The Time Machine

I think about what breaking up for me means. Breaking up for me is a time machine. He took us to a time we did not meet. He took us to a time where what we were or what we had is no longer a reality and never was a reality. It is not the past. It is just a different reality. Two paths crossed in one universe. They didn’t, in another.  We have not moved to a time before we met. We have simply shifted from one universe into another. In that other universe, they/we are still together. I imagine them happy and surprised to meet, surprised at the connection. And happy.

In this universe, he is as significant as a stranger on a sidewalk, walking to the bus stop, getting hit by a car, narrowly getting missed getting hit by a car, is fine, is dead, is wounded, is alive, is married, suffers, loves, disappoints, inspires – all of the things that I’m sure strangers around me are experiencing, doing, living or dying. He is a stranger I want to yell at. The ghost of a girl wants to scream at him, through me, she does not exist in this universe. This is a message from another space, another place, another woman. Soon she will cease her mindless rantings. “He’s dead to me” is too emotional. “He’s a stranger to me,” is more accurate. “These memories do not make sense” is more accurate. “These memories are not mine” is more accurate. “These memories are a small twist, a knot in the fabric of space-time, which sometimes occurs when people make the jump. These memories are an echo of a reality that could have been and never was. They are not even memories really. They are thoughts. They are a whispered imagining. They are a dead girl’s thoughts. No, they are the ideas of a girl that never existed. it’s not exactly easy to explain.” is more accurate.

Breaking up is a wormhole of epic proportions. We are in different universes now. Even if I run into him, it’s not him. And I’m not me. I am a different me. He is a different him. There is no “us” in this universe. I have the disjointed memories – dreamlike and random, of a girl from another universe. They do not make sense in this reality. They are not for this reality. She is dead here – no, she does not exist, has never existed.

Who exists?

I exist.

I will tell you one of these ghost like memory like thoughts from the dead girl that was never alive:

He – the other he – told me/her about a book, where people keep meeting each other across lifetimes. “How very non-Muslim of you,” I/she joked. “They just find each other – friends, lovers across millennia,” he continued. “Like soulmates,” I smiled and kissed him.

We are not soulmates in this universe.

Breaking up is a choice to make two people who know each other, unknown to each other. It is a one way coerced trip through time and space. He has made himself the unknowable, the gone, the never-there. A break-up is not an ending, for me and my swan heart. A break-up is the negation of the beginning.

I will wait for the ghost girl to stop. She will eventually, once the time travel is complete. Sometimes bits of bodies and memories get lost in the process – it’s not an exact science. There are always health risks – hazards to traveling like this.  I will wait for those memories to return to their rightful owner – the “me” in the other universe. They will pass between us through our dreams at night.

I wake up each morning, remembering less and less, and thankful for the empty space in my heart.

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Rage

StoneLady

She lies on her side by the riverbank,and looks up at me lazily. Looking at her is like looking at a far off building on a hot day; the air around her is melting but her eyes are cool stone. “Did that feel good?” She asks.

“Yes,” I say, softly. My body feels like something electric, humming in the wind like a drone about to fall out of the sky. I am talking to the witch named Rage. The naked witch. The witch who needs no protection. The witch who does not have a single fuck to give. The witch who has been the only one to slip into my bones like no other, moved my mouth into words like no other witch can.

When Rage is in me, I am her, and no one else.

“Good. You needed that,” she says, glancing across the river at some unknown target.

“I’m exhausted,” I say. I just spent a day screaming at a man.   A whole day. Seven hours. A work day. I wonder what kind of occupation that would be – and who would pay the money to fund a position where a woman gets to scream at a man. Probably some rich Lean In executive type of woman, disgruntled by the World. Beyonce maybe, in secret. Rihanna, maybe publicly. Rekha, that actress who boasted a sindoor though unmarried, would gleefully let it slip in an interview. Maybe no one. Maybe it’s not the kind of position that’s paid in money, only in favours, backroom dealings.

Rage laughs, curls her toes into the mud by the riverbank, like a little girl at the beach. “Well you are only human – of course you’re tired – but a good tired – like after seven hours of jogging, or seven hours of focused studying, or seven hours of straight fucking – that’s what it’s like.”

