He had this funny way of smiling.
His bottom row of teeth would show instead of his front ones, and his eyes would almost completely close. He wore one of those thick silver chains all the cool boys completed their outfits with. It gleamed in the sun, along with his safety patrol badge. I could see him at his patrol post while I was at mine – he was physically close enough to make stupid faces and gesture wildly to, but to me the distance felt like miles and miles.
When he’d beckon to me with a head nod or a finger, I’d abandon my post in an instant. This was so unlike me, with my obsessive need for rules and order. I would move towards him without a thought in my brain, like a moth to a flame, or a raccoon to a big mess of trash cans. I didn’t plan what I was going to say when I got to him, but I knew just sharing eye contact and a few words would be enough to set my heart ablaze. His face reminded me of a koala bear’s and for no good reason, it consumed me.
I was in fourth grade and I was attracted to a boy for the first time.
This same song and dance has happened pretty regularly since my grade school days, and the changes this attraction causes in me are always the same: I come across a guy and become overwhelmed with a feeling I can’t control or comprehend. I see a face (or more recently a pair of shoulders) and its owner becomes imprinted on my brain.
Sometimes I explain these feelings to friends, and they (along with my brain) say, “Him? But why?” And there is no reasonable explanation – science? Hormones? Magic? I’ve learned in recent years to stop wasting time trying to figure out why it’s happening and just go with it. Because being inside of it is one of the best feelings I can think of.
The first time you see him (or her), you catch that spark from a brief moment of eye contact. The idea may simmer subconsciously for a few days. But then you find yourself thinking about him. In my case I find myself dreaming about him.
The dreams always go a little like this: I’m somewhere new and exciting with a bunch of friends, usually in outdoor landscapes that resemble every place I’ve seen in childhood all mixed together, and then the friends disappear and I’m alone with him. We’re walking together, sometimes climbing up shit together, driving together, smiling into each other’s faces. And then he grabs my hand. I feel instantly safe and warm. Then I usually wake up, because our brains never let us have any fun, do they?
The next time I see him in real life I feel a strange closeness and comfort with this dude, even if I don’t know that much about him. Depending on how well I know him, I dial it back one to maybe one million notches. But at this point the feeling is palpable. When I hear his voice crossing the threshold, my heart seizes until the moment I see him. And then it relaxes into a pile of mush.
Listen: at this point, let me clarify that I am not here attempting to describe any lofty concept like love, companionship, soul mates. I am talking about pure primal attraction – a feeling of wanting to consume another person. Even if you have nothing in common with said person (as it so often happens for me).
You talk to this person and even though you really are interested in what he’s saying, you can’t string the words together because your mind is focusing so much on the shape of his mouth, the way his nose moves as he talks, the shape of his eyes, the line of his jawbone. When your bodies touch, accidentally at first, it sets off a jolt of electricity and an image of this infinitesimal moment of time is committed to memory. For me, the first time they laugh at my joke or smile at my sarcasm, something stirs throughout my whole body. It’s a giddiness mixed with a body high. I find myself sashaying through his line of vision without meaning to, subconsciously channeling Queen Bey to reel this man on in.
In 2015, it’s cliché to say that everyone has a type. But there may be some truth to the pseudoscience. If you write down a list of all the people you can remember having this wild, unbridled lustful passion for, you’ll find weird similarities. For example, every boy I’ve gone for has had a big mouth. I mean physically, though I do often find myself in company with a garrulous sort of guy. But that’s where the similarities end.
Some boys have been creative, left-brained feathers blowing in the wind; others have been logical, near humorless soldiers of order. Some listen to obscure and experimental music by unknowns; some listen to the radio. (Gasp.) No matter what the person looks or sounds like, the feeling they evoke inside us is the same. And we come to crave it. I enter this person’s house and I feel like I just took a sip of coconut water after days of thirst. I feel the sun’s rays warming my body. Mama’s coming home.
It’s interesting to note also that just as rapidly as this feeling appears, it disintegrates into an apathy that is impossible to ignore (at least in your own head). Now this person before you smiles in that crooked way, and the asymmetry bothers you. You pick out the imperfections. You wonder what happened to that mystical haze that wrapped you both in its glimmering fibers. I’m imagining a sort of bedazzled cobweb set-up here, slowly decaying and breaking off in the distance between two people. You wonder what you saw in this person, and if you’re me, you put your hat and coat on as you tiptoe out the door, arms full of apologies that attempt to graciously circumvent and address the issue simultaneously. You spend time alone on the couch at night and you wonder if it’s possible to regain that initial feeling of attraction with a person you now feel so little for. If you’ve found that this is possible, hit a bitch up. Maybe you go through a hermetic period of avoiding eye contact and making new connections. This too shall pass.
Then you catch eyes with a dude out in that wide, wide world of ours and so freely does that heart jump around in its cage. You’d forgotten how easy it was. And it starts all over again.
Photo by Emily Long