I don’t know how people do this shit – this whole confessing business. To you people who are confident and expressive, I envy you, because often I feel like a person from the last century who can’t say what I think or feel without wanting to run headlong into a wall with embarrassment and flaming ears. I’ve never told my family what I feel about them because it’s just not how I grew up – the shock might drive them to their grave. Not my friends (although that I have probably done as I ask them to save my sorry neck for a perceived life-or-death situation), not anyone I’ve ever liked. But I probably told my dog I love him when he howls in protest at my male neighbor who keeps singing Taylor Swift songs in falsetto.
Fine, that doesn’t count.
You’d hear it a lot, though: people being so open about these feelings towards another person that they greet each other with a declaration of love. They use it as an expression, a phrase to follow up basically any prosaic thing they do. Someone beside you on the train could be typing it out on their notebook-sized smart phone for the fifth time that bloody day, jesus. They could be eloquent, they could be awkward, but they can say it.
A lot of people would say they’ll keep their feelings hidden but have them balls-deep in tequila and they’ll blurt it out, while brandishing an empty bottle under the nose of the (bewildered) object of their affection like it was their heart and they’re saying, Take it, motherfucker!. It could be in a messy, barely decipherable text message. I wouldn’t confess. I can’t. I’d probably be stoned and not be able to say it. I’d say I’ll try doing it at gunpoint, but really, no one asks for a declaration in that context. And who am I kidding? I had consistently developed something suspiciously like a lockjaw whenever I see the person I like, even if it was just a tiny, tiny, molecular-sized crush. Go figure.
Being a disillusioned 20-something I had felt it banal to have to say it so often, or to say it as if to prove the sentiment exists. For me feelings were things you translated into metaphor, something sublimated into literature. It was a whole universe, a person’s reality, compressed into a song; it was a photograph that captures a moment and frames it eternally. It wasn’t a greeting, it wasn’t an afterthought. That was my ideal, but it’s all up in the air. It’s all probably just my excuse.
The only reason I’ve ever entertained telling someone about how I feel was because I had wanted closure. Closure was an elusive matter in the realm of unrequited love, more so in one that’s lasted years. I have unbelievably rotten luck in these matters. The first time I fell in love was when I was twenty and the feelings had not caught up to me until three something years later. You could say I’m either totally dense or completely in denial; I’m sure it’s an epic and harmonious marriage of both, in my case. I had no idea, he had no idea, and the realization years later had punched me so hard in the proverbial gut of my existence that I flipped in so many levels.
At that point that I had accepted that I had these feelings, these legit 500 Days of Summer-esque feels, I went mildly apeshit. And man, it felt like a legitimate time in my life to throw out my notions of mental and redefine it. I managed doing all sorts of crazy things in between work and writing, which included getting shitfaced enough to wake up in a different city with a hangover from hell (don’t ask me how it happened).
I had been dense about it to the point that I had not realized that a lot of my choices were built and influenced by my feelings for a single person, like how I had ditched opportunities or that I had put off studying in Dublin for nothing because I’m an idiot like that.
I dealt with it as anyone in the seventh circle of denial would. I ranted to friends, I drank, drunk-ranted, partied myself to the ground every other day, woke up feeling like I was hit by a train the night before, drank again, navigated the grocery like a hurricane that subsist on chocolate chip cookies and candy bars, made mixtapes, wrote poetry. I’ve thrown out most of them, though.
It was probably both a blessing and a curse that he was equally obtuse as I was (or he may just be pretending to be obtuse, to which I say THE HORROR). We’ve been friends to the point that we have placed each other in the terminal stage of friendzone purgatory. My resting bitchface syndrome, severely debilitating shyness and spontaneous lockjaws don’t help. I wanted and not wanted him to know. He probably wouldn’t have guessed I had feelings for him even if it had danced in front of him wearing a feathered boa and a neon sign.
