I’ve liked fifteen guys since the age of twelve.
No, seriously. Count them. I do. I’ve liked fifteen boys: a daisy chain of unrequited loves, poems full of longing, awkward conversations, and tearful admissions, strung together with the wry romanticism of a John Green novel (complete with Vampire Weekend or One Republic soundtrack). Fifteen initials that I recite like Arya Stark’s “prayer,” only without the murderous intent (most days, at least). Fifteen hands I’ve imagined holding, pairs of arms I’ve imagined dancing in.
Basically, Fifteen stand-ins for the boys in the following scenes:
Source: Google Images, using the search term “Tumblr Couple.”
This is what love looked like to “SSB”-me: an endless loop of photosets rendered in indie-romcom colors, where I took the place of the everyman heroine side-by-side with my manic pixie dream boy. But, like those everyman heroes before me, the reality was nothing like my expectations, often looking more like this:
finally ending with an I’m-fine-but-not-really state of bitter homeostasis.
Frankly, this was the basis of my SoJ radio persona.
Eventually, I would edge back into rationality, enjoy a brief period of equilibrium. But it would never last. One day, someone would come along with the right smirk, or quirk of eyebrow, or nose, or jaw, or fingers-on-lips, hands-running-through-hair…
…and it’d start all over again.
After fifteen go-rounds, I’m painfully aware of this pattern. In fact, I’m more than a little tired of it. “Bitter homeostasis” has increasingly blurred into equilibrium. It’s hard not to be cynical when the movie in your mind won’t go the way it’s supposed to: one moment you’ll be choreographing shiny-happy dance numbers and the next you’re belting out sad Paramore or Jessie Ware lyrics, the constant undercurrent of hope feeling less like butterflies and more like a migraine. I know my “love life” is a running joke–in fact, my bandmates used it as a punchline during our photoshoot when they needed to laugh for the camera–but number fifteen was a whopper and now I’m not sure I find this funny anymore. I’ve been going through the motions of being bitter, and snarky, and wry, and a little wounded–spouting hugot lines and whining over old pictures–but it’s all feeling more like playacting now.
Lately, I’ve been wanting something different for myself: a little less Tumblr and a little more terrestrial. If I think hard enough, I can imagine the bare bones: the ghost of an image, the blueprint of a skyscraper. In fact, a skyscraper is a good way to think about it: instead of the ephemera of celluloid, there’s a sense of permanence, of concrete and steel rebar, of the inevitable pull of gravity. There are no dance numbers, no Instagram-filter colors. I don’t hear Mumm-Ra in the background.
What I find myself wanting is something that just is–a workaday sort of love that maybe doesn’t have a song, doesn’t need a poem. It’s the sort of love that leaves John Green on the shelf, that prompted Juliet to declare her feelings for Romeo
…too rash, too unadvised, too sudden,Too like the lightning, which doth cease to beEre one can say “It lightens.”
I realized–or, if I’m honest, I’ve known for a while–that for the longest time the love I have wanted has been an imagined country as told by those photosets and GIFs and Spotify playlists. It’s been the kind of love that needs finding, because it’s so elusive, because there’s little evidence it exists at all. It’s the love you obsess over, the kind you fantasize about, precisely because it is a fantasy.
I’ve been so desperate to find a leading man that I’ve forgotten the truth about movies: they show things the way they look to be, instead of the way they are. I’m tired of images, of scripting lines of dialogue, of referring to a mental checklist of attributes that somehow sum up to perfect. Instead of finding the one being a blockbuster event or a flashmob, I’d rather it be as natural as a change of seasons–the slow, inevitable slipping of summer into autumn. One day, I’ll look up to find the wind has changed, the leaves will have started to turn, and it will both surprise me and not surprise me.
I’d expect it. Maybe I won’t expect him. (Maybe there will be no him.) What there will be, though, is a sense that things make sense. It won’t be groundbreaking. It will just be.
Sometimes, I still get to imagining. I imagine laughing faces in a coffeeshop (it used to look like Starbucks Pearl, but lately due to my transplanting to Makati it’s looking a lot more like Staple and Perk), shoulders touching casually in a group photo, introductions at office parties: “This is my…” I guess it’s just habit, or the fact that I used to write exclusively love stories: I can’t help but set a scene. Except now, I know that’s all they are: possibilities versus things that need to happen. I’m learning to stop reading shades of meaning in coincidences. After all:
Or: just because he watches Doctor Who, liked a few Instagram photos, and called you pretty that one time, doesn’t mean you’re meant to be.
At the end of every crush, I tell myself that this one is the last. The last one-sided fling. The last pair of rose-colored glasses. Number fifteen was a doozy, a dubious sort of “first” (not in that way, folks), a ‘life event’ in his own right. Considering the way things played out, I don’t think I can be faulted for hoping for a combo-breaker. And maybe he really will be the last one, or maybe it will take me a few more tries to drill this lesson into my head. One thing’s for sure, though: I don’t want a love story anymore.
I just want love. Plain as day, in whatever form it will take (after all, as one article put it, the happiest place in eternity will have no marriage or sex). No more unrealistic, indie flick-expectations versus reality.
Just equilibrium. Just homeostasis. Just a day that, without anyone realizing it, turns out to be a sort of day one.
…or basically just a decrease in my tendency to be more than slightly delusional. Whatever. I’m obviously taking my sweet time ditching every single one of my “Lists,” but that’s all part of the process of this ‘growing up’ business anyway, or so I’m told. Anyway, it’s been fun. Hope you enjoy the GIFs, and if you saw the pattern…well, no stars for you because I’ve made things blatantly obvious, to be honest. It isn’t the first time Tom Hansen has been my spirit animal, after all.
P.S.: Hope this makes up for no The Friday, Currently last week. And, seeing as I’ll be coming back from Cebu on the day, there might not be any this week so I’ll see you in the next post…whenever that happens. Until then