You and I

Maybe it’s just me, but I feel an unspoken tension in all spaces I occupy, except those with strangers. Perhaps it’s because strangers have no experience of me. There is nothing unspoken when there is nothing to assume, nothing to judge, nothing to say. Something about occupying a room with a stranger brings me peace. We are both bare—excused from expecting anything from each other, shielded from the harm we could cause each other, and free from any commitments to each other. 

On the other hand, there is an unbearable tension between you and me, because we have a past. There are many “you”’s in this story, and maybe that’s what makes it so complicated.

You and I went on two dates. It felt normal and stable. We talked about life and death and nonsensical gossip; we went on spontaneous Joey rides and studied together in quiet cafés. But my brain convinced me our stability was unsteady, and suddenly I was telling you I couldn’t see you any longer. Doubt surfaces in my mind when I hear your name, and I’m left in suspense by the unexplored. Yet we still occupy the same spaces, sharing niceties. There is the occasional weekend greeting that we exchange behind screens, but neither of us dares to go any further—remembering my incomprehensible actions. Maybe I let go too soon, but I have made peace with the tension in my head. The suspense will have to keep. 

You and I went on three dates over the span of six months. I always felt like we were an awkward pair—dancing in hushed hallways and cramped living rooms of off-campus houses, pretending we were the best pong partners of all time, and stealing kisses over the register. I flirted for the thrill, but your continued interest made me wonder if we could be more. Even so, I got tired of the sweetness. It began to feel too cozy for the calamity in my head. I postponed our plans until one rescheduled date was indefinitely “to be determined.” 

You and I almost dated. We snuck kisses in the dark and sang melodies to each other in the grass. We ran around in the rain and met in the nighttime to avoid getting caught by our parents. Making public what we had meant admitting that I felt something real, and I wasn’t sure if I was ready to escape our secret world. But all secrets are eventually bound to come out. Questions about what we were flooded in; the sweet well-wishes and communal happiness for our relationship overwhelmed me. I knew that the comfort of it all meant its collapse would come soon, or at least that’s what my brain convinced me to be true. The chaotic question storm assured me that the tension that would follow after ending things between us would be worth it—to rid the turbulence. I left your text messages asking what went wrong unopened until the communication eventually went silent. 

You and I couldn’t date. We met through a friend, and I was immediately attracted to you, but I couldn’t pursue it because I was too scared of what it meant. I was living under faulty labels, but I knew no way of stifling my complacency. Thankfully, my old habits of ending “what-ifs” saved me.  

This last pair is the most confusing: the relationship I have with myself. I can’t desert my own mind. I can’t beg the tension to go away or force it to leave. There is no solution to our tension. 

My mind misinterprets normality for unrest, and I have a hard time staying in one place at a time. Maybe it’s my ADHD, or maybe it’s more than that. Maybe my mind cannot remain still, continually wanting to neglect relationships with other people even when my mind is repeatedly imploring itself to take the chance. This dysfunction causes me to move from place to place, person to person, and task to task, forgetting where I came from and what I am looking for. Honestly, I’m not sure if I know anything besides imbalance. 

The turmoil I live with convinces me to mix this new revelation into the jumbled pot and stir, telling me that none of it is a problem. It asks me whether I am even sure if I want the tension to go away. After all, I quite often crave it. 

But I know that old wounds have a way of stealing relationships, and I don’t want them to steal my newfound power. The tension that permeates throughout my relationships with others will continue to be unavoidable until I figure out how to heal the tension within myself. I have watched relationships fall apart in front of me without uttering a word, choosing to exit the room instead. I have let myself create relationships without untangling the complexities I have with myself. From now on, I come first. 

There’s always been a pressure to figure it all out—to know what I want from people and from myself. Here I am—engulfed in my tense world, and I don’t know all the answers yet. The world is begging me to stay put, remain calm, and bask in confusion. As I contemplate how to cope with this, I give myself grace, and release. 

The tension will eventually fail to constrict my body. The tension will become my peace.