Within ten minutes of meeting me for the first time, you told me you loved me. By then you had already kissed me once, so of course I knew it couldn’t last.
You loved me the way you loved the starry-eyed teen love pop songs of the Shangri-Las and the Modern Lovers, and I loved this uncomplicated love of yours that said, Well the modern world is not so bad / Not like the students say / In fact I’d be in heaven / if you’d share the modern world with me. I thought, There’s gotta be something more than work and rent and laundry. There’s gotta be something that can lift us.
And there is, you said: love. Love is the only soaring thing. Love lifts us up where we belong. When you first told me you loved me in that Greenpoint bar, I laughed and said you definitely did not, but still I loved you for saying it. And I loved it even more when your response was a simple: “Why not!” Yeah, why not, I thought, and took you home. Why not, I thought, and threw myself into us.
When this happened, I had just read Chris Kraus, and found that salvation lies in asking for what you want. I rejected the anti-woman fear of being too much and began to ask not just for honesty and straight talk, but also for intensity. I thought of this as a radical discovery. I found that what I wanted was often crazy. I was always ready to run after you on nighttime streets when you had turned away in anger, preferring to let a mean phrase dissipate in the air instead of talking it out. I was always ready to spend all of the seconds, minutes, hours of the day in bed with you when I should have been working, leaving only to have expensive breakfasts, the sole thing we ate, at the restaurant down the street. Then returning as quickly as possible, pressing skin against skin while light faltered and disappeared behind the windowpane. I sent text messages that were too long. “I’m into communication too!” you said, and sent me crazy texts back. We were often angry, wild, confused. I did most of the running after but you usually opened the door when I arrived.
I wanted to eat you, kissing you with teeth so sharp I thought I might bite your lips off, mold us into one. We already looked like we could be siblings. Long and lanky, with the same haircut and color, though you naturally had the curls I often lazily tried to create. And there were other things you had that I wanted for myself: a certain delightful prettiness I felt I could only respectably embody if I were a man. I worried that in me, so easily legible as a woman, it would be expected, it would look like too much, an overly sweet dessert. There’s a fear of sugar imposed on anyone who’s ever been patted on the head when they wished to be taken seriously. You could call yourself a bimbo with a vanity that gave you an edge instead of making you seem dumb. In desiring you, in pressing and flattening myself against you, it felt like I could own a bit of that freedom.
Your smell of patchouli, leather, and cigarettes made me weak in the knees. I wanted to dissolve myself in you, with some part of myself always wanted to let ambition and goals turn insignificant under a heady gaze. Future results never feel as good as your mouth tastes. No future in this, only a dense now. Obliterate.
We were two intense people in love and there was an all-encompassing attraction between us. Once, we were so busy giggling and kissing while waiting for a table that the hostess passed us over when it was our turn. We didn’t really care, swimming too deep in each other to need food. And she was right in doing this—couplehood is a form of exclusion. How could she have penetrated our bubble, even if she wanted to? In that moment, we were our own ecosystem, but it was one that I, prone to falling in love, had begun to be suspicious of.
Because of my previous visits on planets that seemed as self-sufficient as this one, and because of a recent exit from a particularly long-lasting and significant one, I knew these glittering atmospheres rarely held forever. Intensity is not duration, and what is love, if not intensity? Yet, intensity was all I wanted after the painful slog of healing a broken heart, and intensity was all I felt when I looked at you. Aurora borealis everywhere.
I thought of the year that we slid around the couple-form as a kind of experiment in endurance. Avoiding, yet also enacting, the kind of romance your favorite bands sang about, I wanted to see how long we could reflect each other in the middle of that hurricane before the center gave way.
Sometimes I thought I wanted a relationship where we cooked and cleaned and picked the kid up from kindergarten, and I would be lying if I said I never imagined what the baby would look like. I never called you my boyfriend, but I did think those thoughts. At a dance party with your friends who were all older, you introduced me as your girlfriend, and I whispered in your ear, Girlfriend, huh, and rolled my eyes. I know, you said, but it’s easier that way. Yet, you never liked those roles either, and I loved you also for that.
It is so pleasurable to desire—the feeling carries all the openness and potential of the first day of school. You meet someone, and both of you could be anyone. For a few moments, you hold all the world’s possibilities in your hand. Was it this openness that I wanted from our teenage dream of romance? Unavoidably, you get to know the other person. Their ugly sides, their boring sides. Other worlds start penetrating the exosphere with their demands of responsibility to yourself, your duties, those you love but cannot waste days languorously kissing. The polar light gets dusty, dampened. In our setup of crazy romance, there wasn’t any room for dealing with the way your lack of kindness chafed against my sensitivity. With my impatience and your angst.
Letting the dream become more than just a dream is pathological, and I saw how we were sometimes just that, again and again breaking up and inevitably getting back together. A year of wild running after, a technicolor dream. Friends got tired of wiping my tears; they knew, just like I did, that it wouldn’t last. And yet I kept trying, biting and scratching for another drip of our magic, when we had mostly used it up.
I try to recall which moments stand out the most. Your face under me, all scrunched up, eyes big and heavy with desire—what is that? Love? Clasping your hands over your mouth in delight as you noticed me next to you. You said, I like the way we look walking together down the street. I often thought about how we admired and desired ourselves in each other.
But the other day I saw you biking past, your curls tucked under a hat, your hips, wider than your skinny frame suggests, exposed beneath that black leather jacket. You didn’t notice me. For the next few days I fought a desire to call you again. Not for the sweet release of feeling your gaze on me again, of once more having your forgiveness and giving you mine.
Instead, I thought of reading on your couch, and your cat, the only one I’m not allergic to, sleeping in the sun right next to me. You making music in the other room, pausing to go to the kitchen for another cup of tea, kissing me on my head as you passed.
I knew this wasn’t for us, and that we had done all we could, and so I let you be.