this delirium I felt on a Tuesday morning? Was this possible? Did I possibly... could I... never!
The thing is, I truly believe romance is delusion. Love is not a rational thing. Science tells us that. We study it. There are chemical explosions and hormone imbalances, and suddenly we’re head over heels/sneakers/boots in love or bed with someone. We know the chemicals, but we don’t know the impetus - other than we meet them, we see them, we swipe right for them. Ha! To some extent, it’s all this uncontrollable process that we can narrate, but we can’t explain.
Seventh grade me believed in fairytales and love at first sight and the Loch Ness monster. Today me believes in logic and choices and the Fibonacci sequence. People have feelings, and they are relevant, but that doesn’t mean they’re rational - and we have to remember that. (I may be a robot.)
I expressed all this to my friends, and they immediately accused me of being afraid of love. “You’re scared!” they screeched in caps lock. “You have to be vulnerable!”
“I’m not afraid of love,” I protested. “But I am afraid of where it takes you.”
I’m not sure there’s a difference, but I think there is. I would never blame someone for falling in love, I don’t think it’s an absolute choice, but I would - and do - blame people for choosing love over sense. There’s the sensory, and there’s the sensical. Love is nonsensical at its very best and insanity at its worst.
I can’t say I’ve ever been in love, but I’ve seen many people in love. I’ve watched the things they prioritize, abandon, overlook, become because of love. But I’ve also seen other people become their best in love. I am no expert, and I am a cynic, but it all seems like a coin’s flip in a fountain where a couple turns up. Okay, I’m hyperbolizing. My parents who have been together and in love for over 30 years are going to disown me. Love does work. Love can work. But it doesn’t work for everybody.
Be vulnerable. Take a chance. You have to. All the advice people offer to protests that love is rudimentary and un-sophisticated and random!
Well, guess what? It is rudimentary, it is pretty random, it isn’t sophisticated unless you set it under a sunset in Italy - and that’s why honeymoons were invented!
But I also do believe in taking risks. I do believe humans need life partners. And I believe we can’t control chemical reactions when we see that special someone - but how special are they? Do they deserve our insanity? Do we deserve their intrusion?
I’m always attracted to single people. That is, independent persons who don’t want a relationship where your lives are enmeshed. Where there is trust and boundaries and coexistence, not coddling and jealousy and loss of self.
Most people are probably nodding at these descriptions, but I’m about to tell you it’s almost not possible. I am these things. At least I think I am. But in the succeeding days, I found myself wondering where was my crush was, what was she doing, when would she text, should I text her, how should I word it - all these frenetic thoughts that are at once trivial, but paramount at conception. They can make or break the first days of a relationship or a crush.
The point is, I became dependent. I became jealous. I lost my self. Butterflies and ecstasy became dragons and despair. But then I would revert to the former only to cycle back through the latter. This is lovesickness. This is the chemical reactions. This is the narrative with no explanation.
I am afraid of many things. Seventh grade me feared bullies and Bigfoot and spiders. And my crush not liking me back. I thought I graduated from a lot of those fears. Today me fears complacency and delusion and loss of self. But I still fear Bigfoot and I also fear a crush altogether.