5/16/20: Desire and Denial

Call it the Weekend of Anesthetization: spent yesterday night and all day today playing an eye-burning amount of games. I don’t feel bad about it. It felt (mostly) good to suspend other activities and just let the upper parts of my mind be engaged; maybe it will’ve let the lower-down regions decompress somewhat.

Doing this for long enough makes my brain feel flat, and makes it harder to engage in deeper activity – like reading. That’s a bit of a drag because I’m so close to finishing Anna Karenina; if I’d stuck to my schedule I’d be on track to finish it tomorrow. And also there’s this susceptibility to blanknesses, where if I don’t keep myself occupied with activities I blank into doing nothing: staring at the texture of the ceiling or vacantly searching the same terms and reading articles on my phone that I’ve looked up and  read 1000 times before.

I know (I mean I assume) it’s not in your power to give one person to another, but the fact is my wish was granted. Maybe only because I wanted it more than anything, and what you want so much you’re just likely to get.

That’s from Little, Big. Does the act of wanting move the percentage chances of things happening or not happening to us? Does it affect the cosmic math at all?

Part of OCD is developing an unhealthy metaphysics to mediate your relation to the world. So many of my bigger and littler fears revolve(d) around affecting things outside myself: causing people to get sick, for instance. That’s called harm induction. But also I was convinced that if I envisioned certain things for too long, certain things I wanted, I would never have them.

This rule applied to many things, but most intensely maybe to people. If I thought in certain ways about someone I wanted, I would never get them, so that when it came to people I was attracted to, I had two options: to rigorously, puritanically prevent myself from thinking about them in those certain ways, or to reconcile myself to never having them.

“In certain ways” doesn’t mean sexually specifically, but that was one way I wasn’t allowed to think about them. Imagining any sort of romantic connection with a person meant that I would be denied it.

OCD is also immune to anecdotal evidence.

When I came back from Northern Ireland you were the second friend I contacted, and I texted you the night I got back into Ohio. I didn’t realize it at the time, but it’s a fact that even though I’d been sealed away in actual terrestrial happiness for months, during that time I was, still, always thinking about you, just how in some way all my thought, even to this day is, still, in some way a dialogue with you.

Hey, was all I texted.

A few days later we hung out. We took a walk around the neighborhood. It was a mild, humid evening. The sky was full of mild clouds, turning a somnambulant lavender as the sun set. I still had the measured, distant affectation that I took with you when we met up before I left; that was my default attitude with you during that phase because I knew that something had shifted between us since the early high school days, but didn’t know to what degree it had shifted, and what that shift meant now, if anything; so I kept a guard up.

“Well, how was it?” you asked me, referring to Northern Ireland.

“It was…good,” I said; and let pass the chance to elaborate or expand.

“Was it big?”

“Yeah. It was.”

The next day, I was standing outside with my dog. It was a sunny day; in a rare thing for Ohio summer, the humidity went away without being dispelled by a heavy storm; the day dawned with cleaner air, crisp and clear. I was standing in the devil’s strip and looking at the luxuriantly textured grass – one of my dad’s obsessions. And inevitably my thoughts moved towards you.

Weirdly, I let them. I didn’t stop the flow of desire that day, and I let myself imagine in detail what it would be like to be with you. Not even sexually, just what it would be like if we crossed that white quivering line between us, that was the history of my desire for you and yours for me, with all their attendant addenda, and came together in the bright center, into the new space of a relationship.

These thoughts might have been an act of cowardice; maybe I succumbed to some lodged shrapnel of doubt the convinced me it would never be, or let myself just give into the hopelessness rather continue to practice the exhausting mental vigilance it took to not think about you. Whatever the reason, I felt like I had broken the rule and that what our possibility was was forfeit.

But the thing is that we did end up dating. In fact it was that same night that we kissed for the first time, in the driveway, in the dark.

That should’ve been a refutation of this stricture. But there’s this infinitely protean element in OCD. It warps and alters when it’s contested. If something seems to prove its rules false, it retreats into alternate interpretation of that rule, or nudges it into a more specific situation so that this refutation doesn’t, in fact, fall under the rule and thus doesn’t disprove anything.

So now, instead of the rule being that thinking of somebody in certain ways locked them away from me forever, it became that thinking of somebody in those ways only ensured that, eventually, things would end badly between us.

But I didn’t think about that then or, actually, for several years. The thought only recurred to me after it had ended badly between us, and I was living separate from you in Boulder, dreading every day that I would see your car on my long morning walk to work.

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