She’s right. That is what it’s like. An insane rush followed by an exhausted peace. An earned  peace. This time, it was like that and lately, she and I have been on good terms. But I remember a time when Rage and I did not get along so well.

“You really hurt me a few years ago,” I say quietly.

“I know,” she says. Her voice carries no trace of apology. I wonder if she can  apologize. A witch like Rage may not really feel such a thing as regret, or apology, or sadness.

I want to ask why but I realise I already know the answer.  I had to know the answer before being on such good terms with her now, today, in the present.

“I didn’t let you fight for me,” I say, with equal lack of apology. I realise suddenly there will never be the question of apology between Rage and me. She is. She lets me be. I let her be. We let each other be. There is something magnificently freeing about that.

“No, you didn’t, and I had to go somewhere. I had to be somewhere, in someone. It wasn’t easy for me either, eating away at you from the inside. I’d rather eat him – all the hims, all the hes, all the ones in your way –  any day,” she says, a glint in her eye. A cackle erupts from her throat – it’s neither bitter nor mean. She’s gleeful. Clean. A clean Rage. A perfect Rage.

Left to her, she would obliterate the bridge and all surrounding islands. An ocean on fire. But that’s the problem too. When Rage is there, none of the other witches have a voice. I don’t even have a voice. I feel how she turns my tongue into a forked thing, a whip that cleanly severs people from their bullshit, and yes, sometimes their dignity.

“But have you ever regretted anything I’ve done?” Rage asks me.

The answer is surprising, even to me. “No,” I say. “Shouldn’t I, though? You – you’ve hurt a lot of people, I think.”

Rage smiles, leans back on her elbows. Her body is a sword. I cannot look at her without thinking of weapons. She looks like an ancient carving. A Goddess made of rock, shaped by water, standing guard at the river. Stone Witch. River Witch.

“Yes, I have” she says, and looks at me with her cat-eyes, a predator’s eyes:

“But they hurt you first.”

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Tired and Full

One day,
you will be tired of all the glass
and brittle promises of men marked fragile
(do they even promise anything anymore?
there is comfort in knowing they know
their own inadequacy)

You will be tired enough, finally
of the hesitancy, the ambivalence, the lack
of follow-through, the children masquerading
as men, the men who never grew up, because
they just didn’t have to.

And on that day you will wake up
and your standards will be high
and your patience for all the things
that are wrong for you will be thin, finally
so thin, so as to be nonexistent
and you will be so full of your own life
with a bright and beautiful walnut tree
for a heart, all its fruits are for you,
its trunk is for you to lean against,
its shade is a reminder that balance is  just
finding happiness in summer sun and under branches too

And you will never suffer a fool again.

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An Understanding

If

each time you love
and each time, after it’s all over,
after it’s done,
after the epilogue,
after you close the book and put it
for sale outside, on the sidewalk
for the insects, and the sun, and the rain,
after the casket has been bought,
after the burial takes place,
after all the sad songs and then the happy songs
and then the sad songs again,
after seeing his lips in a stranger’s face on the subway,
or his hands in a teenager as she presses the signal
to cross the street,
or his smile in someone else,
if
after all that:

it hurts
sometimes
like the first time
the worst time

then

you know

that

at least

you know

how to love.

If you grieve a thing,
it means you loved a thing.

If you can survive the grief,
all it means is that
you can love again.

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Which Witch

I am a witch
because my mother
is a witch.

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Moth Ash Tea

they come out at night
flicker near the dead light
bulb pretend it is a candle,
or maybe the moon, i draw them near,
crush their wings in mid-air,
bodies burnt to ash in my witch palm,
for my medicine jar.

a pinch of moth ash in my morning
tea,  for dry eyes for days, i stir it
with the minute hand from the
kitchen clock’s face

what i remember feels
like lead swimming in
my veins, so i spread charcoal
on my bread like butter,
to sweat you out through my skin

 

 

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Thank you

thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you

for leaving.

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Three Rules To Dating: Rule 1

There are three, and only three, rules to dating and to loving.

  1. Love is a feeling, and love is also a choice. You need both to make a relationship work. 
  2. People’s actions matter infinitely more than their words – their words are a guidepost, and a test they set themselves. Your job is to see if their actions match up to their words.
  3. Who you are outside a relationship is exactly who you should be in a relationship. 

