Writers Retreat’ is a new exercise I’m doing with Nive Gajiwala, Shachi Nelli, Abhay Puri, and Pearce Watson, four aspiring writers who happen to be friends of mine.
Every day, one of us will suggest a brief to the group. The challenge is to produce 500-750 words, on that day, on the assigned topic.
Day 4’s topic is ‘Love or Lust: What’s the Difference?’, assigned by Nive.
This fabulous story was written by my dear friend Abhay Puri. You can read my response here.
– The world would be a better place if there was only lust. No complications, no worries.
You nod and think about her words, but you know they are impossible, wistful.
– Who cares? These are just labels, anyway, the internet says so. Sometimes the lust of a day can mean more than love you’ve known for years, sometimes a senseless release is just easier than the heavy, tangled mess that every relationship eventually twists itself into. As long as you’re happy, what’s the difference?
But even as you say them, you know these words are just part of an image you’re keeping up, that you don’t know her well enough to tell her what you really think, that you are lying, if only in some partial and harmless way.
You wish that you didn’t know the difference, but lust is only ever a starting point, a moment, a few encounters. It is a thrill, a club bathroom in Berlin, some girl’s dorm room you knew you would never see again, the back of a car. It is a tonic, usually fueled by a drink or a void or something less definable, a rush of a few minutes or hours or days. Maybe longer, if you’re lucky.
It’s easy to trigger, just an inch of skin or a flirtatious look or a few words are usually enough. It’s disorienting, amazing, usually absurd, it becomes something to chase, something to remember, but it fades away into the world, into a vague longing and regret that occasionally bubbles up. You know it’s good, sometimes you’re powerless to stop it, but it’s still not love.
Maybe you’re old-fashioned, you don’t know how to forget or to set limits, but love is more, different, deeper. You know how it feels because you remember the stomach sinking, the same anxious, breathless fear that feels like some kind of withdrawal. You remember these disparate moments, different girls, but the same addiction, the few that sink you every time even when you try to control your mind.
It’s different because of what you know, because you remember a dimple or a position or a shy embarrassed smile that was only for you. It’s different because you know her insecurities and her dreams and the weird things you would tell each other and the nicknames and stupid conversations nobody else will ever know about. It’s different because there’s never enough time, because you know how fragile everything is, because you can’t believe there can be so much pain in the world when she is in it too, because you know her dog or her mother or her biggest secret from school.
It’s different because you know how she is stupid about things you can never understand, you know the things she does that hurt you, but you still want her to come back, you know she’ll be there. It’s different because you’ve been everywhere together, because you changed each other, because of the comfort that makes you feel like you’re home. It’s different because when you wake up, it feels empty, because she’s your first thought. Because airports and taxis and phones and even fucking chopsticks remind you of her in some way or another.
It’s different because of the pain, because it doesn’t end, because you’re vulnerable and lost. It’s definitely worse, actually, so why are you chasing it? Why don’t you just play the game with this one and continue this conversation?