Much like a butterfly, the life and subsequent metamorphosis of the Unrequited Crush (Amore peribatus) has five life stages: the Hint, the Spark, the Smoke, the Burn, and the Fire.
Its classification has been fiercely debated: Is it a soul-sucking parasite or a symbiotic advocate? Is it a lesser, lower creature than its arguably more evolved cousin, Sex consummatum? Or could it be that the Unrequited Crush is just as essential, if not more so, to its long-suffering host, the Human Experience?
Sirs and madams of the Scientific Counsel of Love, Sex, and Friction, I posit today a bold hypothesis that we will explore in the aforementioned life stages of its main player, Amore peribatus. I will buffer arguments with my personal observations on the field, both amplified and hindered by the constraints and embellishments of my own memory.
The hypothesis, you ask? Some crushes just aren't meant to be banged out.
Let's proceed with...
Stage 1: A Hint of Potential
It begins with a meeting of the eyes. A wayward glance from you locks onto mine, and a jolt of electric potential travels up and down my spine. A laser shoots through and severs the heartstrings. You break it, turning away with the slightest smirk. It isn't fair.
Because, you see, the gym is my private sanctuary, the one place where I can blast music into my head without a worry in the world. And there you are, with your scruffy handsomeness and your guttural grunts every time you lift the 80-pound free weights. A snake in my garden.
We only speak once, near the beginning of the Hint. You come up to me and say something. I pull out my earphones. "Could you spot me?" I nod and help you heave the massive weights into the air. Afterward I say, "Gosh, watching you makes me tired."
The Hint climaxes one day when we happen to be in the locker room at the same time. I'm changing, stripped down to my briefs, and you walk by. I see you in the mirror. And you stop for a long second, scanning my reflection with the eyes. If there was ever a moment, the segue into the next stage, this is it. But I turn away. Sanctuary.
Soon after, you stop coming. At first I think it'll just be a week, but that week turns into a month, and the month is now a year. I am left wondering, wondering about the Hint, and I probably will for the rest of my life.
You were the best relationship I've ever had, and I never knew your name.
Stage 2: The Spark of Attraction
I see you around here a lot. I guess that's one sign of a tough breakup. It's easy to drown your troubles in the welcoming waters of West Hollywood. I used to consume people like you whole. So when you say hello, I always say hello back, and hence the Spark ignites. A good night in WeHo is a night I get a whiff of you.
The Spark is contained, but it glows hot between us. The attraction is affirmed but has been stymied: I am no rebound, and you are no sloppy seconds. If I wanted it, I could have it -- I think. But if we touch, it could all fall apart. So I will tip-toe for now.
Is this maturity? Is fear what we are calling "maturity" nowadays?
Until we figure this out, let's sit on opposite ends of this dark bar with our respective friends and feel the growing warmth of the Spark between us, the Spark with the searing promise of a wildfire, but for now lights up only two faces.
Stage 3: Smoke and Mirrors
Paranoia sets in, because it is here where the Amore peribatus realizes that at any point of its life stages it has the titillating possibility to evolve into Sex consummatum. Or does it? Has the Spark burned too long? Are we blinded by the Smoke?
We know each other well now, or do we? I laugh casually at the funny things you say, but in my mind I am balancing on a tightrope. I'd let myself fall, but I don't know what's beneath.
I'd say you were playing games, but I guard my own hand of cards. Every look between us becomes loaded, overloaded with meaning. The Smoke burns the eyes, it clouds the brain, and what we see and think no longer matters. The Crush now becomes a slope, and the inevitable happens.
Stage 4: A Long, Slow, Sensual, Agonizing Burn
We've known each other for years, and I loved you the moment you smiled at me the first time. This was meant to be our summer, where we fucked our brains out on Matador Beach. I had it all planned out.
But -- shocker! -- at the beginning of summer I meet your new piece. Such a betrayal to look at me that way and then dangle an obstacle between us. I'd be angry if it didn't feel so deliriously good.
Because now the Crush becomes a slow Burn, smoldering like a brand against our skins, and I feel it the most every time we sit next to each other and your arm just barely grazes against mine. It is a sensation so heady that I need to close my eyes, like taking a rip of platinum NorCal sativa.
To call the Burn stage a "friend zone" is to do it a grave injustice. We are not friends. We are unactualized lovers. Every exchange between us is a transcendent form of foreplay. Every time we talk, all that's missing is a soft pillow and your legs between mine.
Near the end of summer, you break up with him, and then you leave L.A. forever. I stay behind with brands on my skin, and I will wear them proudly in our memory.
Stage 5: The Fiery Freedom of Heartbreak
This is the first time I've done this, and I am so stupid: I expected you to leap into my arms, plant your lips onto mine, and ravage me. But instead, the color drains out of your face, and you wince, and then you apologize. For what?
Fire is the ultimate release. The Crush has been called out, like a witch in Salem, and now it must flame, flame, flame.
It doesn't matter that I took you under my wing as a newcomer to this city, that I cooked and cleaned for you, that I let you sleep in my bed and never took advantage of you. You never thanked me, but you did spill red wine all over my MacBook.
Maybe that was my mistake. I shouldn't have let it go on this long. The slow Burn did its course and turned whatever Spark there was into a pile of cold ash. I scream "fire!" at you, but there's nothing left to burn.
So I retreat into the welcoming waters (see Stage 2 and marvel at this ironic circle), and I drown my sorrows in the arms of kinder men who hope and fail to ignite me the way you did. It is rare enough to get to this point, and all the more devastating to be left behind.
Yet, in the end, all I can do is thank you, because it is in this rare moment, when the Unrequited Crush flies out of my clenched grasp into fiery freedom, that I truly feel human.
My heart swells with lust the way my penis swells with blood, but it is only when it breaks with a fissure that spews out all the fragile power of my manhood that I feel most alive. You see, this isn't pain. It is a gloriously liberating enlightenment:
Some crushes just aren't meant to be banged out, and that's OK.
These words are dedicated to You. You know who You are.
--The Unrequited Everywhere
For more musings on the intersections of love, sex, and race in Los Angeles, check out Justin's acclaimed blog I AM YELLOW PERIL.