the age of wanting.

by Michael King

New York City has just begun its season-long surrender to the cold, and we’re all figuring out how to move through it. My pace is quicker, long strides like scissor chops along the sidewalk, heavy exhale at the orange hand crosswalk. I bury my face in my scarf, lift my shoulders and peer out from my coat.

A love song fills my ears, and, though my mouth is hidden from view, my lips pull back into a grin. Two voices lift to falsetto, dancing together to forever, and my eyes close in romantic affirmation.

The light changes, and my long strides continue. What are you doing, my Mind laughs at my Heart, pretending you’re swept up in some love story. Reality settles over my shoulders, slate gray –– memories of dissolving promises, unfinished dances, redacted love letters.

I am a lover without a love. On some days, the wanting feels like it just might tear me at the seams. Most days, though, I am dancing along to love songs, building makeshift futures, reciting poetry to somebody who isn’t around to hear it.

I don’t want to be out of practice when you get here.

A friend asks me what I’m working on, and, in an earnest moment, I tell her this: I need to stop watching how long I’ve been single and nurturing the quiet suspicion I am somehow impossible to love.

The text sends, I read it again, and I am startled by my own clarity. I add: And cooking.

Striking out on my own has never given me much pause. I am fierce in my independence, and I revel in alone time like a favorite blanket. Being single, building a life around my own whims and wanting, has been a tremendous adventure. My friends are a wild assortment of allies, magic in varying hues, and they’re there for me on the days of falling confetti and nights of unraveling alike.

If I’m honest, though, I’m tired of trying to find something to say about the age of wanting. My palms are bruised from the search for something that stays. When I step out of the light, off the stage and into my dressing room, my feet confess they are tired of tap dancing.

I am impatient in my waiting. I want to skip the lines, flip ahead a few pages, brush by all the introductory questions over expectant coffee mugs, the hopeful first impressions that give way to not looking for anything serious revelations.

I want something real, something sturdy, something inspiring. I can build the story around me, make of myself the sun for the story to orbit, but I am wanting. I am wanting and wanting and wanting.

Commit yourself to telling an honest story, I remind myself. And, if you don’t like what it is you’ve got to say, change up the way you’re living.

Pull back from the image a bit. You see it? There’s love everywhere. There’s love in the way your sister calls, puts you on speaker phone and just spends time. There’s love in the friend who wants to meet for a Thursday night movie, love in the potted plant a friend gave you for your apartment. There’s love in the baristas who remember your order, the students who stop by outside of required hours to update you on their lives. There’s love in the way your friends are willing to plan vacations with you, build stories with you. Everything changes the second you find somebody, and maybe you’ll wish you hadn’t been in such a hurry. 

We are all bundles of wanting and worrying and waiting for direction. Each and every one of us, the devout and the married and the broken and the successful and the well-traveled and the lonely and the aloof, breathing through the joy and pain of living.

So inhale, exhale, and try and remember this –– your world, as it is right now, everything and everyone surrounding you, it’s only like this once. You only get to live these pages once, though you’ll try again and again in the retelling later, and you’ll want to have better things to say than ‘I was lonely and uncertain.’ We all are. Keep moving, kid.

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