Y’all know my man Usher.
Who can bear this agony?
You know what’s fucked up? I’m not talking about being alone or breaking up. Both of those things actually seem fairly bearable. I’m talking about being with someone.
I found my sweetheart…at an aikido class. No, I’m not making that up. And uh…I can’t believe they agreed to date me. I quite literally mean. I cannot. Believe. They’re mine. Like, every time they call me “dear”, I kinda look around wondering…are they talking to me? I mean, because my sweetheart is. Beautiful. Intense in this wildly attractive way. And it’s not like there aren’t other people who are attracted to them. From what I can gather, they’re quite popular among these queers of Northampton. So when I stop and think that literally all I did for them to like me is ask if I could spend time with them, I think this can’t be real life. No tricks? No hit it and quit it? They don’t just want arm candy? They’re not a douchebag? They’re not trying to steal my money? Or use me as an emotional crutch? Like, what’s the catch here?
I guess on some logical level, I can understand there is no catch, but I can’t seem to focus on them. Instead, I seem to be focusing, through them, on everything else. And there is A LOT of everything else, y’all. A lot. I never realized that in my first queer relationship, I would be wildly protective. I refuse to tell my best friend their sun sign because I know she’ll tell me everything about them that I know but don’t want to hear. I refuse to talk to straight men about them because they seem to want me to treat them the way straight men have treated me, and that disgusts me on a molecular level. My very molecules are disgusted by that idea.
They’ve dated a bunch of women before me, and the jealousy is just insufferable. I thought that both of us being ace would make this easier for me, but if anything, it seems to make things worse. The only other person about whom I remember feeling this way is my (current) best friend when I was in love with her, but she rebuffed my advances every time until I no longer felt romantic interest in her and became her best friend instead. We were never together (I can’t imagine what being jealous of her if I was with her would have felt like). But this, this human, my sweetheart, my torturer, they don’t get jealous too frequently (must be nice. That might be slight sarcasm), thus they’ll share things about past relationships that make me want to tear out my organs and set them on fire. The things they’ve said about the most recent ex makes me want to hunt her down and kill her. I probably wouldn’t even feel remorse for it.
Obviously, I’m working through all of it because I really, really want to be there for my sweetheart. I really want to enjoy every moment with them instead of…dealing with whatever stupidity is going through my head when I’m with them right now. How the fuck does one do that, though?
I think the thing I fear most is not that the jealousy will manifest. Deep down, I know that would never happen. It never has in the past. No, what I do best is something I have perfected. I’d abandon them, if it gets to be too much for me. Give them no way to contact me, no way to see me. It will be as though we never met. I suspect that might be very painful for them, a person who has kept in touch with several exes. I’m not a hero. I guess it doesn’t matter to me whether or not people think I’m a good person after I break up. The way I am right now, I’d walk out on them the second I feel like it’s too much for me to handle.
And that would be sad because in truth, they wouldn’t be the problem. I’d be the problem. I’m that tragic human who, I guess, didn’t get enough validation at some critical point in the past and now can’t accept when other people like her. Romantic comedies are written about cliche shit like this. Now you know a real life version.
I’ve been told that a good way to deal with feelings is to think of what this current situation reminds me of. More often than not, the things we have encountered in the past have conditioned us to react similarly in the present to situations that we think are the same. In truth, the situations could be completely different, and thereby deserve to be given unique responses.
That’s where Usher comes in. My sweetheart reminds me of another person. My first friend, we’ll say. (Technically, I think my brother takes that title, but he was also a boy, and he was family. So that’s different.)
For the sake of this post, we’ll call her Divya, though if she were ever to read this, she’d probably know exactly who I’m talking about. Yes, my first friend and I met…come to think of it, 20 years ago. It’s 20 years ago this year.
