By Molly Gunther
Love, if that’s really what this is – is supposed to make you hurdle from one extreme emotion to the next. College is a quagmire of confusing relationship dynamics. Boys are dumb and girls are crazy. They don’t think and we think too much. If only it were that simple. The intricate labels of dating someone versus hooking up with someone versus seeing someone start to blur together and the question, “What are we?” gets lost in the midst of longing looks, flailing limbs, and drunk messages sent via glowing screen. Things were simple when I was ten and my greatest loves were Lisa Frank bead kits and cinnamon toast. Things were even simple when I was fifteen and I had my first boyfriend. His smile made the muscles under my skin lock up momentarily, and I knew we were dating because he asked me to be his girlfriend over MySpace, which he apologized for later. When we broke up I waited for a crack in the universe to swallow me up. Somehow it didn’t.
Instead, I moved to Eugene for school and that’s where things became confusing. I have never been surrounded by so many different people before, all offering their hands, their names; sometimes I felt I could never keep them all straight. We give up the parts of ourselves we think will make the world like us. We made friends fast. Then those friends turned into something else entirely, people who made us feel like we were just sleep walking before they came along. You meet someone maybe once or twice; maybe you’ve hung out with them a few times and by hang out I mean you both attended the same party. You create these perceptions of them based on the little information you know from them or their Facebook page. Hey look, you both like that one band no one’s heard of and you both hate when people clap in movie theaters. You invest so much in the idea of this person; you’re disappointed when they don’t turn out to be the person you want them to be.
Then there are the ones you have something with, you aren’t sure exactly what it is, but you know it’s something because they’ve been texting and kissing you on a regular basis. So maybe they confuse the hell out of you but you still want them in a way no one else can have. You want the chase; you want a process, never a straight line. You usually end up disappointed. The girls may leave you for a boy who is mean to them and the boys may leave you because they feel bored, scared, or it’s gotten to the point they have to check under their beds to make sure you’re not hanging out under there. This part hurts the worst because by this point you’ve convinced yourself you sort of love them, but really, they never live up to that potential you’ve imagined. A potential like the sound of skateboards on cracked sidewalks, like hands dappled with stubborn splashes of paint, and like traveling to one place at a time and staying there until the waiters know your names. It doesn’t matter what scenario you manage to dream up, you still love the idea of love more than the person.
Everyone in college knows there’s the possibility of meeting anyone, everywhere, all the time. The University of Oregon is made up of 53% women and 47% men; so far I have dated 0% of the male population. There have been many encounters and a few, let’s call them trysts. There was the sensitive boy with the lolling grace- his eyes went all scrunchy when he laughed- and my favorite part was the distance from my eyelashes to his glasses. There was the boy with a smile that could cure cancer, who spoke to me in movie quotes, played the drums, and was nice to me even when I didn’t deserve it. Then there was the boy with the warm hands, who taught me how to fold paper airplanes, and made me watch Bruce Lee movies with him. We could do nothing and still feel as if everything was happening. Trysts usually end either because someone isn’t ready for a real relationship, or because one person likes the other one less. These trysts were no different. We got caught up and couldn’t say the words we wished more than anything we could say. We thought we fit so well together but we made each other sad without meaning to. Always I felt pulled around and pressured from everyone but myself. Someone will always be there, until they won’t. We always want what we can’t have. We want the idea of love; we want it clear, tangible, and kept in a jar so we can take it out at leisure and watch it dance across the table.
And sometimes we just want love.