I was not looking for love when I found him.
He had a lazy smile and sleepy eyes that made me recall Sunday afternoons spent napping on the beaches of my native sunny California. His voice had a rasp to it that made me think of freshly ground dark roast espresso beans (despite the fact that he never drank coffee), with a slight accent that never let me forget we were not from the same place. Despite being oddly drawn to him that night, smiling shyly at each other in the dim light of a Williamsburg bar, I already knew that the most he would ever be was a distraction from the reality that, at that point in my life, I had no idea what I wanted. Looking back now, I suppose that should’ve been a sign that I wasn’t ready to have a man in my life; but he made me laugh and didn’t remind me of any of my exes, which honestly, was enough.
We never fell in love. I don’t know if we ever even fell in like. I guess you could say that we fell in mutual contentedness. Maybe we were brought together by the magnetic attraction of two people who are stuck wanting something they can’t or don’t or won’t have. I always got the sense when he looked at me that he was seeing someone else. It was an observation that I never cared enough about to voice in conversation, but it made its presence known in whatever room he and I inhabited. It was not ideal, but it was fine. I did not expect breathtaking love from him, and I did not want it. I appreciated us for what we were — just two people who found that being in each other’s company was slightly preferable to not being in each other’s company.
To be honest, it makes me cringe a little now, to express such a lukewarm sentiment towards another human being who, for a moment in time, I said my good mornings and good nights to. I used to think that any relationship you choose to pursue should be done so with fervor, but as I grew older, I realized that this would not always be the case. Sometimes, people come into our lives like stray cats — suddenly and without warning, but with barely an echo of true affection or anything deeper than mere curiosity and timely convenience. You hated cats, but that’s the best metaphor I can think of for the way you let yourself into my world that night — with the nonchalant ease of someone who understood that this was only a temporary arrangement. We were both placeholders in each other’s lives for something or someone that was going to come along one day and make us throw open our locked doors in welcome. Or at least, I wanted that. I’m sure you did too, maybe a little deeper down. And the best that you could do for me in that moment was help me come to terms with the fact that I wanted someone to adore me in a way that I knew you would not.
Being with you has made me realize how easy it is to settle when it comes to what you expect from the person who is suddenly occupying your once empty Saturday nights. It is too tempting to dive blindly into the first sign of something meaningful, without realizing how shallow the water really is. You can tell yourself that you’re okay with keeping each other warm at night and nothing more. You can act like you don’t mind that you only ever hear his voice when the moon’s out. You can pretend that you don’t want to be the first person he calls when he receives good news or hears an amazing joke that he wants to share. You may not even have to pretend. Some individuals can compartmentalize people the way they compartmentalize items in a storage closet; push all feelings of love into one cubby and shove lust in another, everything in its right and proper place without any possible danger of contamination. Some people can do this so well that it baffles me, and makes me wonder if they are some kind of superior human being. I wonder if I’m late on the upgrade, or maybe it’s a feature that’s just incompatible with my system.
But I think I am starting to be okay with the idea that it is not a bad thing to want to be adored. It is not unreasonable to want to be held in the palm of his hands like a flower made of glass, or to have him kiss you like your skin is made of rose petals. It is not selfish, or greedy, or narcissistic to want to be the most important thing in his life, not when you are ready and willing to make him yours. There should be no stigma in admitting that that is what you want, and no shame in refusing to settle for less.
So, I was not looking for love when I found him. But now I am.