An Essay For Losers/Lovers
On the myth that it's possible to be cool, composed, and in love at the same time.
I did think, let's go about this slowly.
This is important. This should take
some really deep thought. We should take
small thoughtful steps.
But, bless us, we didn't.
The night after Asad and I first kissed, I asked him, “Do you think we’ll get married one day?“ I had just graduated high school.
He thought for a moment, then said, “Yeah I think so.” We could have been wrong about each other, the way kids in love have every right to be, but we weren’t.
I was sixteen when we met. He was eighteen. He walked through the door of a dinner party my parents were invited to, and he looked like I invented him in my imagination. My sister, psychic about the onset of my half-second old crush, glanced at me reflexively. I pressed my lips together to stop from smiling at her in front of everyone.
He was telling his friends about the fun fact he’d come up with for ice breakers during his first year at Berkeley: that he’d played every sport with a ball. They were impressed. You’ve played Rugby? Lacrosse? What about water polo? “What about regular polo?” I asked. I needed him to look at me. He did. “You know, on a horse.” He shook his head. Later, he asked for my number. And that night, he starred in my first ever dirty dream.
For about six months, we played Words With Friends and flirted in the chat, which he takes credit for. “I was the one who sent the winky face that changed everything,” he said recently, having never once acknowledged it in the last decade. Of course, I knew which winky face though. I asked if his thumb hovered a moment over the send button. He said yes.
I felt so defensive of my age regarding this thing we had. I was a college girl who had a boyfriend in another state. I projected what people might think and say, and I sparred with my imaginary adversaries. The ones who might say I sounded childish to be wanting someone forever. That I was pathetic and kidding myself to do long distance when relationships at that age aren’t meant to work out anyway. That I was boring and traditional for locking it down so young. In public, I was mature and blasé and sitting on a throne at the top of the kingdom of my feelings, which I had conquered to serve me. But in private, I was thrilled and smitten and constantly intoxicated on the chemicals that soaked my brain every time I saw the shape of his name on my phone.
When people ask if I believe in love at first sight, it is a yes so quick and simple, it’s boring. Who cares if it’s infatuation? Can’t it also be love? I do understand why people want to distinguish the bad loves, who were never real loves, from the good ones, who never anything but. But I don’t really care to identify at what point that feeling in your body transforms from illusion to truth. Does infatuation and lust have to make a hypocrisy out of love?
In the last ten years, I feel like I must have been in ten thousand relationships, a hundred different versions of me with a hundred different versions of him. The kids in those early memories feel so far away that it almost feels like we weren’t even there. Those are stories about teenagers, not two people who share a bed and bills. Not two people who’ve watched the lines form on each other’s faces.
One day, you’re young, and you share with someone a strange and unconventional thing about yourself, and for the first time, no one laughs. You’re a little older now, and it’s been so long that you’ve forgotten just how acutely weird you used to feel (thank god.) What you once labeled awkwardness and inexperience is now filed away in your mind as early evidence that you were always this person, curious, sincere, and brave. That’s the mystique of knowing and loving people, friends and lovers, for a long time. All of those moments, which felt like touching electricity and which you feared might slip through your fingers at any moment, now feel so permanently gorgeous and firmly yours in memory. Being cool and in love has never successfully been done in the history of time, though people brave enough to face the challenge have tried. The noble thing will always be to submit to being humiliatingly cringe and uncool, to let the big, scary beast called love consume you whole and live your days inside of its belly.
You have written it so beautifully.
Thank you for sharing! So beautifully written.