It all started with the spark of a lighter—a cigarette being lit and the smoke twirling lazily into the night. I breathed it in for the first time in almost a year. It rushed down my body and left me light-headed. The club’s music thumped against the walls and the chatter outside was noisy but you were silent, staring out across the road at someplace far off in your mind. Was it then that something made my heart shift in your direction? I don’t remember because I was drunk and not at all in touch with my feelings. I had come to a point in my life where I would have preferred to throw them away than to know them at all. Or was it when you took my hand—your voice so troubled, still, but your touch so caring?
What is it that first makes a river fork in another direction? Something small, perhaps. A shift in land. A surplus of water. Or, something internal, like a bank that just disintegrates and gives way over time. There were signs, absolutely, that something was giving way inside me. But at the same time, the new current seemed to just appear one day out of nowhere—like an earthquake breaking apart the ground for a new path. When I woke the next morning in my own bed, with my own girlfriend, everything had changed.
All of a sudden, your eyes took up so much space in my mind. I wasn’t even sure what colour they were, at first, but I couldn’t get them out of my head. My video game characters started to look like you—as if my hands just wanted to mold and re-create you in any way they could. But it was nothing more than a crush, I was sure, so I held it close to my breast as my own secret and, for the first few days, cuddled into my girlfriend at night with a clear conscience.
A week later, it wasn’t getting any better and before I knew it, the guilt was so sharp and toxic that it hurt to breathe. I was abandoning her—my love, my lover—and drifting away down the current. She could feel it and tried to pull me back but it was no use. Maybe we were just going through a bad time in the relationship; maybe we just needed some space? I thought of everything as I drove down highways with the music blasting, bawling my eyes out. My best friend and I sat on a point overlooking the city, smoking again for the first time since that night, and I was sure that these feelings were just a manifestation of my dissatisfaction.
It had nothing to do with you.
How could it?
I didn’t even know you.
(But I knew, I now knew the colour of your eyes. Intimately.)
I thought I had created a fantasy girl inside my own head, one who would give me everything my real girlfriend couldn’t. One who looked into my eyes and touched my soul at the same time. But it was ridiculous to fall in love with a stranger thinking that they were some warrior princess come to sweep you off your feet. I knew it. I knew it. But something kept pulling me back over and over again, and every time I saw you it got worse. You were perfect—on paper and in person. I loved your insecurities and your flaws; I loved the way you asked these blunt questions but still got shy when you were talking about yourself. I loved the way you smiled. Soon, you completely took over my heart and I didn’t know what to call this anymore. A crush, still? Infatuation?
I tore apart my relationship trying to get to the root of these feelings. I dug up the root, dissected it into pieces, and then I dug around in my insides until I was nothing but stripped bones… and I still can’t get you out of my head. My girlfriend is casually seeing someone else now and everyone is telling me to get back in the game—to find someone else who will distract me and take my mind off of you.
Maybe one day the images you of you burned in my mind will fade.
But today is Valentine’s Day and I sit here, smoking, thinking only about your brown eyes.
Dana Stan is working on her second novel and that’s why she’s started smoking again. It has nothing to do with anyone’s brown eyes. Or does it?
text © Dana Stan 2017
photography © Jennifer Weihmann
used with permission; ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
ABOUT THE PROJECT:
SCREW CHOCOLATE: 14 Queer Valentines To Help You Survive February 14 is a collaborative project by YYC Queer Writers. We get together intermittently to… write. Also, laud our lovers. Commiserate about our exes. Read each other what we wrote. Explain what we want to write. Try to justify why we aren’t writing it. Go home and write it. Come back. Share it… repeat.
Valentine 1: Mountains & Moments by T
Valentine 2: Karma, in Pronouns by Marzena Czarnecka
Valentine 3: The Long Commute by L. Sara Bysterveld
Valentine 4: It Happens Like This by Dana Stan
Valentine 5: Try by M. Jane Colette
Valentine 6: Sunrise by Brooke Nicholas
Valentine 7: Want by T
Valentine 8: Get The Fuck Up & Love by Dallas Barnes
Valentine 9: Elizabeth by Nola Sarina
Valentine 10: Instructions by PW Zelli
Valentine 11: Unmentionables by Alyssa Linn Palmer
Valentine 12: The Shy Girl’s Guide to Sexting by M. Jane Colette
Valentine 13: Delivery by Elisa Kae
Valentine 14: Alter Ego In A Red Tie by Lotis Cervantes