And that’s it. Everything else is detail.

  1. Love is a feeling, and love is also a choice.

Most people have felt the feelings – you know what they are. The flutters, the wanting to be around someone, the smile that lights up your whole heart – whatever it is, you need it for there to be a relationship. But for a relationship to work long-term, both people also need to make a conscious choice to sustain, nurture, protect, earn, and trust that feeling – and the person that’s causing you to feel those feelings. And if one of those people fails to make this choice – and yes, ambivalence about choosing someone is a failure to choose that someone – then the relationship will not work. I am learning there are some people in the world that are extremely naive about this because for some people , such as myself, having the feelings is the choice. I’ll say that again: when I have the feelings, I have always instinctively just chosen the person. Of course, both people need to do this in order for the relationship to work, and, as it turns out, there are people for whom having the feelings does not mean they will choose the person – at least not right away. And actually there are good reasons as to why: The choice part of love boils down to if you can see yourself with this person, if you can see your lives blending in a way that will be positive for both of you, and if you can both fit within the needs and boundaries of each other’s lives. Love has to be a reasoned choice because everyone deserves to choose what and who are best for them – and you can’t know that with just the feelings. You have to see if values align, if values that don’t align can be worked on, if there are irreconcilable differences.

You also have to see how much – and I mean this – how much of a coward both people are – and you have to see how selfish and greedy both people are. This is one of the weirdest things I had to learn – because if there’s one thing I am not, it’s a coward. I go for what I want. I do what I want. I answer to my inner conscience, my compass, my soul. Not everyone has this built into them instinctively. I am also generally not a selfish person – I can’t in good conscience use someone else’s affections for me and passively agree to being the object of someone’s affections if I don’t have feelings for them. I get nothing out of such an arrangement, and I would feel genuinely weirded out and bad if I just took someone for granted, or if someone wanted much more than I could give them – but some people love the security of someone who will do anything for them – at least for a little while. They love the ease of it, because greediness is a trait that lends itself easily to laziness, and the paths of least resistance. They are not fighters. They are go with the flow types. They are chill. They will wonder why you are not chill. If you are this person, lackadaisical in your approach to people, relationships, love, feelings, consider quickly that people as they age will lose respect for you because nobody has time for your bullshit anymore.

Love is not “chill”.

Cowards and greedy people will take what you give them – they will happy to be the object of your affection, but they will never find in themselves the capacity to choose you, of their own volition. They are incapable. They may have the feelings of love, but the feelings will never be enough for them to make the choice to love, because to a coward, no feeling is as salient to their life as fear. Greedy people similarly will never ever prioritise someone else’s feelings – because why would they? They are selfish. They will prioritise their own ease of experience at all costs – whether they mean to or not.

But here is where I learned from a greedy coward I dated – love has to be a reasoned choice at least partly based in calculating fear, and risk. There is nothing wrong with a little fear. I generally don’t feel fear – I feel thrill and heartbreak, but rarely have I ever felt fear – but fear is important. Pain is important. Hurt is important. You need fear, pain, and hurt to tell you what your boundaries are for being treated well; these are the things that tell you if someone is good for you or not. It sounds simple. It’s not simple.  It is also extremely simple and possibly more simple than you think. You can’t overthink fear or pain or hurt, but you have to listen to those feelings when they come up.

And then you need to be brave. You need to be brave when those feelings come up and check in with the person you are seeing and ask: “I’m a little nervous. Is this going somewhere or isn’t it? I feel things are maybe off because I don’t feel you’re choosing me – I feel like we’re going with the flow”. Bravery is about standing up for the boundaries you know you deserve – despite the fear that this person may leave. You must value your boundaries and standards for good treatment at all costs. This is part of how love is a choice – and should be a reasoned choice. Everyone deserves to assess another person’s qualities before signing up for a relationship with them – everyone deserves to see exactly what they are signing up for. Everyone deserves to meet someone who meets their standards of good treatment.

Here’s where shit can fuck up:
a) you can be an idiot like me who never makes a conscious decision about who she falls for – you can just choose a person based on the feelings and almost nothing else. Bad idea. This means you have no boundaries or standards – or very very very permeable/porous ones that shift routinely. It means you do not know what you want, not really. It means you risk a lot of things – including projection of your needs onto someone else, feeling someone else is the answer to your problems, feeling that someone choosing you will fix your life for you.

b) you could be a greedy person who wants the ease of sexual or romantic attraction that is going to go nowhere- this offers temporary joy that is nowhere near the kind of soul commitment/bond/whatever thing you may be actually too afraid to seek out. If you want short term bullshit that’s fine, but that might get old at some point

c) you could be a coward. And.  This is so difficult for me to begin empathising with because I have fallen off so many emotional cliffs and recovered that the option to never approach the cliffside has only just recently begin occuring to me. And here is the beauty and tragedy of the coward: he will never know true love if he doesn’t change his ways because true love is stepping off that cliff – and flying. But he also is very very very keenly aware of his vulnerability. He knows or thinks he knows what he can and cannot survive. And maybe he cannot survive vulnerability right now. Maybe he cannot choose anyone but himself because he is in a place where he values fear, always, over love, always.

Here is the solution to all these fucked up situations – and they follow a common theme. See if you can find it:

a) if you are an imbecile like me who falls for someone without thinking consciously and well about how that someone is treating you fucking fix it. Literally, only you can. ONLY YOU can decide your boundaries for yourself, and your standards for good treatment. You get to assign every motherfucker that comes your way a fail grade, and every angel a pass grade, but you need to start assigning grades like a damn homeroom teacher in high school. You have to start. If you don’t fix it, people will notice very quickly that apparently for you, just “Anyone” will do – and no one wants to be anyone to someone they are considering as a special someone.

b) if you are a greedy/selfish piece of shit but you want true love, understand that you will sometimes have to make a choice. You will. You will simply have to make a choice to be there for someone, to actually put in effort, because love is not the easiest path – it is a path that demands you choose someone. Otherwise people will leave you. Who can fix this? Literally, only you can. And you should ideally do this and know this before fucking over someone else.

c) If you are a coward – and I smile writing this, because it’s hard for me to respect this trait, but I remind myself that yes, I have fallen for cowards because they offered other many beautiful and precious moments to my life: if you are a coward, you have to know what you stand for. You. The deep you. Not society, family, friends. Not norms, and whatever authority you answer to. Maybe some combination of things. You have to know what you will fight for, what you will stake a claim for. Love is vulnerability -but it is vulnerability protected. You have to get to a stage where you are comfortable with your own vulnerability enough to see if someone else will protect it – and if you can protect theirs. If you are a coward, you will let a thousand true loves go by, without ever acting on your feelings – such a date would be devastating to me, chronic cliff jumper, but I get it – you’ve never gone over even once.

So you don’t know if you will survive.

I can’t promise you that you will, but being fear oriented as you are, you know what you need, and what your boundaries for good treatment are. Use those wisely. And then? Work on being brave.  Literally, only you can. 

If you don’t, people will leave.

And that’s all folks, for Rule 1.

 

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Bridge

You paused on your way,
not even  half the journey made
across the bridge, turned around,
“let’s keep this road between
our homes” your back
said to me.

a matchstick flickered in my eyes,
a watch ticked in the face of the moon.

And when the time came,
I burnt the bridge and all
the islands around it, set
the ocean on fire and I
did not care if you burned
or drowned.

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What I learned when I unmatched my ex on Tinder, and other lessons

To unmatch my ex, I first had to match him. Let’s call him Khalid – why Khalid? Because I have always liked that name, and it’s ironic because according to a google search, it means “eternal” and he was as much the opposite of eternal as can be. Also, I figure a Muslim pseudonym is appropriate because he was a Muslim man. (For the record, I am not. Muslim, or a man. This is, for non-desi readers, a capital P Problem for many of us brown people.)