We met in summer of 1997, right after her birthday. I was so mad I missed it. I loved birthday parties. Looking back, my mother trusted Divya’s mom because she was also an Indian immigrant, and needed a place to keep her kids while she and my dad worked. Divya’s mom needed similar support. So I’d argue it was more of a political alliance. But I was an innocent kid. This girl, she looked like me. We’d get confused for each other at school. We were both little brown girls. I thought it was pretty apparent that we should be best friends.
We did everything together. Everything. We joined Girl Scouts together. We went to the same elementary school. We both got into the gifted program. In second grade, we both wanted to become dolphin trainers when we grew up. We bought the exact same orca plushies and played together with them all the time. We made blanket forts. We would bike together. We’d play tennis together. In high school, we would join band together.
But as the only two brown girls most people knew, we were pitted against each other a lot as well. There was an unspoken competition in everything we did. Everyone knew she was the more athletic of us two. I was the better writer. She could sight-read music better, but I had been playing an instrument for a longer time. I was better at math. She was better at physics. She became a tomboy. I guess I became…the brown girl next door? It seemed that way to all the boys I was always hanging around with.
I was very protective of her. I remember there was this time in Girl Scouts when we were putting on a play, and our parts were assigned randomly (we picked them out of a bag). Everyone was mad that Divya received the lead role. They kept complaining about how somebody else (themselves) would’ve been better for the role. I told them to fuck off (or like, the 9-year-old version of that).
She was in all of my stories, the ones I used to write as a child. She was a main character in every single one. I shared all of them with her. In real life, we never told each other we cared for each other. We never really expressed our affection for each other. To be honest, it has been a long enough time now that I wonder if the affection was real. It may have been one-sided this whole time. I might never know. In the stories, though, my character and hers would always express it somehow. Some way. Usually some grand gesture. If I could put an emoji here, it would be the one rolling its eyes. It’s painful to acknowledge how obvious it was that I wanted those things to happen.
I cared so much for her that I would turn my back on people I cared about for her. To this day, I do not know if those were the right decisions I made. There was a Bosnian girl who lived next-door to me. I knew Divya didn’t like her, so I might have been a little distant from her intentionally because I cared about Divya’s approval. I liked the Bosnian girl, though. She was an Aries, kinda wild and very stylish. Another time, in high school, I liked this boy that played french horn in band, and Divya knew. One day, this girl in Divya’s homeroom died of pneumonia. French horn guy was in her homeroom. Divya thought he had said something insensitive about it. She told me what he said, her disapproval quite apparent. I didn’t admit my feelings to him for three years after that. By then, it was too late.
I thought nothing of it at the time. She meant a lot to me.
So when she chose some white girls in band over me, of course I confronted her about it. I told her they seemed shallow. That their interests were completely different from ours (one of my less creative moments, as we were all in band). That they were such phobics (our mutual term for people who were “popular,” a group of humans we Did Not Like). I think on some deep, inner level, I was imploring that she pick me instead. Or tell me she cared about me as much as she cared for them. I didn’t know how to ask it of her. I was saying it wrong, but that’s what 14-year old Leonie meant to say.
She said she didn’t understand what I was talking about. I think that’s literally what she said, too. Just straight up—I don’t get it. I didn’t believe her for a second. I might be wrong. She might genuinely not have understood. But I felt in that moment that she was choosing to play dumb to avoid conflict rather than validate my feelings. I think that was the moment I started to let go of her.
The next three years would be some of my most painful, and some of the ones in which she was either most in denial, or that she actually enjoyed, and I begrudge her for it if it’s the latter. She let me suffer. Never once offered consolation. Why not? Oh well, I was always with some boy or another. As if boys are what I asked for. As if theirs is the attention I wanted.
And in those three years, evidence that I had let go was apparent. I quit band one year. I claim it was “to study for the SAT”. It might have just been that she was getting on my nerves, like she did on those weeks when we were little kids and we saw each other for 5 days in a row because my mom had to work late some weeks.
