Butterflies (Creative Nonfiction)

 

“Love at first sight” is always portrayed like some hetero-normative, romance-movie hoax made up by people who didn’t want to give any effort to loving someone. It always sounded like a terrible excuse to justify a blinding obsession with a sculpted body or a glistening pair of ocean-colored eyes, as if we’re lying to ourselves about the possibility of some stranger we just saw being the epitome of something that could make us happy forever.

I still think “love at first sight” is a load of crap, but when I saw him, I felt something I assumed must be similar. Something…meaningful.

I wasn’t even sure why I felt it. I guess the heart never takes a break, because being in my over-sized, dark blue work t-shirt, a pair of faded jeans and a hat that’ll never look good on me made me feel impenetrable to the feelings of “love,” or whatever it was in the air, that day. The way his light brown hair swooped up and away from his head, and the way he leaned on the ice cream case when he put in his order, casually, as if him and I were the only ones in the shop, shook the foundation inside me to shambles. The butterflies in my stomach ricocheted in my stomach as if they were desperate for a way out.

And it confused me to no end, because there’s no way I’d see myself falling for a guy who’d want a milkshake with mint chip and peanut butter ice cream, just to see what it’d taste like.

“A risk taker, I see,” I said as I scooped the ice cream into the metallic shake-cup, surprised at my own confidence.

I don’t remember what he said in return, but it had something to do with throwing caution to the wind. Until that moment, I never thought that impulsivity could be such a beautiful thing.

And he lingered, a torturous way of reminding me that he wouldn’t be mine. He enjoyed his shake with his crowd of people who all talked to each other and laughed, and he sat with a woman who’s identity I didn’t even have to question. I already knew who she was, or at least the feeling of that stuff in the air fading away gave me a big hint. Being unrequited made him all the more desirable. Being unrequited made me despise the fact that the butterflies were disturbed.

I wanted to hate the fact that I saw him, because he pulled my gaze toward him like the moon pulls waves to the shore. As much as I wanted to wipe away that drop of hot fudge on the stainless steel counter in peace, I found myself glancing back at him as he entertained a little boy that gathered wasn’t his own. The way he smiled, the way he became a child himself, climbing on parking medians and jumping off like the parking lot was their own circus, just to form a smile on the child’s face. The way he didn’t care that seven other people were looking at him while he acted less than half his age – I found myself thinking it was everything I needed, I found myself doubting my previous perceptions as I continued to wipe away various food smears on the stainless steel counter.

And then he was gone. I looked through the glass to catch another glimpse of my pleasant and surprising distraction, only to see the absence of his radiance. He took me on an emotional roller coaster without realizing I was in the seat right next to him. But there was no sense of elation when it was over. No time to gather that the ride had stopped, and that there was no need for the butterflies to be in chaos anymore.

I don’t think it was love. You can’t just love someone so fast. It takes more than a nice head of hair and a personality to match. They have to have that feeling of security, that feeling of them looking at you and feeling like you’re the only one they’ll look at that way. But love is also impulsive. It makes you do things, feel things that creates a constant dissonance. It can be one-sided, it can be mutual, it can heal, it can hurt. It can be unstoppable, and it can leave you thinking about it forever, it seems.

Maybe it was love, but maybe I don’t know what the hell love is.