I met her at my friend’s brother’s birthday party in San Francisco. She was wearing a gray-and-yellow school sweater and blue jeans. Her rubia—blond—hair was acolochado—pulled back—pelo del caballo, in a ponytail. Su cuerpo me atraía, her body attracted me. The host’s sister introduced us. Her name, for the sake of privacy, is D. She was very pretty, and the thing I noticed most, the thing I couldn’t forget, was her honey-colored eyes.
We were playing reto o verdad—truth or dare. Even though she was playing the game, she was shy at first, not saying much, but I kept talking to her, making jokes, asking questions, getting her to open up because I really liked her.
I felt atraido—attracted—to her in a way that I never had before.
What was I feeling?
According to the authors of A General Theory of Love, the limbic system plays an important role in love, attachment, and social bonding, and our nervous systems become tuned in to those around us and those we are close to. This is called limbic resonance, and is something we share with all other mammals.
Love, it turns out, is all about chemicals, specifically adrenaline, epinephrine, and norepinephrine.
My heart was racing. My palms were sweating. I couldn’t stand it. I left the party.
The next day, I posted a picture of an iPod for sale on Instagram. An hour later, she texted me about how much I wanted for it, but she thought it was an iPhone. This began our conversation that led to getting together at Silver Terrace Park a couple of days later, where we played soccer with my little brother.
I was locamente atraido—madly in love, which meant that my brain was producing dopamine. It was my first romance. I started to dream about her. She dreamed about me also, and imagined kissing me and wanting it to be real. It was the first time for her to be serious about a boy after what happened in her past. It seems that we were both experiencing a drop in our serotonin levels, which is associated with obsessive thinking about a loved one.
We started texting each other all the time, día y noche, day and night, in Spanish, joking and laughing, sharing our sentimientos, our feelings, what was happening at school, with our parents, siblings, or our home countries—I’m from Guatemala, she’s from Peru. We had different expressions for things, like I say urina for urine, she says pichi. I say desnuda for naked; she says calata. We started hanging out together at my house or the park or the library or the movies or going to get ice cream. Her favorite was mango, mine is fresa, strawberry.
It felt like she was my girlfriend, mi novia.
One day at the library, she was there with her twelve-year-old sister.
“Chico, usted quisiera ser el novio de mi hermana?” She asked.
Do you want to be my sister’s boyfriend?
I didn’t answer her because it took me by surprise because we hadn’t talked
about it, even though I had been wishing it were true.
D. didn’t say anything either.
When I was walking them home, her sister asked, “Chico usted que haría si D. lo besara?” What would happen if D. kissed you?
I was excited about this idea because I had dreamed about it.
“Yo pienso que eso nunca pasara,” I said to D. It would never happen.
“Yo la besaría si usted me retara,” D. said. She told me that she would do it if I dared her.
“Yo le daré veinte dólares si usted me besa,” I told her. I would give her twenty dollars if she kissed me.
She grabbed me and kissed me nice.
Her lips were suave y regordeta, como uvas, smooth and plump, like grapes.
It was a long kiss and even though I had kissed other girls, this one was special because something in my heart went wild.
“Being in love,” writes psychologist Eric Jaffe, “makes people feel optimistic, energetic, focused and motivated, which were all positive for health and societal contribution in the early days of humans.”
Estaba en la cima del mundo. I was on top of the world.
The relationship lasted two months before she broke up with me. She said that her ex-boyfriend, who she had been with for two years, had cheated on her and used her, and she was afraid to get into a relationship with me for fear that the same thing would happen.
I argued that I was a different kind of guy. Un chico verdadero, a straight-up guy. I promised that I wouldn’t use her, that I wouldn’t cheat on her, but she wasn’t convinced that she wouldn’t get hurt.
The conversation continued in texts, but she wouldn’t budge. She was stubborn, obstinada. Her mind was made up: pensó y decidió. She’d thought about it and decided.
It wouldn’t be me.
Mi corazón fue roto. My heart was broken.
Psychologist Eric Jaffe wrote that “Neuroimaging studies have shown that brain regions involved in processing physical pain overlap considerably with those tied to social anguish. The connection is so strong that traditional bodily painkillers seem capable of relieving our emotional wounds. Love may actually hurt, like hurt hurt, after all.”
Estaba triste. I was sad. As sad as I was when I lost mi abuelo, my grandfather. As sad as when I lost a friend in a car accident. As sad as the people on a movie screen who are experiencing sadness. I was deprimido, depressed. Inside I felt muerto. Dead. I lost interest in everything. I stopped doing my homework. I stopped talking to my friends. I didn’t eat much. My parents didn’t notice. Eventually, I told a couple of my friends, who were sympathetic because they had been through the same thing.
I still think about her, and I hope she finds the right guy for her. I hope I find the right girl for me, but so far, no e encontrado a la correcta. I haven’t found the right one.
This is my gift to love.
Love is when you can’t be apart from someone for too long.
You always think of them, and when you’re with them you never want to say goodbye.
Love is far from simple.
It’s quite complex.
It’s a mix of everything. It’s sadness, joy, passion, hatred, excitement. It’s almost every feeling you can imagine and more.
You know love when you find it.
It’s that person that when they smile, it brightens up your day. You can’t stop staring at them for fear of losing them.
They are always on your mind.
You daydream of being with them, even if they’re less than twenty feet away.
And you can’t stand it when they’re not with you.
You can’t tell when love will happen, you just know when it does.
That moment when you first lay eyes on that person, and you never want to look away.
That is love, nothing less.