When You Want Someone You Can’t Have


I’ve already planned out our first kiss, but you don’t know it. We’re at the back of a bar with some friends, the lights low and slightly red, and everyone is dancing. Something sexy and bass-heavy is playing, one of those electronica songs that starts to feel like an extension of your own heartbeat if you don’t pay attention to the lyrics. We’re laughing, we’re talking, just a little too close on the back booth, watching everyone dance as we debate getting another drink (we both know we’re going to get one). And suddenly, we’re kissing. It’s unclear who even kissed whom, it was just one of those times where two people start talking so closely that their lips just start touching, and the end of their sentence just sort of fades into a kiss. And at first it’s sort of proper — embarrassed, even, why are we doing this? — but then it turns into something much more reckless, much more urgent.

But this could never happen, because you don’t know me. I mean, of course, you know me — but I am no one important to you. I am the friend, the confidante, the girl you go to when you’re looking for someone to laugh with or grab a beer with, not someone you imagine pressed against you in a doorway, or talking about life naked at 3 AM when we should be sleeping. Our relationship, for you, is very simple. We both have our own lives, and we intersect occasionally, in a perfectly platonic way. When you go home at night, the evening is done. But for me, it’s just begun, because I’ll be staring at my ceiling in the dark, thinking about you over and over until I can finally fall asleep.

Wanting someone you can’t have is one of the most painful things you can experience, in an almost physical way. It’s this awful weight in your stomach that never quite goes away, pulling you down, preventing you from concentrating at work, constantly reminding you that there is something great and wonderful that is just an inch or so out of your reach. And when you can see this person in a platonic context — when you can laugh, talk, have a friendly lunch — it’s all the worse. It’s being so close to something you need, but only getting a shell of it, only getting the two-dimensional version that highlights everything you still don’t have. Learning not to say “I think about you all the time,” or “Please touch me” becomes an art form, something you do to fit in and get along, like wearing a sensible skirt to the office or a bathing suit to the beach.

Sometimes I think that I’ll say something, that I’ll have a bit to much to drink and the words will pour out of me like whiskey from the bottle. And while doing so would undoubtedly be a relief, there is nothing that terrifies me more. Because then, what would I do? What would I have left to think about at night? If I say something, I run the risk of hearing “No,” or worse, nothing at all. You could tell me (without really saying anything at all) that you don’t feel the same, that this was all in my head, that I was imagining everything. And living in limbo feels good, it feels safe. What would I do with a “no?” How could it sit still in my head? So I say nothing.

But I want you. I want you in a way that is hard to control, hard to keep a secret, hard to fit into my body. I feel like I am constantly bursting at the seams, struggling under the weight of a secret so great and powerful. I think about you, the way a hungry person thinks of food, the way a poor person thinks of money, the way a gasping fish thinks of getting back into the water. I think of you, all the time, and I don’t know how to stop.

image – grapefruit brains