The Worst Thing in the World

“Isn’t it fun to fall in love?” he asks, not waiting for an answer and laughing at his own cleverness. A sandy curl falls over one dark brown eye and he leaves it there. I’m sure he thinks that he looks charming, a romancer and an artist. His eyes leave mine and rake across my body; he’s picturing me naked and he thinks I don’t know.

Well, alright. I’ll bite.

“No, I don’t think it’s fun at all.” I take a sip of my drink and enjoy the bourbon’s warmth as it travels through me, with that parting kick of the added ginger beer. He pauses mid-body scan, surprised that his wit hasn’t turned me into a puddle of lust, and asks me what I mean. That he even wants to know what I mean surprises him even more.

“Allow me to explain,” I let laughter creep into my voice. “It’s fun to lock eyes with someone new and see a matching light go on. It’s fun to kiss someone for the first time and feel a chill run through you as your body inexorably comes to the conclusion that some horizontal tango will follow.”

At this, his smirk starts up again and he starts to lean forward, no doubt to initiate tango sequence. My firmly raised hand stops him as I take another sip of my drink, pause to appreciate the taste, and continue.

“It’s fun to learn a new partner’s body, and it’s fun to flirt with someone throughout the night, it’s fun to make eyes across a crowded room. It’s fun to start to cultivate inside jokes, to laugh till you can’t breathe, to buy each other little tchatchkes. It’s fun to hold hands, and hug, and cuddle. It’s fun to go on dates and try new foods together.

“But don’t delude yourself into thinking falling in love is fun. Falling in love is the worst thing in the world.

“At some point – and this moment creeps up on you suddenly so you’re never prepared and always, always blindsided – at some point, you start to miss him when he’s not around. You’ve had a bad day and you want his touch to make you feel whole again, or at least less broken. You start to think of him in everyday moments, noticing how the barista has long fingers like his but that the barista’s fingers are clean (coffee shop protocol, after all) but that his nails always have flecks of paint on them since he’s been working on that new project, which reminds you that he’ll probably be hungry by the time you get home and he’s had a rough day so you decide to buy him oatmeal raisin cookies. You hate them, but they’re his favorite. And that’s when you realize you’re falling in love. When the raisins aren’t enough to deter you from purchasing an outrageously overpriced box of cookies at Whole Foods.”

I pause my cookie consumerism tirade to order another Jameson and ginger. At this point, Charming Curl looks thoroughly confused and I hide my grin (because really, this is too fun). “Why would you buy oatmeal raisin cookies if you don’t like them, though?” he asks me, seemingly dead serious. The bartender, who I suspect has been listening to this conversation from the start, takes my old drink and replaces it with a new one, with a lime balanced jauntily on the side of the copper mug. “If raisins bother you so much, just get the regular oatmeal and share them,” says the utterly confused man sitting next to me.

I consider abandoning the topic, but since the new drink is begging to be ingested, I figure I’ll resume my thought process till there’s only ice left. “Because,” I say, β€œin this scenario you already have the regular oatmeal ones at home but you know that the oatmeal raisins are his favorite. And you live far away from a grocery store and you don’t have a car so you go to the Whole Foods near work to get them especially for him. Just to see him smile, to feel his shoulders relax. And that is the worst.

“It’s the worst because now you’re vulnerable. Now, he has the power to take all of the affection that has suddenly filled you and… ignore it. Now he can choose to ignore your call for really any reason at all, and before that wasn’t an issue but now you feel his absence as though you’re missing a limb and you start to wonder if you did something wrong, if you’re contacting him too often and he’s bored of you, if he’s just not feeling it anymore. By falling in love you have told yourself that you no longer come first. he can take all of the cookies you gave him and throw them out because he’s not in the mood for them and, in fact, he’s never liked them in the first place. So you paid Whole Foods prices for unwanted cookies.”

I’m pretty sure I’ve lost him at his point so I stop talking and take three long sips of my drink. Another pretty face, I think to myself, with nothing but air behind it. But then he pushes that curl out of his eyes and responds.

“What if you spent your entire life avoiding Whole Foods and cookies and instead only got the regular ones? What if you put yourself first every day, and never have to worry about another person’s love or affection, or if they’ll be there at the end of a difficult day? Because you always have yourself, right, you’ll have that consistency and safety of knowing that no one can possibly hurt you since you haven’t let them. You’re safe in this cocoon that you’ve built for yourself.

“But what about the beauty in making someone smile after hours of overtime work that ended up being a waste of time? What about making someone breakfast or coffee in the morning as one less step for them to do that day? How about holding someone’s hand and swinging it playfully, as a way to show the world how proud you are to be holding that particular someone’s hand, and their mirrored smile when they realize you share their affection? How about hugging someone, silently, letting your energies soak into one another’s and realizing that as long as you have moments of connection like this, you can overcome anything? That the ability to love helps you grow as a person as you look outside of yourself, understand your innate human fallibility and continue to love yourself regardless, because others have shown you that you’re worthy of that love?”

He pauses for a starkly silent moment and sips his own drink, eyes sparkling warmly and cocky facade pushed back like his curl. I don’t think I’ve blinked in three minutes. His mouth curls up in a half smile, “No one said it’s easy to fall in love, or that it isn’t absolutely terrifying. But it’s fun as hell.”

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