Saturday, January 07, 2006

My Least Favorite Subject

Last week I mentioned that I'd been emotional over all sorts of things, as well as doing quite a bit of thinking on relationships, love, etc. And at that same time, I found this. It's actually from a journal entry of mine dated 5/18/05:

I tried to avoid the subject of love for a long time. I rarely let my poems or short stories fall into the category of sentimental prose many of my classmates wrote. Depression, abuse, illegal substances, dysfunctional families or relationships - these were all acceptable and worthwhile subjects. Even sex, a distant relative of love, could be part of the story. But once I sensed some sort of emotionally lovey-dovey tone in the words, I automatically dismissed the piece (and the writer).

My final writing assignment in college was a memoir piece on any subject. I knew, as I'd known all semester, what I would write about. It was an idea I'd circulated in my thoughts and notebook. My sexual history (and my lack of real relationships) was something I thought about often, especially on a college campus steeped in a tradition of booze and hooking up. By writing about myself, I was attempting to better understand why I behaved a certain way around men.

In the end, the piece came out well and in rereading it, I did learn more about myself. I could see my motivations and fears around men, and I also saw the strength and beauty of my words. I was proud of my story, and the feeling I put into it showed.

But there was one expository paragraph that lingered with me. In fact, I can still remember it a year later. It's not because the prose was so memorable in its imagery; I remember it because I finally broached the subject of love. In my story, surrounded by descriptions of blow jobs and an awkward loss of virginity, I acknowledged that I'd never been in love. That one sentence was the meat of the story, the reason I was floundering around with men and losing respect for myself. And, in writing that sentence and sharing it with my classmates, I realized I wanted to fall in love.

The idea of love is so mysterious because the details surrounding the who, when, where, and how cannot be predicted. It's this mystery that keeps us guessing, wondering in what form love will appear. But even stranger is not knowing what love feels like. As a child you learn what it means to be angry or sad or hurt, and you carry these emotions with you for a lifetime. Love, happening less frequently, is an emotion we are unprepared for, and we may even doubt its existence.

When I realized I was in love with someone, it surprised me most because it didn't follow the script. Though it was somewhat predictable, I was caught off guard. Predictable because I fell in love with someone who I had been involved with before, but not recently. A good friend of mine, with whom I kept in touch regularly. Our friendship was built on emails and phone calls and instant messaging. Because we were writing all of the time, we didn't withhold things from each other and I grew to be very honest with him.

He told me he loved me first. We hadn't seen each other for a year and I didn't suspect either of us had romantic feelings. I was half-right. I loved him, but only as I love my closest friends. He, however, claimed he was in love with me and it was painful to honestly say I did not feel the same way. Our friendship continued, albeit with an awkward emotional balance of power, and I was convinced that he'd always be a friend and nothing more.

Since I had never been in love before, I was unprepared for how it would happen. We were among many people, and he had walked away from me for a few minutes. I looked around, observing the families nearby and the people who were alone. I looked over at my friend who stood about 50 feet away from me. And I noticed a lump forming in my throat. I did everything I could to push the tears back before he returned, before he asked me why I was crying. I knew I wouldn't be able to tell him. Even later in the evening, when we enjoyed a long dinner alone, I felt the lump and the tears return. I began thinking about how I wanted it to be like this all the time, but I knew that it couldn't be since I lived too far from him. And it was because of that impossibility that I couldn't tell him what I was thinking or feeling.

I did finally tell him. But I think it was too late. And I've been thinking about him a lot recently, as these feelings have resurfaced, never really disappearing in the first place. This is the second phase of love that I was unprepared for: the pain in loss.

No comments: