For the Love of the Void
The most common forms of attraction are as follows:
Romantic attraction: the desire to pursue a romantic relationship with a person, often called a crush.
Sexual attraction: the desire to pursue a sexual relationship with a person, often called lust.
Platonic attraction: the desire to befriend someone; known as a squish, or "best-friend crush."
Sensual attraction: the desire for non-sexual contact, like cuddling and hand-holding.
Aesthetic attraction: the desire to admire a person’s appearance at length; usually coupled with other forms of attraction; commonly experienced by artists.
Mental/Intellectual attraction: the admiration of someone’s mind, and the desire to converse with them at length.
From seventh to tenth grade, I had a crush on a boy named Colin, who I spoke to about four times in as many years. He was a soccer player, with husky-blue eyes and terrible handwriting, and he hardly ever spoke. When he did, he had a way of ducking his head shyly and averting his eyes; I found it endearing and sweet. I spent many a class and lunch period gazing at him adoringly from across the room.
Then, junior year, I realized I’d fallen out of like with Colin, just like that. He’d inspired countless longing, sappy poems composed during bored moments in class and starred in more than a few daydreams, and suddenly he was gone from my thoughts entirely. It was odd; the infatuation had suddenly disappeared as though it had never been real in the first place. I saw clearly, for the first time, how silly it had always been.
Junior year was the first time I had no crush.
Some think that moths are drawn to a flame and lamps because of an irresistible desire for light and warmth, while others believe unnatural light confuses them, makes them lose direction. They are normally guided by their proximity to a distant source of light, usually the moon. On encountering lamps or flames, though, their navigation is thrown off; they try to fly normally but end up drawn closer and closer to the source of their inevitable destruction.
On one hand, the moth is a metaphor for obsessive desire leading you to run ceaselessly towards a fruitless and ultimately disastrous end. On the other hand, the moth is a cautionary tale about losing your way, letting things distract you from what’s important, from the path you’re meant to take. Either way, they die for mankind’s fear of the dark.
There are a lot of problems with categorizing friendships and relationships so separately. Relationships, in our society, tend to demand a much higher level of commitment and compromise than friendships, and tend to take priority over friendships as well. Often the time and energy spent on this prioritization alienates people from their friends. People also tend to place boundaries around affection; many people are uncomfortable with platonic kissing, hand-holding, casual touches, and even hugs from their closest friends that they would welcome from a significant other. This makes it difficult for people like me, who are extremely cuddly and affectionate but don’t have or want a relationship. My affectionate friends tend to be my closest ones, and I couldn't survive without them.
For about two years in high school I also liked a boy named Justin, who had an impish face and hair that curled at the ends when it got long. He was clever and mischievous, and he sat behind me in Algebra. I started listening to Linkin Park because it was his favorite band and constantly sought his attention in gym class. I thought about him all the time, and wanted to know all about him. My chest hurt, and I swore, confused and troubled and a little delighted, that I was in love; this inspired more angsty, sappy poems. When I found out he liked a girl called Jess, I was crushed. I tried to dislike her, but she was even cuter than he was, and incredibly sweet. I haven’t seen him since high school.
I still like Linkin Park.
The attraction of magnets is reliable; opposite poles are drawn together, while like poles repel each other. Compasses work by utilizing the massive magnetic fields of the Earth; the magnetized needle unerringly points north. Imagine if the attraction of people was so reliable — if we knew, with all our being, exactly which direction to turn, exactly who or what we need to find contentment. Would we be happier, for the simplicity of it all? Or is it the searching, the learning, the failing and falling, that makes our eventual happiness that much sweeter? Do we love better with once-broken hearts?
Uno cards are scattered in a spray of rainbow across the carpet. We play-wrestle; Case won a round and I take Uno very seriously. Then he’s on top and my hands are pinned above my head, and I’m trapped beneath him, trapped beneath the weight of my own heartbeat.
Everything is still.
He grins and says this would be a good position to have sex in. I smile, probably blush. Maybe I laugh and agree. I am nauseous and don’t yet know why.
My heartbeat, heavy on my chest, is a barrier, like another person between us. I feel as I have with every relationship I’ve been in, like I’m not really there, like I’m acting and hoping the role will become comfortable with time. It has to fit. It’s supposed to fit. And if it doesn’t… what does that mean for me?
The truths we accept influence the people we are. Society taught me to want love; it was a great and universal Truth that everyone should be seeking someone else. I believed it for almost eighteen years, and sought love as I was taught to. I desired a romantic relationship, yet every movie I’d ever seen taught me that no romantic relationship ever exists without sex. It seemed, then, such an impossible thing to ask of someone, love without sex. I was never taught they were not the same. It was a Truth to me, and it broke my heart.
The ‘A’ in LGBTQIA+ stands for aromantic, asexual, and agender. That is, those who don’t experience romantic attraction, those who don’t experience sexual attraction, and those who do not have a gender. I often joke that, being all three, made up of an identity defined by lack, I am a void, a black hole.
I don’t think I ever realized, my entire life, that sexual attraction was real. Movies where spouses cheated or characters stopped amidst a crisis to have sex confounded me. They still do. Couldn’t you just… not do that? What terrible, unrealistic writing.
For a while, I asked my friends what it feels like, to be sure it was real, to be sure I hadn’t felt it. It’s odd to hear about a sensation inherent to most that is a stranger to you. It’s odd to suddenly find yourself a creature apart.
Lust is profoundly bizarre; given a choice, I’d still go without it.
People often think my best friend and I are dating. We’re quite cuddly and affectionate people, and often hug in public, sometimes hold hands.
I love holding hands.
People, though, see a male figure and a female figure displaying affection for each other and assign it a value beyond that of friendship. Friendship, I’ve found, is not as well-respected as a relationship.
I love friendship.
The strongest form of attraction is gravity. Gravity is an irresistible draw from a massive object, like a planet or star, that causes objects caught in the gravity field to stay there until something forces them out. This is what keeps us held fast to the planet’s surface, and what keeps the moon in orbit. Everything with mass has its own gravitational field; these fields are so weak compared to the overwhelming pull of Earth’s gravity that they can hardly be felt at all.
And yet we are still drawn to others. What does that say about how strong we are?
For a while, I just identified as asexual, and searched for romance to no avail. When I entertained that I might be aromantic, too, I was confused. I’d had crushes, after all, all through school, boyfriends too. But, then, I’d always been the one to break things off, hadn’t I? Get bored and lose interest: fear of commitment, not the right guy. Rationalization to fit my current Truth.
Black holes are as intriguing as they are terrifying. They are primarily formed by the death and collapse of a star; they burn out and lack the mass needed to maintain equilibrium with gravity. They collapse in on themselves, again, and again, dense and cold and dark.
They are always hungry.
Black holes have intense gravitational fields, gobbling up everything that comes into them, even light. The edge of this field is called the event horizon, and once it’s crossed there’s no escape. You are drawn into its center. You are lost forever. But the gravity of the black hole warps time around it; an observer would only see you trapped, in perpetuity, at the edge of the event horizon. No one will ever see how fully you have been consumed.
I have always feared this love, the love of a black hole. I have always feared consumption, the being so wrapped up in another person as to need them, to crave them. What a terrible relief to find that such love is not for me.
The truths we accept influence the people we are. I accepted that I was aromantic; I stopped getting crushes.
Kissing probably isn’t supposed to be boring; every book and movie describes kisses like some sort of electrical accident, all sparks and racing hearts and light-headedness. I should ask people, I think. Does kissing make you dizzy? Light-headed? Do you feel sparks and hear a hallelujah chorus? Have you told your doctor about these symptoms?
Because of gravity, even things as massive as galaxies are brought together in clusters. Between the boundaries of these clusters are sections of space in which very little exists. Such spaces, containing at most a few galaxies, are called voids.
Is it sad, for the voids, to be so empty? Or does the emptiness mean everything they have is treasured? Do they resent being called voids just because they aren’t as full as most? Or do they wear the word like a badge of honor, proud that they are focused, proud that they have room to grow?
How many galaxies lie within me?
My most common forms of attraction are as follows:
I constantly see memes or pictures of cats online that I want to share with you
I’d like to cuddle or hug or hold hands with you
I want to make you smile; I crave your laughter
Your energy isn’t tiring, you’re good and sweet and funny, and I would happily commit to a close friendship
You know so many fascinating things and I want to hear all your stories
You are an impossibly adorable and perfect human being; let me bask in your radiance
Everything you say or do is captivating to me; you could read the telephone book and make it amusing and thought-provoking
And, once in a blue moon:
I just might love you
you got such natural charm
you don’t gotta work on anything because there’s a lot of substance with you
you can practically dance around somebody and they’d be in love with you
sing a song a little bit
look at people attentively like they matter more than anything else in the world
I do that?
I’m kind of wasted as an aro then I guess
people loving you is almost always a good thing
just keep doing you
I’ve found, over time, that there are many ways of loving, of caring, of showing affection. I remember friends’ stories, I laugh with their families, I relax in their presence, I share in their joy. We hold hands, we make plans, we text each other when we get home safely. There is no perfect someone out there who will ‘complete’ us; there are many people who will improve us, and many we will improve in turn.
Love exists for its own sake.
I am full of love, full of dreams, full of joy, full of hope, full of galaxies of my own creation.
I think I’m not a void after all.
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