I didn’t think that I’d be pushed to the point where I considered telling him, because for as long as I can remember it was never an option on the table. Going through the motions I’d just scuttle in the continuum of manically happy and morbidly depressed as I continued meeting him with friends, as friends. My feelings intensified with everything that happens, and even with things that don’t. I was frustrated with mooning over him and with all other sentiments that branch out from it, like how fundamentally different we were, how there’s a certain twinge when he doesn’t appear interested, how I keep thinking about him when there is evidence beyond doubt that right now, it’s not me, for him. Cue sad face. On some days I feel like I could die peacefully without saying it. On others I am three hairs away from hurling a table in his direction while saying, I like you, you dumb fuck. I’m not sure if it had been the time factor, or that I realized he is starting to like someone new. Or that it’s just a natural thing, apparently.
Whether I say it to him or I say it in a stupid poem, I’m still saying it. That’s the mystery of that particular clause of feelings: they don’t stay bottled in you. They bleed into your thoughts and actions, in your words. Eventually you’d reach a point where there seems to be that need to say it and it’s all going to explode out of your head. It’s because there is an ‘object’, there is someone who is supposed to receive that feeling. Reciprocating it is a different issue altogether, but maybe you could be like me, that I factor in that aspect in my decision not to say it. Selfish, conceited, careful gits, aren’t we.
There was this male acquaintance who I had an intense college-days reminiscent drinking game in the middle of this emotional hurricane. After more whiskey than coke, we were both hammered beyond hope of sobriety and that being our state of mind we stumbled into The Problem. Drunk up to his eyeballs, he asked seriously, “So with all this, do you want to be with him?” I stared at him for about infinity or two before exploding with a spiel about how uncertain I am about that and how I couldn’t really picture us together. He raised both arms and flapping them about in the general air around us. “What the hell,” he said. “Then what is ALL this about?”
What is it, really? Did liking someone mean that you had to be with them? Just because you’ve met someone you’ve been looking for all along, doesn’t mean that you’re also the one they need. Hence you’re forced to the perspective of standing on different grounds. That’s as real as reality gets. Maybe telling them about it can bridge that distance, maybe it will make you drift further away. If they liked you back, cool, bro. If they didn’t at first but that changes their mind, then take that risk with them. The other side of the coin lurks the darker possibilities you don’t even want to entertain, because the tail end of it means you’re going to be acquainted with several bottles of hard drinks, friends who are good at babysitting red-faced, drunk-ranting hopeless Toms who have been Summer-ed and a lot of tissue to blow your nose on and to shred for some poor waiter to clean up later on.
I concede that there are so many reasons to tell someone you love them, but there are those few that would really make you take it to your grave, amongst the maggots who will feast on your flesh and secrets. It could be that feeling that you’re letting someone in on something so personal, something that is the equivalent of showing how your internal organs look like. It could be rejection. It could destroy your dynamics and make things chillingly awkward beyond salvation. In some cases the person you confess to might be one hell of an asshole and only take you up for it because they know you’re basically feeding from their hand. Sometimes, it might be that it’ll be something that won’t work out in the end, even if you both tried.
Goethe said, “If I love you, what business is it of yours?” We who are inflicted with the curse of unrequited love might wish to post that as a Facebook status and mean it, fist pump, with swag (and defensiveness) bleeding at the edges, but we are probably just trying to convince ourselves. I used to say that if you like someone, then you like someone. It’s not supposed to be relative to anything, not their existing feelings for you, nor the outcomes. But the feelings are pushing us into a lonely corner of the universe where we want our projections of these people to be their motherfucking business, goddamn it. But we also care about them to the point that we won’t force them into something they don’t want to be in.
We’re at the outside looking in. We’re writing these thousand word vignettes and these objects of our affections will miss the day it gets published. We’re hopelessly in love, yet we can’t find it in us to say it because of all the what ifs. Maybe someday we’ll pluck enough courage to say it. Maybe they need to hear it, maybe they were waiting for us to be the right people for them as well. Maybe it’ll change something, everything, nothing.