Students’ names have been changed or withheld in order to protect their privacy.
Love struck unexpectedly during my freshman year of college.
As I waited in line outside of my dorm to receive my room number on the first day of school, I felt a tap on my shoulder. It is hard to say what separates the myriad mundane introductions from the memorable, but something struck me about Lily from the beginning. The conversation flowed seamlessly until it was interrupted by our arrival at the front desk. I was assigned room 313, and she, room 309.
To say that I was immediately enamored of Lily would be untrue. But as we began spending more time together, emotions within me started to develop. Soon, platonic cuddling ensued; from there, a kiss; and eventually, the loss of innocence. I was happiest with Lily; I wanted to spend all of my time with Lily. I was in love with Lily, a love I was feeling for the first and only time in my life.
This period was short-lived. The open-mindedness and desire to explore life that had attracted me to Lily soon developed into her desire to explore other people while continuing our relationship. Just as quickly as she had introduced me to love, she introduced me to jealousy. Rules were made; boundaries were set. Nights when she would go out, I would try to ignore the late-night giggles and whispers coming from the hall, the creeping thoughts that my love was being shared with another. The mornings after, we would be in my bed cuddling once more, exchanging stories from the previous night that the “freedom” of our open relationship allowed us. She always had more stories.
Seeing the pain that our arrangement was causing me, Lily asked if I wanted to call it off and go back to a platonic relationship. Despite the sleepless nights, constant suspicions and overbearing jealousy, I was still in love with Lily, and that love was stronger than any pain I could have felt. I decided to stay with her, choosing to be with a part of her rather than none of her at all. At the time, it didn’t feel like much of a choice.
With winter break came separation, yet we still exchanged love letters throughout the time apart. Each “I miss you” and “I wish you were here” I read reaffirmed my love. I entered second semester eager to prove to Lily that I could be the only person she needed.
After just a few days back, it became clear that she had lost all interest. I wish there were more to it — some sudden event or gradual progression that I could describe to explain the change of heart. It took me a long time to accept it, but when I returned from winter break, there just wasn’t anything there anymore.
Being in love with Lily had filled a hole in me that I didn’t know existed. Without Lily, I needed to refill that hole. Every passing attraction became a candidate for my affection. I began to worship false idols, casting illusions onto the women in my life. Yet, when the women on this pedestal reciprocated my affection, the illusion would immediately dissipate and, with it, my interest. Maybe this was because I never truly had Lily’s love.
Over time, it became clear to me that I was building up the women in my life into something they could never be and was holding them to an impossible and unfair standard. Even more so, I recognized that the process of casting illusions was the very thing preventing me from achieving the love and relationship I sought. With these conclusions, however, a more conflicting realization loomed, the realization that Lily may have been the original illusion.
Perhaps this is the most liberating realization of all.
Emon Motamedi is a contributor to the Weekender. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.