My first true memories of the distinct chemistry of attraction are strongest around my first girlfriend.
There she sat, across the room from me, completely unaware of how she was bringing me undone. Ginger curls licked at the slight dip of her collarbone, and it was all I could do not to burst into a profession of adamant love and longing right then, simply because of the way those gently twisting fronds lay against her skin and picked up the beat of her pulse. The tiny tremors in their weft and shine made my breath come in juddering gasps I hoped I hid well.
Later it would be the smell of her washing powder, the crispness of her neat hands turning the pages of an exercise book, and the slight musk of her room when it had been shuttered up for a week as the winter set in. The creak of the radiators as they came to life is sharp in my memory; thinking of the ping of the metal as the oil grew warm starts a deep running of music in my veins – my chest grows tight as I recall how it felt to sit so close, yet so cavernously far away.
I remember retiring to my room after we’d sat and watched our shows together, and weeping in frustration under my doona at the pull of my observations and the burning in my throat and eyes and the very tips of my fingers. It would be a long time before I satisfied the tingling to reach out to seek her touch, but oh – how the wait was a delicious pain! There’s nothing like first love, for that.
There are earlier imprints, of course. I remember feeling all funny about a boy in the 1st grade then kissing him in the boys toilets and standing stunned afterwards under an autumnal tree dropping leaves on me. I felt rather inappropriately for my year eight English teacher, whose tight jeans and position on the edge of my desk made for a few cleared throats and lots of shuffling about in my chair.
The way we’re attracted to others fascinates me. I’m not really interested in the why, but the details of the how. I love nothing more than hearing friends describe their crushes in great detail to me while we sup on tea and biscuits. I am fixated by the finite, specific components of the rabble of their lust. This is the closest we come to breathing and walking our poetry; it is in the very desperate way we want one another that we inhabit a liminal space – standing abreast of this world and paradise.
I like knowing about where hands hold hands, or hold shopping bags, or hold door handles, or work at hairbands as an upwards glance swings to find the other person who is watching intently and cataloging the moment with shining eyes.
How would we even begin to record it all? So much constant data. At some point we’d fry the logs and give up, or start again. Human beings – not always, but often – are creatures of heady crusade towards sensory drowning. We want to submerge and find ecstasy, and I’m not talking about fucking: I’m talking about the emotion of attraction. All the electricity of it.
So given all this babbling about the collection of experience, what’s making my thing go zing right now?
– a redhead on my bus twisting hair around her pencil and kicking the blade of her foot against the back of a seat
– the small strip of flesh under the hip bones that appears just as a woman starts to take off her jeans
– beards and tickly moustaches
– the promise of touching before touching begins
– standing in my kitchen listening to someone talk, in an apron, making them food…then watching them eat
– small teeth under lips, glistening as words form
– polka dotted skirts and cardigans over blouses with high frilled necks, worn on a shivering woman who stamps to ward off the cold
– flirting on the internet in a completely obvious way
– drunkenly sitting at two ends of a couch and feeling the hold the other person has over me…wanting to move near
– thinking about them while I listen to Nina Simone
– tracing shapes into someone’s palm
– the ten minutes it takes me to write a text because I’m terrified to write something sweet
– seeing a guy lick raindrops off the back of his hand and then smile shyly when he realises I’ve seen him do itt
Maybe the onset of colder weather is making my head all silly and cloudy, but all I want to do is skip and wear warm hats and pick up reddening maple leaves to tuck into the pockets of sweethearts. There’s nothing nicer than feeling decadently young in that way; a way that has little to do with lived experience or biological age. We can all be sweethearts if we want to be; we can all admire and swoon and battle on the high seas of discreet affections.
Anyway, a sense of lust for another is a good sign that you’ve a healthy lust for living, I think. Blushing and crushing make you light up.
So go ahead – burn bright!