Ok, so Khalid. Khalid and I met 3 years ago, when he was the age I am now (no this is not a math problem – math is actually easy, love sadly is not). I say this because I remember what he was like at 27. And I know what I’m like at 27 (ie: what I’m like, right now). And he is now 30. And 24 year old me was vastly impressed by his 27 year old man self, and 27 year old me is completely unfazed by his 30 year old self as he exists in 2017. And that is Lesson 1: seeing his face, I suddenly realised that after the age of 22, age is virtually irrelevant to how much a person has grown, will grow, or what they are capable of. After 22, it is a fucking free-for-all. Some people will continue growing, some will experience a second spurt of intellectual/philosophical self knowledge, some will plateau, some will continue steadily on, some will deteriorate, most will follow some combination of these paths, and some will have already achieved enlightenment (please note: Khalid has not achieved enlightenment). So when Khalid’s beautiful (and I mean beautiful: we’re talking chiseled jaw, perfect hair, eyelashes that perfectly frame deep Piscean eyes that promise everything the ocean has to give,  lips to die for, a chest you could melt in, and shoulders that so so offered the myth of masculine reliability ever so convincingly)

face

popped up on my Tinder, along with his age: 30, I was not impressed. 30. What does 30 mean to me? 30 is the age my dad was when I was born. HAH! I burst out laughing, Khalid as a father is an absurd thought. Not that he wouldn’t make a great dad, eventually. But who knows, maybe my dad was just as clueless at that age. Maybe that’s just what that age is. For men. Anyway, I was not impressed. But I did note his handsome face – and, I noted a little viciously, that he was using the same profile pic from when we first met. (So was I. but I have other more recent pictures up, and he didn’t and this in my mind made me of course an infinitely better person – this is just how one thinks of an ex that was a significant ex. He was a first love, for me. I was a “mostly nothing, bit of an ego stroke” for him. I’ve come to terms with that.)

Anyway, I was curious about whether he had swiped right on me or not, so without really thinking about it, I swiped right. :O! Lo and behold, Khalid with the face of a Pashtun angel prince, had indeed swiped right because we were an instant match. I laughed. And this is lesson 2: my mind did not run with wild stories of how much we were still meant to be together – I was just curious (we fit like a single hand and a dick attached to the same person – it makes sense. It works. It “fits”. The universe agrees with a certain chemical balance existing between the two of us but it’s not really what love is all about in the end). If you’re curious about the kind of things I thought about this man at one point, I am dead serious when I say he was my first love – you can hit “Cinderfella” on the right hand panel to pull up a lovely list of tragic (in retrospect: hilarious) poems I wrote about this dude. But! I was impressed with myself. I did not have ridiculous fantasies of us reconnecting – what did I feel? A memory of the possibility of chemistry. Curiosity. A genuine curiosity about who he was now. A selfish ego-stroking curiosity about if he had indeed right swiped me. A self awareness to know he had probably right swiped me for the same reason – to see if *I* had right swiped him first (recall: I am aware of being an ego stroke for the Pashtun angel prince, so this makes sense: he wanted to see if I, the equivalent of a hand for his lust, was still available). And 0 hate. I had no hate. I actually generally find it difficult to hate the men I have loved – I get exasperated, angry, I feel used and discarded for a bit when they invariably break up with me, but I never hate them. I just get very very very internally upset for a long time. But anyway, point is: I wasn’t even upset when I saw his face. I felt slightly wary due to how things had ended: 0 closure, no conversation really, practically a ghosting – but I also knew I was not my 24 year old self. So: going into this eyes wide open was also a  part of lesson 2 – I knew a right swipe meant. nothing. I mean I’ve known this always whenever I’ve right swiped anyone, but here was a man I once had feelings for. REAL POETRY TRAGIC FEELINGS for. And. now I did not. Woah. Weird! This sense of genuine curiosity about someone’s life is something I want to bring with me to future right swiping/date setting when I eventually date again (at 30. Good God, he’ll be 33 by then, but will he emotionally have aged to 18? WHO KNOWS?! only time will tell.)

Ok so rewind: Something I said in the last paragraph was about chemical balance. What I said was: “The universe agrees with a certain chemical balance existing between the two of us but it’s not really what love is all about in the end”. This is really important because chemistry is *a thing* in my life. It is a *real thing*. When Khalid and I first met, we had a five hour conversation – it started at a small Second Cup, and then continued at a resto in Toronto’s Little Korea. We finished the conversation at around 1 or 2am, and this gentleman prince angel offered to walk me home or to the edge of whatever sidewalk I preferred in case I did not want a random stranger man (ie: himself) to know where I lived. Well *Southern accent* my my my, my little feminist heart was just a-flutter. *blush and giggle and bat my lashes*.

