Huddled among my coworkers in our brick-walled office while sipping glasses of rosé, I’m asked how many times I’ve been in love. It’s a question I’ve often asked myself. And one that I’ve feared I’ve been too eager about. I’ve answered far too quickly, too rashly.
I take a moment before answering.
“Only once, really.”
I’ve been infatuated numerous times. And I’ve definitely thought I was in love at least four. But really, truly in love? Something unconditional? Something that was returned and safe and wonderful? Once.
And it was such a long time ago.
The first book of poetry I put out was considered, by most accounts, a book of love poems. In retrospect, they were written for someone I was crazy about. Someone who made me laugh the hardest of anyone I’d ever met and ignited a desire deep inside of me that I didn’t know could still be lit. But it was never mutual. It was always in calculated doses. When he was lonely, or when I was avoiding reality.
Closure came slowly, as it sometimes does, and gave me a clearer pair of glasses to look back with. It wasn’t love. It was something and it was meaningful. But it wasn’t love.
For someone who writes endlessly about romance and matters of the heart, I’m terrified I’m forgetting how it feels to be in love with someone.
I have gotten so used to being on my own. I like it. I’m comfortable.
There’s a specific kind of loneliness that doesn’t come with being single, it comes from dating and not feeling a spark. It’s birthed out of meeting great people who seem perfect on paper, but those butterflies you’re supposed to feel are still stuck in their cocoons.
I talk to a cute man at a bar who holds my interest and likes all the same music as me. There will be a flicker of something, a moment I think I could feel it again, and then I lose it. It’s gone.
I swipe left, left, left, right, left, left, left.
I reach out to someone I had a crush on in school and ask them out. I meet them and do not like the adult they’ve turned into. I make plans and cancel. I cancel. I cancel. I cancel them all.
My mother says I will meet the person I’m meant to be with when I’m happier with myself.
But the thing is, I am happy. I like who I am. I like how my life has turned out. I like my career and the people I’ve surrounded myself with. I’m proud of how I’ve crawled out of darkness and how hard I work to keep finding the light every single day.
So I have to wonder, have I just run out? Did I use up all my love when I was eighteen and it’s never going to be that passionate again?
I meet a man who says all the right things, but somehow none of them are right. I meet a man who loves to cook and says he can make me anything I want, and I just want to go home.
I wonder if I actually deserve to be alone.
If I’ve made my twin-sized bed, and now I must lie in it.
The other day, I pulled out an old journal of mine and wrote down all the qualities I want in a man. I was immediately grossed out with myself and ripped the sheet of paper out, crumpled it into a ball, and threw it into the trash can. I wanted to laugh at how Eat, Pray, Love I was being. And right after, I turned on Bachelor In Paradise and imagined falling in love.
How can I be so cynical and optimistic at once?
How can I be so scared I won’t feel something that I’ve forgotten how to feel at all?