By Opuk Jakinda
Love, if not shared, one cannot call love. Call it the memory of love or the longing for love. Or even better, obsession. It happened to all of us, no matter how cool, intelligent and lovable we think we are.
Is unrequited love, the dramatic, intense and eventually painful type of love, just an obsession? I kept thinking about this lately.
I remember a talk I had many years ago with a guy I loved for a little while and became obsessed with for a long while. I was very young back then, but as an idealist, as I am today. How long after we break up with someone should we have that person in mind? What’s the purpose of thinking about a person all over again?
We were colleagues at the university and had a brief love affair in the first year. After we broke up, I kept thinking about him. It was hard not to do so since our paths crossed on a daily basis. I kept looking for signs of his feelings towards me in everything he did, in his gestures, in his words, in his overall behavior. I was experiencing an outburst of imagination, which I translated into poetry. My frantic mental activity required a person to share my full palette of emotions with. And this is what friends are for. I had a best friend as a confidant. Someone to trust and feel at ease with when talking about love. Or obsession.
I think about love all the time. For artists, love equals inspiration. I find myself writing nostalgic texts when I need to release some pressure from my heart. I always tend to go back to the past when I write. With painting, it is different because if I let my hand go free, I can discover some unknown things. Writing can be painful, it fixes the weight of the words on a support, but painting is more dreamy. I don’t care about perspective, technique, quality. If I wanted to obey rules, I wouldn’t have turned to art. There is something heavy inside myself and something feathery. This is why I paint and write. This is nostalgia.
It was a hot summer day and I was hungover. As I was diving deeper into my obsession, I started feeling as I was drifting away somewhere in the middle of the sea, with no direction to go. There were times when life seemed meaningless. I was constantly questioning and doubting my path in life. If I have a high capacity of endurance now, it originates in those times. I met him and we went to a park close to my house. I looked at his face, looking for familiar gestures, like those I used to see when I closed my eyes. He had been constantly on my mind for the past two years. But only then, I was to meet the real person that fueled my imagination. He could have kissed me, he could have grabbed my hand and time could have stopped for a second. There is always a gap between how we want things to be and how they are.
The difference between true love and obsession is reality. Our ability to distinguish between how a person really is and how our imagination wants that person to be is just a matter of psychological exercise. We always tend to give some imaginary traits of character to the persons we love, it is part of the way human interactions work. But only when we manage to break those illusions, we can eventually conclude: it was true love or it was just obsession.
We met on that day and walked a few steps together because I wanted to know how could he be dating my best friend. This is such a common tale, that no one should be surprised about. I was waiting for an answer that never came. And as the man I thought I loved, when I was only obsessed with, started revealing his true self, I could see my distorted image of him breaking into pieces.
The day when he could have grabbed my hand, but he didn’t, we sat down on a bench and looked at children playing. He told me about my giant ego and how I will see, one day I will get a job and lead a normal life, how this is a temporary adolescent-like crisis and as years fade away, I will remember vaguely about an artistic rebellion against life I once had. The day when he could have honestly told me why he is dating my best friend, he went on chit-chatting about meaningless things, giving unsolicited advice about how to live the best cliché. And nobody stopped to applaud the glorious break of an illusion.
And I understood back then, in that summer day, sitting on a bench in a park next to my house, that he cannot deal with me, that what people call mad is something they do not understand, that overpasses their capacities and that there are people who will try to cut off your wings because they cannot imagine themselves with wings. Years passed by and I did not change that much. I don’t remember if I called him a coward or I just felt pity for myself. For how love is ultimately a solitary experience, how most of the passions are built on lies we tell to ourselves and how there are wounds that some people create and only other people can heal. But in order to make possible the healing, we need to contribute it to it ourselves.
The guy I was obsessed with and my former best friend are now married. They also have a child.
Why do we need to experience pain and longing for a person, why do we need to have our heads filled with thoughts about someone that is no longer part of our present, as we find ourselves completely alone in our rooms? This case of self-erotica, the exploration of oneself through art or whatever the means has ultimately a purpose: to learn love and compassion for ourselves, for the entire being.
Our expectations are made of hope and waiting. Our expectations are those stinging our hearts because pain reminds us we are alive. When we reach a certain level of emotion, we lose the consciousness of our body, we mix up with the air around us. As if to mingle with the air around us is the best type of silence we could have. Hope and waiting are made of silence. But for us, humans, we are talkative beings and sometimes we need to kill our old expectations, just to be able to build new ones. As long as we live, we will be looking for people with whom silence disappears.