We Are Learning to Make Fire

I have never believed in soulmates. The idea of The One, the person put on this earth to complete you, has just never sat well with me on any level. Statistically, the odds of you even finding the one person you’re destined to be with in a sprawling world of billions of people are astronomical. You have a better chance of randomly finding your first grade teacher on Chatroulette, and the odds are even greater that if you do, he’s going to show you his penis.

Even leaving aside the logistical problems, I feel mildly offended at the idea that I need to be completed. I’m already a complete person, albeit a deeply flawed one. I do believe in love (“to the depth and breadth and height/My soul can reach”) and I’m not opposed to romance. I just don’t want to be the half of a whole, because what happens when your other half goes away? You can keep your souls meeting in divine union. All I really want is a partner.

And yet.

And yet, nothing is ever that simple. If all it took was mutual respect and shared life goals and a certain amount of fondness, we’d live in a very different world. There has to be something more. Even lust is just science, boiled down to bare bones of evolutionary biology and pheromones that often lead us terribly astray (“The lads I’ve met in Cupid’s deadlock/Were- shall we say?- born out of wedlock”), and even that is fleeting.

I’ve fallen in love before. More than once, but not often enough that you could call it habit. There’s no pattern aside from an obvious predilection for boys with glasses. The variables are all different. There’s no predicting it, that maddening rush that comes when a person walks into a room and says your name just so. It’s a poorly designed scientific experiment with the methods all wrong and inexact and the subject staring dreamily off into space, doodling hearts in a spiral notebook. This has happened before and it will happen again (“Let us go then, you and I/When the evening is spread out against the sky), but I don’t know when or how.

I think it’s backwards to think we’re only able to find true love with one person in the whole world. Isn’t it more romantic in the end to think that the possibility is there at any time, an unexplained phenomenon that most of us will experience at least once in our lives? If love is neither math nor chemistry nor biology, then maybe it’s alchemy,  spinning the ordinary and everyday into gold.

*Credit where it’s due to the authors of the italics: Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Dorothy Parker, and T.S. Eliot. Title comes from Margaret Atwood.

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