My blog posts are often thematically linked. Nostalgia reigns supreme. I painstakingly detail the many things I miss, both the tangible and the emotional. I miss my place of birth, I miss the landmarks, and the people. But it's more than just that. I miss the feel of that city, its jaw clenched around its citizens, I miss the peeling pistachio colored paint on the south wall of my neighborhood mosque and the sound of pigeons roosting in its dome, I miss the way the faces of the people I love used to look, the way they no longer look now. Twelve years is a long time.
But I am not here to talk about nostalgia today. I am not going to trace the edges of my grief for having lost time and people and places and my memory of all of the above. I would very much like to hack into the carcass of things I do not miss, and things I never wish to see or feel again. This is not going to be a lofty post about the misery and misfortune of other people. Instead, it will be completely and most adamantly selfish.
I do not miss the beginning of love. You are the most foolhardy, and also unimaginably sensitive, when you are just beginning to fall in love. There was a study conducted at the Stanford Pain Research Lab where I worked for 6 years titled "Love and Pain." For the study, researchers recruited couples who self-identified as having been in love (in a relationship) for less than 1 year. The subject enrolled in the study was to present the research team with a picture of his/her loved one and that of a platonic friend of the same sex as the loved one. Over the course of the study, researchers recorded the pain response of the subject (on a scale of 0 to 10, 0 = no pain, 10 = worst pain imaginable) to a heat stimulus applied to the forearm. The result of the study showed that the pain scores of subjects were significantly lower for the same temperature when they were presented with a picture of their loved one as opposed to that of the platonic friend. New love, I tell ya. Ask anyone who has been in a relationship for more than the blissful initial period of love, and they will hold your hand and vehemently explain to you, picture or no picture, pain is pain is pain is pain. And don't even ask the women who have had a child with their partner. Suffice to say, again, pain is pain is pain is pain.
There are so many things I don't miss about that early period of love, so many wasteful aspects. Endless hours of rumination. This is true. In the beginning, your thoughts converge on this one person, and maybe more particularly, some inane detail that does not even matter, the stuff of old ghazals and Bollywood love songs. I am afraid to even give examples of said inane details for fear of being judged! It's a waste of time and mental energy. Another thing is attributing significance to the actions or reactions of the subject of your affection (subject rather than object, because this particular brand of affection can be suffocating). In most cases, there could be a perfectly good reason why she passed you by in the hallway without saying hello (maybe she was late for a class, maybe her father was waiting to pick her up in the parking lot, maybe she really needed to rush to an appointment at her dentist's office and was so stressed out about said appointment that saying hello to you was the least of her worries). There is also no sinister reason behind the fact that he didn't hold the door open for you (essentially identical reasons as detailed above).
There is no need to be livid about perceiving you're ignored, and certainly no reason to feel slighted. People are different. Sometimes they feel what you feel and sometimes you feel what you feel alone. And that brings me to the last reason for waging this textual war against the beginning of love (or, let's face it, infatuation, ladies and gentlemen -- that's what we are really talking about here). You are going through it alone. No one in the world understands how you feel. It is impossible and unimaginable to detail all the ways in which you have an emotional and a physiological response to a person who, in the grand scheme of your life, really should not matter. It is devastatingly embarrassing to be so acutely aware of your pulse doing jumping jacks for no apparent reason other than being in the general vicinity of an individual who, again, should not matter at all. It is such a lonely place to be in, such a lonely journey to make. There are so many hurdles, every day is littered with landmines that could be triggered at the slightest provocation. So much pointless, unacknowledged hurt. And there is absolutely no one in the world who can understand or appreciate the sheer depth of your misery. All the while, life must go on as usual, you must put on a brave face and brave the current of each day as it continues to enfold and stretch before your eyes like an ocean. What can you say to your closest friends after all? All manner of speaking about this questionable emotional state is simply out of the question. You realize over and over that you are alone in this limbo until you are recovered...or reciprocated.
But what do I know? It was all so long ago, I can barely remember any of it. Be that as it may, I never want to be alone in that dark place again.
Photos by Rebecca McCue