The first line of Crush Index by Anne Boyer, from her book of essays A Handbook of Disappointed Fate, I understand as an assignment: “1. Notes Toward a Theory of the Crush, Crush Discourse, Ma Vie en Crush.”
In Like Someone in Love, a lyric-essay addendum to her film-essay, Love Dog, Masha Tupitsyn writes of fatedness, of destinal qualities. Moments are fraught with philosophy, singled out for significance. Love never materializes, or rather, relations with romantic potential never shift into the romantic. “I am waiting,” she says.
I have waited/wasted time for so many crushes. The duration of the crush is a larger waiting, and in the waiting, a wanting and, sometimes, an approach, a hope. Tupitsyn writes of agency in her quest for love. We are our own protagonists. Straight white men have written our books about love and have disseminated the narrative of the often-feminized passive lover. It is a myth.
I am haunted by the image of Tupitsyn’s Marnay moon at the blue hour; it is familiar, I have lived it, it is a mirror, this moon hanging over the fields at a writing residency. Loving and crushing and wanting and desiring is ancillary to creation, a necessary by-product of the writing, which is procreative; desire energy is creation energy.
It is possible to love in a dozen different simultaneous ways, so that you alone are responsible for your love. What is a crush? It is not (only) romantic or sexual, it is astrological, interpersonal, friend-ish. It can be kind, gentle, a reaching across space.
There is pleasure in enjoying the company of a person you are attracted to. In listening to the rumble of the bass in their voice, of watching the muscles move under their freckled skin, in watching their faces change as they talk, as they listen, as they laugh. To see them live in real time does something to you. What is the thing? According to Roland Barthes’s A Lover’s Discourse: Fragments, fascination is “the end of language.” At the end of language is the beginning of the haptic, the tangible, the “common characteristics” of the other: their hair, their teeth, their freckles, their knees, the shape of their lips, their smile, their height. What is desired in the other’s body speaks to something about the self, in other words, one is reflected in the crush, twinned.
A pattern of preoccupation that I have: L’s wide curls framing his angular jaw, the way J’s haloes his ears, the thickness of T’s dark mop, A’s dark, contiguous eyebrow, M’s singularly black scruff, D’s tight, springy black coils fingered into twists.
The city as crush pulls together Boyer’s theory of longing as cosmopolitanism. “The way all the people of past longing combine with those of the present longing.” Barthes finds in the notion of Paris as adorable the notion of the adorableness of the other, as a Whole. The city: its architectures and the movements of its populations (they enliven the city) contain my affect. The city is my crush. The city, or a particular building or stretch of street or apartment.
The stone steps of the Foundation Building in the sun
rue Monge between rue Censier and Rue de Mirbel
the ateliers of l’Ecole des Beaux-Arts
the sloping architectural space of the Glassell School of Art
the branches of live oak arching over North Boulevard
These cities have gently held my desire, their architecture absorbing my affect: New York, Paris, Houston.
Cities hold other cities, and their affects: Houston’s light rail contains something of Paris’s tram. Paris’s elevated metro contains Queens’s elevated 7 line. These liminal spaces have all contained my feelings, train cars full of feelings. The breathlessness of standing electrifyingly close to L on the line 13 as it pulled into the Gare de Lyon, a kiss imminent. Climbing the stairs out of station Censier Daubenton, glancing up at the lit window where friends and crushes gathered. The heat in the face as my knee pressed hotly against D’s knee, before we part at Museum District. A city inside a city, affect within affect, continuously retracing, and finding more, more.
In writing my crushes, I participate in Jonathan Flateley’s “antidepressive melancholia,” avoiding, in my case, and by way of interrogation, feelings of melancholy. A distancing. A coping strategy. Tupitsyn on embarking for the residency at Marnay, pulling the four of swords: intellect in retreat.
As Barthes illuminates, the crush (an amorous exercise) and melancholia are inseparable. Boyer’s line from her essay Erotology: “You hold their face in your face.” Geminal, the Lover’s card is an echo.
“We are citizens of longing for the world.”
If the lover’s discourse is one of solitude, or of one and one, the crush is the common: many of us find community by confessing our crush. Germinal, the crush is a seed: for later love, for friendship, and for revolution.
Texts referenced include:
Barthes, Roland, and Richard Howard. A Lover’s Discourse: Fragments, 1978.
Boyer, Anne. A Handbook of Disappointed Fate, Ugly Duckling Presse, 2018.
Flatley, Jonathan. Affective Mapping, Harvard University Press, 2008.
Tupitsyn, Masha. Like Someone In Love: An Addendum to Love Dog, Penny-Ante Editions, 2013.
LYRIC HUNTER’s poetry and prose can be found online at Counter, Cordella, and Organism for Poetic Research. She is the author of two chapbooks, Motherwort (Guillotine, 2017), and Swallower (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2014). She earned her MFA in Creative Writing from Pratt Institute. She currently lives in New York.