Perhaps she had not let go at that point, I do not know. For two school projects, she asked me to be her partner. I agreed both times, feeling both times as though I did a lot of the work, though perhaps secretly pleased she would still think to ask me to work with her. I branched out. I joined the newspaper staff. I joined a dance team.
I think the abandonment culminated on the night of prom. My boyfriend and I were supposed to take Divya home from prom that night. Her white-girl friends were having a co-ed sleepover afterwards, and her mother did not approve. It strikes me now to wonder, why was she hanging out with friends who would do things that she couldn’t take part in? Perhaps the thought is irrelevant.
Anyway, we got to prom. My boyfriend at the time promptly decided to make a stink because I was having fun dancing and he wasn’t. I tried entertaining him on his phone, but he wasn’t really having it. Finally, I told him to just take me home. I didn’t speak the entire ride home. For the short time that I had been in attendance, I had quite enjoyed being, as another friend put it, “one of the best-looking girls at prom”. He was very anxious about how annoyed I was. He kept asking me what was wrong and trying to coax me into talking. It wasn’t until we had nearly reached his house—near Divya’s neighborhood, that I suddenly realized we had forgotten Divya.
My mom chewed me out really hard because of that. If I’m being honest, it wasn’t really the chewing out that surprised me (my mother’s favorite pastime is reminding me that I’m a little shit). It was that I had forgotten Divya for that long. Prom was nearly an hour away from our homes, and it took me nearly that long to remember she wasn’t there. That too, when she needed me.
She wasn’t upset, surprisingly. She had found another ride home. But it felt as though, whether or not I had meant to, I had ended our friendship.
Again, I don’t know if she had let go of me. In truth, she might not have. Years later, when I unfriended her on Facebook, she texted me. She said “did you unfriend me?” I said, “Yes.” She said, “Sad.”
Even now, I do not know if she has let go of me. The one time we actually saw each other intentionally after leaving college (we both went to the University of Florida), she was the one who reached out. I’ve let the whole thing lapse. Perhaps it’s because I know our parents are friends, and will either always be friends or will continue pretending to be until they die. She is never truly gone from my life as long as our parents are friends. Our mothers always know what’s going on with both of us. Why should I bother, then? It’s not like I’m ever really lost. There are days when I crave being lost, I crave disappearing. I wish my past would stay in the past.
My sweetheart knows that I am capable of abandoning them, but they don’t know why. I hesitate with telling them the reason. They remind me of Divya. They’re athletic in the same way as she was. They argue in the same way. Even the way they so ambiguously request information reminds me of Divya. It would certainly explain my protectiveness of them, and the jealousy.
I struggle with separating the two of them in my head, and perhaps that is why I have to name those distinctions now. Divya is someone I have a lot of history with and, realistically, I am probably too biased to be able to judge her fairly any more. Those choices we made, we made at a point when we were both young, uninformed and ignorant, but I struggle with forgiving myself. I blame the younger me for not being wiser, for not being able to express herself fully without other people’s permission. And it is hard not to blame Divya either, even though at some level, I know she was doing what she thought was right at the time.
My sweetheart is not her. We are older people, hopefully with slightly more sense in our heads, capable of disagreeing without destroying each other or our relationship. We do not require approval from each other to be with other people or to take part in things we like. We are not competing either. Their well-being does not come at my expense, and vice versa.
I will tell them how much I love them, instead of writing stories and blog posts about it and never expressing it in words. I will tell them how much I love spending time with them, how much I love their voice and their softness that they try to hide. I will tell them they are graceful like a cat and beautiful like the silhouettes of trees in the evening, like the smell of the sea. I will tell them everything, the way I should have told Divya. Love them the way I should have loved her. I will not leave my sweetheart until I have left everything on the table, every kiss, every embrace. I will caress their cheek until I memorize the shape of their face. I will not leave it unsaid and incomplete, the way I did to Divya all those years ago. If the Universe is willing, I will not keep to myself a single thing I mean to give them, not hold back even one touch, not waste even one second.