Though I’ve had seemingly infinite crushes in my short, limerence-loaded life, few of them were magnetic in the way often described in pop songs. Usually my physical attractions are clipped onto the sides of more romantic lures; it’s rare for that sexual pull to exist loudly and fully as its own boisterous thing.
But three times in my life, I have met a magnet. I hope I meet many more.
“I wanna touch your knee, but very casually. I’m gonna get so near you, so I can hear you, silently sitting very, very close.”
The cute boy in my improv class is ruining my entire academic year.
His open face and unreserved grin, his sloping shoulders and sharp collarbones, his long fingers and strong arms, his tall stature, his dirty sneakers, his tight jeans, his barking laugh. I can’t handle any of it. I can handle exactly none of it.
He is very fucking distracting, in a molecular and neurological way I’ve never quite experienced before. One day I’m journaling before class begins and find my pen wandering off the page as my eyes drift toward him. He’s not even doing anything important, just goofing off with the other boys using props lying around in the classroom, but my gaze stays affixed to his form. I feel like a fucking creep. I am a fucking creep. I don’t know what to do about it.
Another day, I’m talking to some friends in the hallway, and suddenly he walks by. I absorb a cloud of his teenage-boy cologne through deep inhalations and lose my words completely. “Kate?” a pal asks me. “Kate, you just trailed off mid-sentence. What were you saying?” I can’t fucking remember what I was saying. It doesn’t matter. All that matters is the way his shoulderblades look, pressing sharply through the lines of his sweater as he saunters down the hall. Fuck.
We perform together in an improv set, and between scenes, I sit beside him in the wings. I am infinitely, uncomfortably aware of his warm thigh alongside mine. I can feel my body singing, humming, buzzing at a frequency that aches to match his. My molecules purr meltily and moonily at his. But he doesn’t even notice. I am nothing to him. I’m just some girl he kind of knows. This pull I am feeling exists only in my body and I just can’t understand how that can be true.
“I’m a magnet. And you’re a magnet. And we are pushing each other away.”
My second magnet is someone else’s boyfriend. Nothing to be done about it but feel it, and try not to feel it.
This time, at least, I am certain he’s feeling it too. We sit close together at a party, our chairs side-by-side so our eyes don’t quite meet, because that would be Too Much. Other partygoers engage us in conversation and we laugh and talk and sip our drinks, but the inches of air between us are warm and whirring. I want to get just a little closer, feel him just a little more, but I don’t. I can’t.
Flirtatiously, tipsily, I admit to him in a low tone, “I really want to make out with you, but I don’t think that’s allowed.” He smiles like the sweetest little imp and neither confirms nor denies – which is, of course, a “no.” I figured as much. I’m fine. I’ll be fine.
Once or twice, I get up from my seat, beer in hand, to totter to the bathroom. Opening the door afterward, I half-expect to see him just outside, forehead pressed to the doorjamb, mumbling, “I just had to come kiss you.” But he doesn’t. He is good. For the most part.
Past 3AM that night, when I’ve long departed the party and am half-catatonic in bed, I get a text from him: “I really wanted to make out with you tonight too.” I know he did, is the thing. It radiated off him like waves of heat. What an awful, wonderful, terrible thing.
I start avoiding parties where I know he’ll be, because resisting that magnetic pull is possible, but not pleasurable. I’m tired of torture. One evening of aching was enough.
“What is the centre between two centres of attention? Is there a centre between two centres of attention? Or only tension between two centres of attention?”
Sometimes you don’t recognize a magnet right away when you meet them. Sometimes the magnetism has to sublimate, stagnate, before it roars to life.
I meet my Sir in a Manhattan coffee shop, before I know he’s going to be my Sir, before I know he’s going to be my anything. He’s wearing a blue button-down that sets off his cornflower eyes, and the excited-but-guarded smile you flash at your Twitter crush when you’re nervous they’re not gonna like you IRL. I suppress my swooning, because we are in public, for fuck’s sake.
We’ve been talking animatedly for almost an hour before I realize the boy across from me is, indeed, a magnetic forcefield. “Would it be too intimate,” he begins, slowly, watching my eyes widen, “if we traded phones and looked at each other’s podcasts?” And then he leans across the table, ostensibly to show me his screen, but really it’s to dial that electric current up to eleven. My eyes want to slam shut as he gets that close to me, because I feel it, I feel the pull, and it’s such a rare and marvelous thing that I want to savor it in every fizzing atom of my little body.
“Love a good table-lean,” I say to him weeks later, over the phone, making fun of him for those perfect flirtations on our first date. But I know it wasn’t so much purposeful flirting as it was his desire to get closer to me. I know this because I wanted that, too.
Our second date comes after weeks of planning, sexting, flirting, and dirty-talking over the phone. I’m so nervous, I sweat through my winter coat. I’m so nervous, I swill his peppermint tea from a paper cup I’m clutching with trembling hands. I’m so nervous, I start exhibiting actual goddamn panic attack symptoms at dinner. He talks me through it all, and holds my hand, patient and forgiving and endlessly kind.
After dinner, we wait in the restaurant’s entryway for our Lyft to arrive. It’ll take us to the hotel where we’re going to fuck each other’s bodies and minds all night – but all moments until then are torture. He steps toward me and gives me a soft kiss, quick, like he’s releasing a little air from a valve so the whole machine doesn’t fucking explode. I whimper and keen and swoon forward against him, my whole body wanting the kiss to continue, but it doesn’t. Not yet.
“I feel like a magnet,” I mumble, and it has never felt more true. The heat of my skin and the knot in my gut and the twinge in my heart are all insisting: Touch this boy. But I am good, and I wait.
“Me too,” he says, the bridge of his nose pressed into mine, and then our car arrives, and we get in, and I pray for the invention of time travel solely so I can skip this goddamn car ride and be naked in bed beside this perfect boy in an instant.
I meet his eyes in the dim backseat, and I can see my smoky desire mirrored back at me. I can feel our pulses pounding in sync. I know what’s going to happen. And I know I’m going to like it.