A Love Life – Emotional Bookkeeping

Randomly meeting people from your past, people that you had some kind of big feelings about, there’s a tendency to see that as significant, a chance to rekindle something or make up for whatever.  That is a mistake.  It means nothing.  I’ve randomly come across people I loved several times in my life.  In a region with millions of people, up to a hundred miles afield of where you met them, it feels unlikely.

But how unlikely is it?  I only knew those people in the first place because we have lives that are similar in some way or another.  The same forces that sent me down certain paths would send them down similar.  For example, I have always been a poor child of neglect, so I never could afford a car and never learned to drive one when I was young.  A boy I knew had those things in common with me, we’ve randomly crossed paths at bus stations.  I always romanticized gothy weirdos, I ended up dating one again, and while out on those dates at some obscure gothy movies, I randomly ran into the first goth girl I crushed on.

Not all that unexpected, but it felt shocking or significant to me anyways.  And years after those moments happened, I find myself thinking about them in the middle of the night when I should be going to sleep.

These things hang in the mind – loves lost.  Romance says love is big and important, that it should never be forgotten, and programmed with that shit, I will never forget these people.  But not being able to let a love die out completely, that leads people to all sorts of terrible crimes.  It’s a failing of our sometimes hard-earned emotional maturity.  Every relationship I’ve had was bad on some level, but they taught me lessons that made the ones that follow better, until I got with my current guy fifteen years ago.  We’re good – our travails aren’t because of flaws in our relationship, just global misfortune.  So I’d like to be able to kick the others out of my heart.

I’m just going to put some thoughts into writing and see if it helps exorcise them from my head.  I’ve heard PTSD is associated with sense memory, and that turning traumatic experiences into verbal memory weakens their power.  Then again, repetition of a verbal idea can turn it into a mantra, give it a type of reality that is hard to shake.  What’s the best way to go about this?  Exorcism feels right.  I continue.

The first person I ever confessed my love to was a boy.  I was deep in the thrall of homophobia at that time, and so I assumed that my surprising uncontrolled outburst was platonic in nature.  Looking back, nuh, I’m a fucking jackass.  I recall telling that boy he was good looking more than once as well.  I’m not sure how I missed myself on that whole situation.  What’s worse is that as time went by I had two more random encounters and a phone call from him that would have been good opportunities to find out if we could be lovers.  During the first random encounter there were pretty heavy hints he was into dudes but I was still waxing homophobic.  Some time after that, the phone call was a confession of love from him, and I was feeling so remote from our childhood at that time, chasing ladies like Don Quixote, and said some bullshit about how time faded my feelings.

No, of course time didn’t fade my feelings, or I wouldn’t be writing this.  It might have felt true while I was on the phone, but from where I sit now I can’t help but think my life could have been profoundly different if I’d had my shit right in that moment.  He joined the navy after that.  The more recent time I met him, he was in functional alcoholic mode working toward cirrhosis and there were no pictures of cocks on his wall.  I can’t help but wonder if I sent him that direction.  A morbid form of self-aggrandizement, or self-awareness?  I just think about my relationship with him and it haunts me like a motherfucker.  Did I fuck up somebody’s life?  He was always a very dark person emotionally – too dark for me, we probably would have been a bad match.  But again, could I have done something about that?  It’s disturbing.

I objectified women.  On one level, there’s the obvious aspect of that – sexual commodification.  I felt like they were something to be chosen from, something to be had.  Their inner lives as humans had no emotional reality for me.  What made that hard to see was that on a rational, conscious level, I didn’t feel like that at all.  I was well aware that they are real humans with their own rights and prerogatives and such.  But in my heart I didn’t feel it, and I didn’t notice that about myself.

So there was this that goth girl I used to love.  I spent a lot of hours of my life courting her, talking to her, going in circles around her.  I heard about her interests but I didn’t partake of them, didn’t come to understand them.  Why not?  Years later while courting another goth I finally, very belatedly, got into Twin Peaks and The Cure and such.  Then it clicked.  When I was lavishing attention on that young lady, she thought I was paying real attention to her.  I thought I was too, but it was utterly superficial.

What that looks like:  I can see that she likes Twin Peaks and The Cure and Crispin Glover’s weird art shit, I can see that she has razor blades in her purse for art reasons, but this is all just details of her appearance – like her velvet coat or her patent leather shoes.  If I’d wanted to genuinely understand her mind, I’d have bothered to look into that art, see what it is she likes about it.  I thought I wanted her body and soul, but I was utterly blind to the reality of women’s souls.  Fucking bizarre, in retrospect.

So she thought I could be a close friend, when I had a huge barrier to ever achieving that, and I wanted quite badly for her to be my lover.  She couldn’t love me physically and I couldn’t *genuinely* love her mentally, so we wasted each other’s time for years.  And that was mostly my fault, my pursuit.

Much later, I saw her in movie theaters, Jan Svankmajer and Kiyoshi Kurosawa movies.  I came in with my date in a timely fashion, she had a seat saved for her by a friend and came in at the last minute.  Both times, she ended up one row in front of me and a few seats to the right.  Weird coincidence, that.  But it means nothing.  Any excuses my rational mind comes up with for reaching out to her are just sublimated vestiges of that romance that never dies, some ludicrous fantasy that there could be a relationship there, where there was never anything but bullshit in the first place.

I don’t want that.  I don’t want relationships with either of these people.  Even if I tried to be friends with them, my past would fuck that up.  I want them to be well and I want their lives to go well.  And I want myself to be well and my life to go well – and my best relationship ever to continue for the rest of my life, as it likely will.  But Romance.  You’re not allowed to forget, just like you’re not allowed to forget any given moment of embarrassment from ages three to thirty.


  1. says

    If you live in a city and regularly leave your house, you will run into hundreds of people every day. All those people you see in the grocery store, street, every building you enter. Statistically, you are highly likely to meet people you know. This is no destiny, just statistics, probabilities, and random encounters.

    And if there’s a person you keep thinking about, it makes no sense to wait until you randomly run into them. The chances are that you have their e-mail address.

    romance that never dies, some ludicrous fantasy that there could be a relationship there

    I just realized that I don’t have any of those. I have people with whom I tried a relationship and it didn’t work. I have people whom I offered sex and they refused for whatever reason. But I don’t have in my life any people that I liked about whom I am unsure about whether a relationship with them could have worked or no.

    I gave up on flirting early in life. I struggle to notice and interpret other people’s non-verbal communication, this makes flirting/courting/indirect communication very difficult for me. Thus I just ask people directly if they are interested in having a romantic relationship with me. As an added bonus, this saves a lot of time and I never remain unsure about whether something could have been possible between me and some person I liked.

  2. says

    Even some people who would like to have the big romantic feelings never experience them, because their life just didn’t pan out like that. Probably I have it worse than average because in high school I was hornier than average and a raging fool. This is a tiny fraction of the people I crushed on back then, just the ones I have the biggest regrets about.

  3. Ichthyic says

    wait until it is real, long term relationships you have had with people, then run across them again years later.

    gird your loins, because it is far, FAR harder to deal with than extinguishing memories of high school crushes.

    trust me, just went through one of those a couple months back. Those can push you right to the brink. I was lucky to have someone to lean on.

  4. says

    I was going to let this be but it randomly started to bother me. I feel like the comments on here aren’t great. Massive point-missing in the first, diminishing my experience in the second. I’m willing to chalk up the worst of the first comment to English-as-Second-Language issues, and globally just write the discussion off in this way: Romance must be like dreams – wholly personal. It feels significant to the person who experiences it but is abjectly meaningless to anyone they try to tell about it.

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