Connecticut is the last thing I think about most nights, and most mornings he’s the first person I text after I wake up. Yet still I warn him, Don’t get your hopes up, dude. I’m not girlfriend material. I can feel his thoughts pull together like storm clouds, and yesterday when I call him he lays it down: he’s not going to be OK with sharing me with Sketch forever.
I’m not sure if he has been reading the blog or just reading me, noting my hesitation and how often I disappear to the Upper West Side. I try to picture not going back to back to Sketch’s studio anymore, and all I see is a bank of gray nothing. Because what would I do without Sketch? For so long he has been the organizing principle of my life; I don’t know what I’d do if I didn’t have him to chase after, the way who is the Hamburglar if you take away hamburgers? No one. Some sad former felon with no sense of direction.
I am a person who is defined by her wants, and yet when Connecticut asks what they are, I am flummoxed. In an ideal world, what does love look like for you? Not these exact words, but this is how I understand them, and I wish I could remove my entire brain and hand it do him, so he could see how it drips and glows like radium in a cave. Oxytocin kicking through every line, making all my thoughts as loud and unreliable as some drunk asshole at the back of the bar who takes your drink by mistake and wanders off with it to go tell lies. I wish I could just hand my brain to Connecticut: here, you try dealing with this for a while.
What does love look like? This is impossible to answer, because it’s never the same thing from day to day, and desire flickers through everything like a faulty circuit. There’s a cute blond girl, maybe 23 years old, at my yoga studio, and sometimes I want to push her against a wall and jam my hands down her yoga shorts. And there’s lots of people I look at this way, and so sometimes I think love looks like a tiger stalking through the tall grass, golden eyes fixed unwaveringly on something soft and delicious. Love looks predatory. Love looks like freedom. Love looks like doing what you want to do because you want to do it, and not because someone thinks you are supposed to.
And sometimes love looks like history; there is archaeology to my fifteen-year affair with Sketch. There are ruins. There are motherfucking eras, and within them our inside jokes have grown like stalactites; I would share them here, but it is impossible to report on the private language of couples without it sounding fucking stupid, the way when you break off a stalactite and take it outside, it just looks like a shitty spear of limestone, all the magic lost. But we have our own language, Sketch and I, and if we stop talking again, it will probably be lost forever this time. Or for like six months. Same fucking thing.
But here’s a secret. Behind a private door in my head, love sometimes looks just like what everybody else has. Going to buy groceries together and discussing the relative merits of spicy guacamole vs. regular (Spicy. Spicy is the correct answer). Walking into someone’s house and having someone’s hand to hold instead of it being awkwardly jammed in my pocket or grasping around for a cookie or a cigarette or a drink because I always need to put something in my mouth like a socially-awkward toddler. Secretly, I sometimes think love looks planning a trip together and then actually taking the trip because you can count on still liking one another in a month or two. I’m sort of ashamed of wanting this kind of love. It’s not very original. And it’s risky, horribly, nauseatingly risky.
When Sketch first left, I swore I was never getting involved in anything I couldn’t get over in a month, not ever again. My dating philosophy: like refusing to get any pet that is not flushable. If I don’t ever call anyone my boyfriend again, I don’t have to worry about a breakup. Because that only happens to people who have boyfriends. Even the word boyfriend makes me blanch, like when you pass by a nail sticking out of a board at eye-level, malevolent and rusty.
And yet my Connecticut likes a label. He confesses to wanting something more conventional, which is exactly what I knew would happen. I told you from the start, I want to protest. But the thing is, I was honest is not an excuse for being an asshole. I knew he would want the normal kind of relationship other people have, and I went ahead and took his pants off anyway. Now I can’t just protest that I warned him, even though I did. I’m responsible. I knew, and I did it anyway.
I have told him I don’t want to be his girlfriend, but the truth is, feeling secure enough to tell him this sort of makes me want to be his girlfriend. Because I’m a crazy person, but also because I realize that he is the first man in my life that I haven’t lied to. Every other relationship I’ve ever been in has been padded with lies and faked orgasms and excuses about where I’ve been and what I’ve been doing and smiles in the places where I felt like screaming. But I have been honest with Connecticut. And that’s what love looks like. It looks like when you’re afraid and you somehow tell the truth anyway.