He said he wanted to read what I was writing, to know what I thought about boys, if I thought all boys were furniture like I joked my roommate’s boyfriend was to me. I told him he wasn’t furniture, not to me, but I didn’t have the courage to say anything more than that.
After all, we were only on the cusp of something new, balancing our too-large feet on the almost invisible line between something and nothing, and one wrong push could make us fall off the wrong edge.
But sometimes I wonder if I should have said something more. I didn’t know him enough to love him, not in the bone-aching, soul-crushing sense of the word, but I knew that I liked it when he would tell me stories of how he would watch a certain British television show with his family or of his adventures across the borders beyond our tiny island. I knew I liked the sparkle in his eyes when he told me, in all seriousness, that this particular science is a language. I knew, quite simply, that I liked him. At least, I knew I liked him enough.
But as all heroes and heroines in storybooks do after the inciting incident, I turned away from what I knew, and shunned away from the possibility of liking somebody. I told myself that it was too early to decide if I actually liked him or if I merely liked the feeling I got when he was there, too early to decide if this feeling I had was real or not. This all sounded too familiar to me — I’d said it the last time I really went out with someone. And the last time I was on the verge of going out with someone. And the last time I thought someone was cute.
It’s the same old story, only the male lead — or maybe the male passerby — changes every single time.
And I know exactly how the story ends. I can be apathetic by the end of it, shrugging off the boy who won’t text me back, or I can obsess over every little detail, crying on rooftops and drying yards and on my friend’s beanbag hidden in his room so my roommate won’t worry, but the story never ends differently.
I’m always alone by the end of the chapter.
It’s strange how I’m accustomed to it by now. It’s stranger that I even had hopes of things turning out differently this time or next time, because didn’t I learn that things never turned out differently around here? I was built to maintain status quo, to replace the gears once they had turned rusty, to make sure the clock continued to tick on time, to find myself back at the same spot I had found myself in a year ago after realising I had been running in circles this whole time.
I refused to let myself fall, afraid of my bones shattering like Humpty Dumpty’s did. Didn’t anybody realise that not one word mentioned how Humpty Dumpty was an egg, yet he is so often depicted as one? He had fallen, and he had shattered into pieces so tiny he couldn’t be fixed, and I didn’t want to be like that. I wanted the chance to be put together again. At least a fracture can heal, even if it leaves a scar. I just need to move again. Move forward, keep marching, keep going until I am at the end of my rope. Because how can you heal dust? The semblance of a structure has long disappeared.
But maybe that isn’t how you fall in love. I’ve always read that love is a risk. Take the risk, someone would say. Make that jump, someone else would say. Love is like loaning your heart out to someone and hoping that they won’t crush it, but it’s worth every risk, they would say.
Except every time I come close to taking that risk, I feel like I’m jumping off a cliff without a parachute, and falling down a deep dark hole until something hopefully catches me in time, before that bone-shattering split.
But I know I’ve been playing it safe for too long: making sure I have my helmet on, my parachute works, and failing that, I have a giant net to break my fall. But I don’t see that doing it this way is slowly breaking me too. Every time something I built myself up for falls through, a piece of my safety net chips off, my helmet loosens, and my parachute begins to fray. And eventually, I fall too.
You see, the word “enough” is my safety net. I cannot fall because my feet are tied to a huge pillar in the clouds and I am terrified of heights. I liked him… enough. For now. In this moment. Enough to want to go out with him. Enough to want to see how things go.
I liked him enough.
I thought this sentiment made me a “cool girl“, someone who is never too excited by a prospect or an idea of someone else, but someone who had just enough enthusiasm and spontaneity to do cool things — not necessarily someone who enjoys “football, poker, dirty jokes, and burping, who plays video games, drinks cheap beer” like Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl presumed, but someone who is inexplicably chill about relationships.
That was a lie I told myself, because if I was so cool about it, I wouldn’t be disappointed by the end of it all. Yet, to be honest, I was disappointed. Every time. It was also a lie because I don’t think anyone can ever be “chill” if you liked something or someone… if you’re so chill about it, then maybe you don’t like it as much as you think.
The more I write these columns the more I feel like I don’t really know anything about dating, or relationships, or life. I feel the limitations of my age, of being 22. I don’t know what is the right way to fall in love, if it’s better to take tentative steps or to run headfirst into a fire. I do know that to love somebody is an action that you partake in, a conscious decision you make day by day, but I only know this in theory, not in practice. It feels like I’m playing chess except I don’t know what the rules are and I’m making all the wrong moves.
Am I supposed to be endlessly passionate about someone? How much trying must I do before I give up? Am I reading the signs wrongly? Does he like me?
Is this time going to be different?
I ask all these questions, yet I have no answer to them. But I remember a quote from C. S. Lewis I’d read more than a year ago when I was afraid to let myself fall:
“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”
I had forgotten that quote, and over the past year, let myself close up under the guise of being more open to love. In reality, I’d filled my shoes with stones, and they were what sank me to the ground. Now I’m reminded that in order for me to fall, I must be willing to accept heartbreak as an possible outcome. I must be willing to shatter my bones in order to find something beautiful. Most importantly, I must be willing to like someone more than just “enough”, to take the plunge off the edge, and hope we’ll spread our wings and fly.
To Fridays is a weekly column that hopes to be able to give you all the encouragement and love in the world. #tofridaysvp