Before you came, I had spent almost my entire life feeling indifferent towards others. I was not able to fully comprehend the extent of this, however, until I met you.
At the age of eight I remember wondering how it was possible to find someone physically attractive. I was an intelligent child, I understood that these conventions existed- that the search for a ‘mate’ was a common preoccupation for most.
Phrases like ‘Oh aren’t they yummy?’ or ‘I definitely fancy them!’ spring to mind.
Growing up, people around me were often very vocal about their fascination with the opposite sex, with a particular focus on those who they deemed worthy of their desire. I used to find it interesting, but also quite unsettling. This was never because I viewed it as bizarre or unwarranted, on the contrary it forced me to have realise and reflect on my own inner absurdity.
I was subsequently troubled by the knowledge that I was seemingly unable to form these instant infatuations that appeared to be so instinctual in others. That I couldn’t understand why or how this was even possible. That- although on occasion I flirted with the idea of being pined over (under mainly shallow, self-indulgent pretences)- the thought of actually being in a ‘relationship’ was ultimately an extremely uncomfortable one.
Looking back, I realise that- in general- interpersonal relations had always been a source of frustration to me. I am a textbook introvert. I think I could have quite successfully found contentment in being withdrawn and generally antisocial if it weren’t for that unfortunate, nagging, human need to have my existence constantly validated by my closeness to others. Boredom also played a part.
As a child, I indulged in friendships because I liked the power of it. I wanted to feel loved and special. I wanted to have the power to make other people feel loved and special. I didn’t really know how to communicate this, and I wasn’t particularly tactful in my approach.
My methods usually involved manipulation as a means of control. I saw love and companionship as being synonymous with possession, and I had never been taught or lead to believe otherwise. I was terribly confused and insufferably narcissistic. These friendships never ended well.
By the time I was thirteen I had no one. I had started to become even more aloof and insular, but at this point I was old enough to find ways to self-stimulate, and I quite relished my own company so in the end this wasn’t particularly hard for me to deal with. I actually became somewhat arrogant about it. The fact that I didn’t need to rely on others to make me feel a certain way gave me a renewed sense of superiority; because everyone else seemed unable to function without their ‘cliques’ or feeling as though they were a part of something.
When I met you, I was sixteen. It was like a paradigm shift.
Of course, at first, I was mostly confused. On the surface you were entirely ordinary, but I had always had a talent for noticing things that others couldn’t.
I thought about you all the time. I couldn’t wait to see you; I couldn’t wait to hear what you had to say. I hung on to your every word, I analysed every social cue, everything that made you tic. I watched how you were with others, who you chose to have in your circles and spheres of influence. I noted all of your insecurities, your weakness. I marvelled at your strength and your talent.
I wanted to know who you were and how to reach you. I could see there were so many layers to your carefully curated persona, that hid the truth. I wanted to know how I could make you trust me, how we could form a bond that would allow me to gradually peel away those layers, revealing that repressed sense of self you’d so valiantly fought to contain. I wanted to let you know that it was OK. That you were OK. I wanted to liberate you.
For the first time in my life I found myself desperate to understand exactly how I could get close to a person, to be intimate, to be connected; and not just for my own gratification.
In some way, in whatever shape or form, I knew it was love.
After the confusion came the torture. I didn’t understand whether you liked me or whether you just pitied me, I didn’t understand whether I was a friend or even and acquaintance. I remember coming home from school and agonising for hours- alone in my room- at why you had said certain things and what they might’ve meant.
I became incredibly wary of any potential displays of acceptance or affection that were coming my way, because I didn’t understand what inferences you were expecting me to make from them, and how I should behave in return. I would- more often than not- perceive the things that you did as statements of rejection; a simple eye role or a flippant gesture had the power to make or break my day because at that moment in time you were the centre of the universe. Nothing else mattered. No one else mattered.
Then came the excitement, the manic sense of victory. I had never felt passion like this for another human being. It was novel, it was romantic; it felt so real and I felt so human. I imagined scenarios where we would get to know each other on a deeply personal level. There was so much I wanted to tell you, I suddenly felt empowered to talk about the things that I had gone through, and I secretly hoped that you might heal me in some way.
In reality it was the simplest of sentences that could barely fight their way out, and the idea of you knowing what was going through my head was nauseating because I knew it wasn’t healthy, and I wanted to protect you from it because you seemed so fragile sometimes. I desperately didn’t want to hurt you or scare you.
Although sometimes I could catch myself fantasising about how easy it would be to make you hate me. If I didn’t know how to make you love me then hate was just about as passionate and tangible. It would be far easier for me to comprehend as opposed to nonchalance or indifference.
It always came back to control, but I didn’t actually want to control you. Loving you was so destabilising that I think I was just desperately searching for a way to place the power back into my hands.
Every moment I wasn’t with you felt like a prelude. I would get so intoxicated with anticipation for the next time our worlds would collide again- I was like a giddy child. Then you’d float into my life for that brief encounter and it would feel like a dream. Once you were gone it felt like a crushing cliffhanger; that sticky, unsatisfying end to the story of two people so cripplingly alike that it inhibited their ability see themselves, and to see each other- across the room, ready to enlighten the other. But nothing ever came of it, the episodic cycle would just begin again.
This was three years ago.
To this day I have no idea if you ever noticed any of this, or if I played it off as successfully as I hope I did. I hope you are happy, but I don’t want to have to see you or be ‘friends’ again. I am glad that circumstance eventually lead us down different paths; that the flow of reality played its role, dutifully, in separating us. It was too exhausting for me- seeing you every day. This is for the best.
I wish you well.
Photo by Jan Tinneberg @ Unsplash