I once read a poem where the author described her heart as a monster that sat perched at the end of her bed, waiting to be torn to shreds by the hands of compassion. I see my own heart in the same way; something that craves to feel desperately loved, but instead bites the hands of those who dare feed it. I once dated someone who I wasn’t truly in love with for nine months. Sure, on paper they were attractive, even had a swarm of admirers kissing the floor they walked on. They paid for dinners, stuffed me up with validation for dessert. Kissed my face gently and told me they loved me, told me how beautiful I was.
But we didn’t have much in common besides the idle fact that we were incredibly lonely. Eventually, the curtains were pulled back, and over time it was revealed that they had a cold heart, an appetite for belittling, and a wishy-washy temper. I ignored how they would say the most vulgar things about their friends, only to leave at the drop of the hat to attend to them. I ignored how they’d tell me all the mean things their roommates would whisper about me in the dark. I ignored how they could never make me laugh in the same way my own friends did. I ignored the comments of the people closest to me when they’d warned how they thought the relationship was toxic. I ignored how miserable I was towards the end. I ignored it all, because I savored the warmth of their arms at night, believing it could save me from the demons that lurked in the cold winter mornings. But eventually being with them hurt more than without, so I amputated the infected limb the relationship became and moved on. Kissed other frogs. Dyed my hair. Bought a Halloween costume that showed a lot of skin. I often wonder why I pursued the relationship, why I stayed. The breakup wasn’t even this emotional Romeo-Juliet tragedy. It just became a norm within my life, like a little scar easily hidden by a CVS band-aid.
For now, I’ve shelved romance between my old love for gymnastics and dusty childhood stuffed animals. It now lives amongst the other interests I’ve come to abandon from adolescence. I find myself full of the breadcrumbs of love in little things. I love Phoebe Bridgers because she writes songs about hating her father. I love art. I love Evan Peters because he’s hot. I love the show Fleabag. And I love my friends, even when we argue over dirty dishes. I still see my heart waiting, but now it lies cozy at the foot of my bed. It sleeps like a recently sober addict, no longer chasing after its next fix. Every once in a while it stirs from nightmares about the thing it used to crave so strongly, but it’s no longer starving for attention at the price of cruelty.