I don't know if I've ever been in love, but this may be the closest thing to it I've ever experienced. I'm not even sure how much physical attraction factored into what drew me to you; it was there, but it seemed to come after everything else. I did feel a little intimidated by you when we first met, but as we got used to each other more, I felt strangely comfortable whenever talking to you. Whether others planted the seed for what I felt or if they were just shining light on obvious signals I was giving off; same result either way.
I don't know why I'm able to be far more emotionally intimate with you than I am with most other people. I don't know how much of my identity is performance and how much is my authentic state, but with you I don't feel like I'm acting. I can actually access the parts of myself that seem to be missing most of the time, that I frantically search for when I want to build something similar with another person.
It's easier to discount the feelings when we haven't been in the same physical space for a while. Memory echoes and distorts and flattens you into an abstract concept: there's something in your elan vital that's never replicated correctly, though, and I always forget exactly what I feel as it gets foggier. I would eventually convince myself that whatever picture of you I had built in my mind wasn't real, but then we would cross paths and the fine detail that was previously lost would be filled in again.
For the longest time I was a little unnerved that out of all the people I've met over the intervening years, I never felt the same rush from being with them. You would be in my dream and it would take root in my memory more than actual lived experience did. I would chase that feeling every time I thought I could replicate it, but often found myself slamming into walls. Was I just looking for a substitute?
I'm actually glad we were never actually an item. I don't think we would have worked in the long run given who we are as individuals and the trajectories our lives have taken over the years. There are truths I've come to accept about myself and I am still navigating the idea of what it means to be me; who I thought I was back then doesn't exist.
Sometimes physical distance is the key to maintaining some friendships; we have the space to grow, change and live our lives. We don't have to deal with the stagnation and amplified small annoyances of close quarters. We can easier replenish the well of things to tell each other. Every reunion is welcome, and the time between them doesn't seem to even exist anymore because the sense of connection is that strong.
I worry that the ground shifted in our friendship; there is a distance between us that wasn't there. It may just be my own anxieties telling me this, but I've had my asshole brain proven right too many times in the past to shake these feelings. I don't know how to breach the subject with you because I don't want to upset you with my own neediness, and I don't think I can handle the emotional impact of having this confirmed. I would rather let the connection slack than have it break from me trying to hold it too tight.
The last few times we've spent time together were welcome, but something felt off afterward. I shared my pain and confusion, but always seemed to hold something back; maybe I was just waiting for openings that never came, or maybe part of me just couldn't believe that the path to happiness and fulfillment was open to me. Perhaps you sensed that I was no longer worth the investment, that I would always be doomed to complaining about the life I had accepted through my own resignation and passivity. I waited until I was far enough away for you to not hear me, but more than once I broke down crying after we hugged.
A few years ago, I was visiting a friend in another city. We had one of those conversations where we slowly got past the outer shell of catching up and into more substantial matters, the kind I used to have with you. One of the things she talked about a close friendship of hers that had since had a widening of paths, but for the period of time they were closest, they had a telepathy where one could sense the other one needed comfort without a work being spoken between them. Our own orbits may have just happened to line up specifically when we needed each other, only to diverge once I was getting more out of the relationship than you were.
We're probably not as far from each other as I assume, but I would rather make an unnecessary retreat than an imposition.
I use the word attraction to describe whatever it was I began feeling about you, but I don't even know how accurate that word is for the mess I've found myself in. I loved looking at you, but consciously averted my eyes much of the time because I knew my gaze would linger a little too long. The combination of your beauty, poise and kindness made you stick out in my mind for a while before I realized I was in the thick of whatever I felt.
I had that moment of realization one Friday night when I started to realize how frequently you were in my thoughts, and how much I always looked forward to the next smile hello, the next chance to talk, the next chance to enjoy your company. It followed me that night as I trudged through snow and ice to find some distraction that didn't take. At the very least, I was now aware that there was some kind of light in my life that I hadn't really sought out, but had grown to depend on in the middle of a darkness. That's probably too much to ask of any one person.
It wasn't purely physical; in fact, I long assumed I was completely immune from that part. The way sunlight hit your eyes brought out an amazing shade of brown I didn't think existed, but that was just an accidental observation. There was this feeling of discovery that came with each conversation. I would hang on your every word because I wanted to learn more about you; the longer we talked, I felt like we had known each other for years. It could have been a "misery loves company" deal, two frustrated people in the same situation forming a temporary bond. Maybe I was just lonely. Whatever it was, something about it felt electric.
I only realized what I was going through because I hadn't had feelings like these in quite a long time. I thought I did, but it feels more and more like those previous times were pitiful recreations of the last time I actually felt this way; some feelings are only made clearer by their absence. I worry it seeped into our interactions a little too much, tainting something that I would have been lucky to keep as is.
It scared me. A lot of feelings and insecurities I've been able to ignore suddenly came to the surface. I crave intimacy, but am afraid to let another person get close enough to me or spend enough time around me for my performance to slip, and be exposed to all the parts of myself I try to repress when I'm trying to prove I belong. I also wondered how this was going to conflict with who I figured out I was so far, and what answers I would have to delay or sacrifice for the sake of a potential relationship. There is a lot of work I have yet to do with my life before it would be in a condition to share with another person.
I'm bad at this. I rarely say what I want to protect me from the pain of not getting it. I keep too many doors open a crack without going through any of them.
There are days when I miss that spark of connection I felt during our conversations, but I wonder if it was just on my end. Sometimes I am so afraid of the feelings that come from seeing your face that I avoid visiting certain places, or I time trips through parts of the city to minimize run-ins. I used to try to blur the thoughts out with cheap beer every time I was reminded of you; I wanted you out of my mind for a long time, but the process of avoiding you only made you a fixture in my thoughts. You're no longer front and centre, but I've resigned myself to the low-grade hum of your memory constantly going through my head, spiking louder every time I meet someone with the same interests or demeanor, or see someone that matches your physical profile enough from a distance.
There is no grand romance. We are not owed anything. We're two adults, each with our own needs, ambitions and priorities, trying to handle our own lives the best we know how, and trying to find space for the things that keep us going. If there's something that awakens these feelings, maybe that's the good in and of itself.