I’m in love with you, and I’m not in the business of denying myself the simple pleasure of saying true things. I’m in love with you, and I know that love is just a shout into the void, and that oblivion is inevitable, and that we’re all doomed and that there will come a day when all our labor has been returned to dust, and I know the sun will swallow the only earth we’ll ever have, and I am in love with you.
— Augustus Waters, The Fault In Our Stars by John Green
Ordinarily, I’d be scribbling this in my diary, the scrawl looping in bigger and bigger letters across the page of my red faux-leather Venzi, but sometimes it’s easier to type than to write.
The question that bothers me, many nights, is why I fell.
Why do you fall for someone you can’t have? For someone who would be supremely wrong for you? Why do you fall for a dead-end street, an inevitable car-crash? Is the reason that “loving him was red,” as Taylor Swift puts it, truly enough to make up for the blue and the gray of losing him and missing him? Isn’t it just some fancy form of self-destruction; a slow and lingering death versus a quick and (relatively) clean one? Like the worst sort of drug, the initial rush of adrenalin and euphoria is never worth the letdown. The deeper you’re drawn in by the delusion, the more painful it is when you are blindsided by the truth: It’s never going to happen. Why, then, do we choose to hope, to wish, to long for something that could never, should never be?
This willful sort of stupidity confuses me. Rationally speaking, it’s in our best interests to select the best possible options and pursue them. Why is it then that most of the time we’re longing after the worst ones–the unattainables, the bad-for-yous, the friendzoners–hanging on a hope that does not exist? We bear long hours of awkward silences for seconds of exquisite conversation. We perform great feats of self-humiliation to attain just a brief nod of approval. We tear ourselves into little pieces and try to reconstruct ourselves as someone more appealing, more attractive, more “worthy” of affection and attention. We die for months to live for moments. We throw our hearts into the void and hope we’ll somehow receive them.
PhiloAnthro would have me believe that what distinguishes us from the rest of the animal kingdom is that we humans possess a intellectual soul. We’re capable of rational thought, of awareness beyond awareness. We can see things coming. We can anticipate consequences. Yes, we can change our circumstances to a degree, but we also have the capacity to know when the battle isn’t worth fighting because it’s impossible to win. The survival of our species has hinged on that capacity. And yet, when it comes to love, why do we throw ourselves into the battlefield with no ammunition, practically wearing bull’s eyes on our chests?
Why did I do it?
Despite my habit of self-deprecation, I know I’m not a complete idiot. I have a survival instinct, for all that it is impaired when it comes to crossing the street. I know about cause and effect, about avoiding things that can only end badly, and yet I persist. The first few times should have sufficed to tell me that while the euphoria is fleeting, the scars left behind aren’t. My heart is a topographic map of those scars, stretching as far back as the onset of puberty, some still as tender now as they were then. I don’t think it’s an incapacity to let go; it’s just that heart-wounds run deeper than most, and more than any other injury, have far-reaching effects.
Do I do it for the sake of creation, so that I, like Neruda, can write the saddest lines? In that case, the pain is scarcely worth it. Some days it feels like I’ve amassed a lifetime of angst with just one person alone. Many days, it feels like I am drowning, swallowed up by the emotions–shame, regret, revulsion, longing–that wash over me like tides coming in. Why would I fall in love someone, only to end up hating myself? The promises I’ve broken to myself, the stupid things I’ve done, the boundaries I’ve overstepped…all of that is what is left behind after the rush and the whirl and the haze and the hope has cleared.
And yet I keep shouting into the void, hoping that somehow my voice will carry and he will hear me and that somehow, somehow, I can engineer an improbable fiction of a happily ever after.
What do I hope to gain from this hopeless exercise?
Maturity, maybe. There’s a case that can be made for that. PhiloFamily said that unrequited love is not a wasted love, because it acts as a “school” for learning how to love an “other.” But if that’s the case, is it really worth the tuition fee–the swollen eyes, the sleepless nights, the aforementioned bouts of self-loathing? Taylor Swift may make millions off of her failed loves (reciprocated or not), but the rest of us have neither the talent nor the good fortune to be able to do the same. All we get in exchange are those scars and those memories, and sometimes they do not mature us so much as hold us back. The question “Was it all worth it?” terrifies me, because I don’t know if it was.
I don’t know if it’s more difficult to ask these questions of a relationship that ended versus a love that goes unfulfilled and unreciprocated. I’ve never known the former, so I won’t even begin to judge. What I do know is that when I ask myself “Would you do it all over again, if you had a choice?” I’m never sure what to answer. Some days, I say yes. Some days, I say no. Do I spare myself the pain of the months of silence, the awkwardness, the effort of finding a “new normal” before I’d even gotten used to the old one? Or do I take the risk to taste the sweetness of that first blush–arguably one of the best parts of being young and in love–all over again?
Another Augustus Waters quote: “My thoughts are stars I can’t fathom into constellations.”
Falling is a constellation I can’t fathom, a chemical equation I can’t balance, a phenomenon I have no explanations for. It makes no sense, this inextricable pull towards a person: the thrill of hope and my weary world rejoicing, only to have said world crash down all around my ears. I’ve referenced one too many Taylor Swift songs tonight, but if I knew you were trouble when you walked in, why in the world didn’t I run for the exit?
Why do I think I would do it all again?
We think of crushes–the other common term for unrequited love–as such arbitrary, immature things. The word itself sounds frivolous: “I have a crush on him,” “I crushed on her,”–youthful fluff easily forgotten. But do we ever stop to think of what the word means? To deform, pulverize, or force inwards by compressing forcefully. To crease or crumple. To violently subdue. To bring about a feeling of overwhelming disappointment or embarrassment in someone. All these speak of devastation, of a wasteland that has to be navigated in the aftermath, of damage that will most assuredly be done. And while we can gather our friends around us, and slowly but surely recover, it’s a long process of regeneration. Tissue has been lost. Skin has been torn. There is a physical ache, which I like to compare to having wet cement being poured into my chest cavity, that I experience every time I long for someone or fear I have lost them. It’s so intense that occasionally I’ve felt like I was suffocating.
I’ve tried to rationalize the whole experience, compared my heart to a muscle which needs to be torn apart time and time again in order to become stronger. I guess it helps, thinking of it that way. But then I wonder if it’s just something I’ve come up with to make me feel better about the situation. And then I wonder if it actually encourages me to hang on to the pain–not that I need encouraging; sometimes I willingly do so because it’s the only piece of the person I get to keep.
In the end, I can’t answer these questions. I’m not sure what I’ve gained even by asking them. Might as well ask why lighting strikes, or try to bottle it when it does.