I thought love would feel like a daydream, a devastating wish, some kind of drunk wonderment.
Until last week, I had never fallen in love, though I had a clear idea in my mind of how I thought it would feel: like a daydream, a devastating wish, a kind of drunk wonderment. I wrote about it in my diary, feeling like a 15-year-old, as though first loves always occurred at that age. Well, in almost all the movies I watched while growing up, “real love” would appear around then and would always, without exception, leave a turbulent, incorrigible mark on your heart. The mark would hurt, but that was okay because your first love was supposed to feel like an old knife wound forever. Every Saturday night in this small town, I used to wait for my own love story. A wound to remember—to tell your children about like you were recounting a fairytale, in the most nostalgic voice you could muster.
My high school friends were in love, like, all the time. Or so they said. They had really long hair and loads of dresses. When we went to parties, I’d never dance. I just didn't like any boys at that moment. One night, on my way to the bathroom, a stranger, older than me, touched my ass. The first thing I thought was that he had to be really sad to go to a party just to touch unknown asses while walking around alone. Now, looking back, I know that what he did was worse than I thought at the time. So I was at this party, pretending to fix my hair and trying not to look at my face in the mirror because my face full of make-up reminded me of where I was. But I wasn't really there. And even worse, I wasn't in love.
On Mondays in the school hallways there were conversations about who had kissed whom; there were secrets spilled and rumors spread. Once there was a rumor about me kissing a boy and it wasn't true, but I let it spread anyway. But one day I decided I’d never get involved in those conversations again. I wasn't interested in who or what my friends were talking about, and I noticed that they felt uncomfortable around my silence and my lack of experience. So I learned to be absent from places, even while physically being there. I never saw any of them after graduation.
I think the first time I really liked someone, I just liked the thought of him being a boy in a band. It could have been the boy playing bass next to him, or any one of his friends. Regardless, each breath between kisses seemed almost scheduled, like we were following some kind of modus operandi. The truth is none of them knew how to touch me.
Growing up, men started to look at me differently and I liked it. One of them even offered me his whole heart. I said “thanks, but no” and I got out of his car as fast as I could. I went on dates. I was very nervous at the end of every date because I knew that "the moment" was about to happen. Sometimes I enjoyed it; sometimes it wasn’t as enchanting as I expected. There were episodes that weren’t consensual, and there were episodes when I didn’t feel any kind of pleasure, but I just stood still, silent. I thought youth mandated that we try everything, or maybe we were just too young to know better.I wished for someone who’d just be decent. And never ever again a boy in a band. Instead, I got obsessed with the first man that treated me nicely. Until he wasn’t that nice anymore.
I used to think I didn't understand the music that I listened to because nobody had ever thought of me the way I wanted them to think of me. Because I thought I didn’t know love. I was 18 years old and I hadn’t had my first love yet. It made me so embarrassed that when I turned 20 I convinced myself that I had fallen in love with L, G, E, and maybe A. But I didn’t really love any of them and they didn't love me either, and that was okay because men could do the same things I did without feeling anything at all. Sometimes I felt like one of them for not loving them, and at the same time I hated them for not loving me.
Finally, a few days ago, I fell in love for the first time. Because of quarantine, there was no way to do it in person, so I decided to send him a text message. Afterwards I put my cell phone on airplane mode for a long time and busied myself getting boring domestic chores done, reading Alejandra Pizarnik, sleeping, and watching Netflix. A whole day seemed to go by.
Later, I was brave enough to look at my phone and read the response to my biggest confession. He wrote back something like, "It would be better if you fell in love with someone else… I don't see how it makes any sense." I immediately fought back: “Why should falling in love make any sense? It clearly doesn’t make sense in the movies.” I was sad for a few hours but then at night my inner voice said: “I don't want to stop talking to him. He makes me feel comfortable. He’s honest and I can tell him exactly how I feel without being afraid. I can show him my body without being ashamed. He sends me pictures of his cat sleeping inside the bathroom sink and he makes me laugh. He makes me laugh and I wish that I could make him love me, but I can't and I get it. But I am in love with him. I paint portraits of his face with pastels, I make playlists on Spotify that somehow remind me of him, and I ask him how his day was because I hope he wasn’t blue like me. I wish he didn't feel so lonely. If I could choose between him falling in love with me or him feeling better right now, I’d choose the second option and I'd be happy for him and I’d shut up. Because for me, it doesn't have to make sense. I'm sure of how I feel.”
Then, Fiona Apple’s new album came out. I’ve never been able to write a review about Fiona Apple because I feel her music is so extraordinary and listening to it is such a profound experience for me that I’m unable to describe the feeling. Despite being so excited to listen to Fetch The Bolt Cutters in one go, I got stuck on the first song, “I Want You To Love Me.” I put it on loop, listening carefully to every word. And that’s when I heard her singing “a sound is still a sound around no one." Finally: somebody understood. I'm in love, and this love that I'm feeling is out there somewhere. It’s floating, but it’s alive, and it means something because it exists. If you put your hand on my chest, you would understand that it’s valid and true, because my heart still beats, even around no one.
This was published under Adolescent's collaboration with Nearness Project. Check them out here.
Photo by Boris Jovanovic via Stocksy