Instead of loving someone you can’t be with, fictionalize them. Reimagine your encounters as dreams: the kind you wake up from, shake off, disregard; not the kind you journal, analyze, relay relentlessly to bored friends. Treat them like the subject of a poem that tickles you in the chest cavity but only very slightly, a poem you copy paste publish on the internet and forget about soon as you read something else worthwhile, something that moves you to repeat the process like you’ve never read poetry before. Think of them the way you remember characters from books you haven’t read in a while; fondly but vaguely and all smudged ’round the edges.
You can fill your days with hobbies, god knows unrequited love swallows free time like it’s air. Why not begin running, learn to get away, and fast. Or you could read a few novels, is there a more efficient way to stack your life with characters who will eventually leave? Because that seems to be the type that attracts you, the ones you know will end before they begin. You can knit, keep your fingers busy and away from the phone and away from that soft patch of skin you like to hold when you’re alone, to remember. You can finally learn to swim, because it’s summertime and there’s nothing else to do and you’re so good at holding your breath, anyway.
Remind yourself that you are other things besides in love and hopeless and sort of sad in the saddest way possible like, you are also a friend or a son daughter or an employee student and also a thinker, a doer, a person who lives and has lived before this sad, sad mess came to pass. Think about when you were a five-year-old on a beach somewhere collecting shells and digging moats and chasing strangers through the sand because you were about the same height and had the same castle-building interests and wore almost-matching swimsuits. Remember when you were a 10-year-old who wore smiling faces on t-shirts and backpacks and scrunchies and when you were a 13-year-old who was ashamed for having done so. Remember when you were 17 and began to form a soft casing around your stomach that spoke to your affinity for beer, remember when you turned 21 and spent the night spinning and drinking and kissing the best friends you’ll ever have. Remember whatever age you were the first time you had your heart broken and how the pain felt endless until it ended and then it was like you’d imagined it all, a fever dream of a romance. Uncountable things to define who you are, and the only one you toil over is the one you’re not permitted to have you silly, silly…
Go be silly with someone else and maybe you won’t love them, but maybe you will. Maybe you’ll see-saw between having everything and nothing to say to one another until you’re wearing each other’s weight and finding yourselves somewhere in the middle. Maybe in a rush of words they’ll say something arbitrary that for some reason makes your stomach smile, you know, tickles you in ways that a copy paste publish poem can’t. Maybe you’re unsure because you’ve already invested your thoughts and feelings elsewhere without yielding any profit or interest; maybe you feel safer holding on to what’s already failed because that failure is familiar and comfortable and you wear it so well. But maybe — and this is just another suggestion — maybe you can try again, instead of loving someone you can’t be with.