He ended up walking me home that first date. I stopped first at the edge of the little road to my house, and then I said what the hell, walk me home, so he did. We hugged at the little path leading up to the front door, and I had no plans to kiss him, but he sort of held me a bit and I looked up, and he leaned down and it was a glorious first kiss. And I knew he had initiated that, in my heart, I could feel he liked me.

“Call me?” I said.

“I will” he lied, and I walked back into my house.

Khalid was an abysmal caller and an abysmal texter. Hmm. Or I was a dumbass at 24 too. Probably a mix of both. Anyway, our whirlwind dating was beautiful and romantic – I’m talking late night adventures around Toronto’s local castle Casa Loma, Christmas in the Distillery District – the boy even drove me to my parents’ place once (in Hindu/Muslim life, this is like, a *big deal*. He didn’t come inside the house, but my mom totally knew something was up when she saw my huge ass smile as I walked in the door) Anyway, Khalid was not very good at making plans. He was not very good at initiating plans. He was not even very good at showing up on time (we’re talking 30-40min late every time, without fail.) But Khalid also was deeply romantic, loved my poetry, made me laugh, and showed me things around the city. He also treated me to dinner almost every single time, which I found kind considering he made way more cashmoneys than me – and also because I was sick of men thinking that just because I paid for half the meal, they could choose to not take me seriously. So for the time in my life,  this made some sense to me. And the chemistry. The chemistry was… let me tell you boys and girls and people of all genders: random white ladies in the street stared beatifically upon our faces as Khalid helped me down from a particularly steep curb once. The world was all blessings towards us. It was my first time dating a brown man (and I am also brown), and the universe, in a word, capital A Approved this. We were a striking couple, indoors and out. That chemical balance that the universe so rightly Approved?

Led nowhere. LED NOWHERE – we lay beside each other one night about two months in and I said “you know if… if you have feelings for me, it… is ok to tell me you do.” “I think I do…” he said softly. I turned to him with my razor tongue and witch eyes (I couldn’t help it, I suck), and I said “Say it then,” So this idiot did because it’s easier for a man to say “I love you” when commanded, it turns out, than saying no. But really, I’m the bigger idiot in this, because I said it back. And two weeks later I applied my mind reading skills as every woman has to, and gently told him he didn’t have to say he loved me, that night, and that I understood, but that I was still interested in seeing him if he felt love could grow – this is at the point in my life where I thought that I don’t know, men actually thought about their feelings and didn’t just act from a place of selfishness, greed, and complete lack of regard for another person’s feelings. Needless to say, we didn’t last long.

BUT ! Chemistry! What the hell happened?! Nothing – I was a needy bitch and he had the unfortunate combination of suffering a tragic loss in his family and was also was socialised as a man so chemistry went nowhere in the end. It turns out, more than chemistry, you have to WANT to keep a relationship going. Both people do. Both people do despite the ups and downs and uselessness of general human nature. And that was ok. I loved him. I wanted to continue in my needy codependent way. He didn’t love me. Fast forward to 3 years give or take a few months annnnnnd his face pops up on Tinder. Here is a man I know to have chemistry with. Physical, sexual, romantic, call it what you want – we had it. We probably still have it. But I also KNEW him this time around. I knew his bullshit. I knew mine too. We’re both a little older a little wiser a little more beaten up but maybe a lot more resilient. And… I suddenly knew. I knew with a clarity – and this is lesson 3, part 1: that yes we both liked each other. Let me backtrack: for me, whenever a relationship ends, I’m always convinced I didn’t matter to the other person. There are a lot of reasons for this: I’m self sacrifical in love (bad. don’t do this. I’m working on it.) I was bullied mercilessly growing up and always thought of affection as earned even though I cognitively knew people just liked each other or didn’t (again: affection isn’t earned, that’s not how love works but like years of conditioning will do that to you) . I have always been dumped after falling for a dude. But seeing both our faces pop up like that under Tinder’s blessings of “It’s a match!”, I just knew this moron liked me. And I liked him.

