I have never been good at love.
Oh, I’ve tried. I taught myself love like I taught myself guitar—using songs I liked and boys I liked more. I wrote reams of blotted letters that I never sent, kept notebooks of wishes and dreams and longing. I have made one’s tea: perfectly timed so that the temperature soothes a sore throat. I have made another’s to-do lists: meticulously broken down to give his day-week-month direction. I have plied men with cake and cookery and even my credit card—because Topman Exclusive Sale and he had to have that jacket and yeah I promise I’ll pay you back.
…he still owes me two hundred bucks.
But who counts in love, right? Or so I figured. I taught my body to jump through hoops as gracefully as a gymnast swings her body through the air. I love like a freight train, dropping packages at designated stops. I remember birthdays, phone numbers, death anniversaries.
I sing comfort through the phone lines. I write them poetry. I write them into poetry.
They call what I do “Mania”: the Eponine definition of all-or-nothing dedication, self-destructive, ready to drain itself to the last. And maybe it is, but for a brief moment my world boils down to one purpose, my supernova energy lazer-focused, my spider-senses tingling. I will find out what you want and be that girl for a month…or a year…or forever if you want me.
Now that you mention it, it all sounds creepy. And that is why I say I am bad at love. I am good at romance, sure. I can set the scene in my head like nobody’s business, get the props ready and cue the music. But then I step on the stage…and play the wrong part.
No, worse—I’m in the wrong play.
I’m used to working for what I want. I’m used to putting time and energy into something and seeing it, one day, pay back dividends. But love, though mutual, is not a mutual fund. It is possible to work too hard, to overdo, to over-think. I run headfirst into what I think is love only to find I’m running into an immovable object: a one-way trainwreck where he walks away unscathed and I’m left picking up the pieces of a shattered ego. I’ve tried too hard at love, distilled it too much into a science where the proper components (as taught my television and too many love novels) guarantee a definite chemical reaction. But love is organic, and it is volatile, and what makes it incredibly difficult is that it is supposed to be simple.
Easy as breathing, they tell me. Like when algebra finally clicks in your head or you find that balance on a bicycle. Love is supposed to fit like a favorite sweater, like Cinderella’s slipper, and okay maybe once you’re there you’ll have to work on it but not before. There isn’t any need for an endless reverse-engineering of what he likes to become what you think he wants. You won’t need to cut your hair or learn to smile or starve yourself down to elfin proportions.
Because when love finally happens, it happens to you. To you with your weird spider memes and loud laugh and unruly hair. To you with your small hands and big feet. To you, with your young-old ways, your five-year-old heart and fifty-year-old eyes.
To you, without trying, like finding the right bicycle and taking a ride.
I’m not good at love, I guess, because I’m not good at waiting. Because in the end, that is what love is—patience. Love is waiting for the flower to bloom, for the star to fall, for the storm to hit. Love is the sun’s slow, measured burning. Love is timing. Love is time.
And the in-between, while you wait for that shoe or sweater or bicycle, for that moment where your name is called or your number is up, love is taking stock of all that is currently bright and wonderful. Love is being bright and wonderful, incandescent, so that when Love walks in it can’t help but be drawn to the glow.
I’m not good at love. Not yet. But one day I will be. And then, the day will come when the stars fall. When the storm comes. When someone will look at me and see not too young or too old but fireworks and stars being born and the sun. When I will look at someone and not feel the rush, the wave crashing, the pounding heartbeat and manic, desperate wanting, but the slow clicking together of planets aligning, of the ground finding my feet, of gravity.
Until then, it’s 10,000 hours of self-correcting practice, of waiting, of living and living in hope that Love will walk in. And even if it never comes in the form I expected, I would have lived in a way that would be just as beautiful as if it had.