I loved him. not in that moment, but that I used to love him. And at one point, he liked me too. And the chemistry had been real. We had something real. It was real.   Ok. But I felt no butterflies. I felt no apprehension swiping right on his handsome face. I felt no elation when it popped up as “It’s a match” – I would have felt no disappointment had nothing popped up (indicating he hadn’t swiped right on me). So this is lesson 3, part 2: The chemistry was real, and also it doesn’t matter that it had been real to the ultimate longevity of the relationship.

I’m coming out of a second Muslim boy affair – let’s call this one… Reza (Also, Hindu ladies, just… sigh, be careful. Also Hindu men: don’t fuck over Muslim women or Sikh women or Christian women by pulling this nonsense where eventually you’ll just go with the girls your parents pick from your own communities because none of you have a spine anyway). Reza and I also had chemistry. I thought what we had, had been real. And I was again similarly stunned/devastated/nonsensensically spiraling into heartbreak when it ended. Did he even like me? was a stupid question that kept circulating in my head ad nauseum.

Looking at Khalid’s face reminded me in a second “of course they did.” And I realised that whatever chemistry I had with Khalid and Reza became uncomfortable when I started seeking them out for validation of my essential worth, that neither of these men could or should define that for me, and that I never again had to worry about if someone liked me or not – I’d know. And then I could just believe it. And not stress. Chemistry isn’t about winning someone’s affection or approval. I knew this when I right swiped Khalid because I had no interest in winning his approval… but the universe did whisper a small fleeting thought in my ear: “It was good, wasn’t it? Parts of it?” And I smiled.

And then I messaged our man Khalid, the handsome pashtun prince! Something absurd I think – “Wow you’re 30 now!” (genius line, I think so) “How’ve you been? Also I’m not taking this as serious interest ofc, just more so “how’s an old flame doing/can we reconnect in a friendly way”” Or something like that. And then I said to myself, he has 24 hours to reconnect as friends. And that was it. And this is lesson 4: Boundaries are important. I know what my worth is. He has 24 hours – why 24? because I’m comfortable with 24 hours. Because I do these days exactly and precisely what is comfortable for me, and an ex that ghosted who I’m curious about doesn’t deserve more than 24 hours, that’s why, and ultimately, my body decided on that time frame. 24 hours. no more, but also no less. I didn’t want to reconnect with him…. or approach reconnecting with him from a place of fear. I didn’t want to feel at 20 hours suddenly panicky. I did a bit at 20 hours because I deal with generalised anxiety, but I talked myself down and waited. I realised I couldn’t wait to unmatch this fucker. I knew he wouldn’t respond but… I didn’t care! My boundary was for me  – my real self. not my anxiety-induced self. And definitely not for the moron that let me go once already (because even if I was a codependent needy bitch at that time in my life, I still added value to his life #beyonce #upgradeyou). Look,  my 24 hours was for me. It was mine. It was my comfort zone being defined. It was something I chose from a place of curiosity and not fear.

Lesson 5: :O Someone I have chemistry with could choose to disrespect whatever arbitrary boundary I had…. and I could leave without it being a reflection of my self worth.

24 hours came and went. Tinder told me I had officially sent the message not 23 hours ago, but “yesterday”. I smiled. I felt a sudden wave of intense sorrow. I smiled again, and I unmatched him because I owe him nothing and he owes me nothing and chemistry will come again – as it did with Reza, and I don’t need to feel anxious about a damn thing.

🙂

So final lesson: How I approached Khalid is exactly how I need to be approaching any potential date I feel any chemistry with. Every boy is a motherfucker on some level (and to be honest, every person is, period), but you just have to know what you’ll tolerate, what you can live with, and what you cannot live without. I am excited to date again – in 3 years, when I’m 30, Khalid’s age now.

And I know at that time, I will be me in a way I have never been before. Chemistry will change for me too – there is better for me than what Khalid or Reza offered. And there is better for them too than who I am right now. Chemistry will always be around – but how and if it leads to love needs care and respect and kindness and trust and all that other shit.

And people surprisingly show you exactly who they are in a very short amount of time.

Khalid didn’t message me back in 24 hours. The universe whispered in my ear: “Chemistry is real, and so is his fuckery, now what will you choose?”

And it turns out, I am starting to always choose me. 🙂

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