I hate Ciprofloxacin. It’s an antibiotic, one of the harshest. Most prescriptions of the stuff last a week. My prescription, however, lasts a month, and I’ve been on it one week, long enough to have it doing its ill effects. Not my first time on it; hopefully it is my last. UTI‘s are a bitch.
One of the worst side effects of cipro, aside from stomach cramping, excess acid production, the requirement to supplement your digestive bacteria with yogurt, chance of tendon ruptures, fatigue, and insomnia, is that cipro makes me paranoid. Not “the feds are out to get me” paranoia, but the “o god, I didn’t say that the wrong way, did I?” kind. Sure enough, it makes my social awkwardness that much worse. Like I needed the help.
Typically, I can go to the coffeeshop and hang out with others or alone. If someone comes to visit my table, I can greet them, invite them to sit, and we chat. Or, if I visit a friend at theirs, the chatter is good and friendly. Not so on cipro. I kinda stand there and watch it all happen. I see myself doing it, but the thought never occurs to me to quit the creepiness. I just see the unfitting awkwardness, get uncomfortable, and excuse myself as I walk away. I don’t like it; not in the least.
Sometimes I think I’m turning into that old, creepy man who’s got the stink on him that everyone can smell. The guy people put up with only because he’s a customer. And that’s the paranoia talking; I must keep that in mind at all times while I’m on this stuff. Sure, when I grow up I want to be a dirty old man, but don’t want to be a creepy old man. There’s a marginal difference between the two: one is more socially adept; the other just lecherously leers from an uncomfortable distance.
On Valentine’s Day, in a twist of synchronicity, CNN published an article detailing a study on the neurology of love. According to study results, that new-ness and need for exploration I felt earlier in the week was a hunger for what can likewise be called an addiction. In the study, test volunteers, newly in love, were presented with photographs of their lovers and their brains were monitored. When they saw their lover:
the scientists found that the caudate area of the brain — which is involved in cravings — became very active. Another area that lit up: the ventral tegmental, which produces dopamine, a powerful neurotransmitter that affects pleasure and motivation.
I remember that craving, that high, and I miss it like someone in recovery. The addiction to being around someone is definitely neurological:
Dr. Helen Fisher put it: When you fall in love, “exactly the same system becomes active as when you take cocaine. You can feel intense elation when you’re in love. You can feel intense elation when you’re high on cocaine.”
The article goes on to state that romantic love isn’t really an emotion, but rather it is an innate need that works below reason, emotion, and logic. We need love at the root of it all. We also try to avoid rejection; love it or leave it, rejection brings us actual pain. It’s true. Another study by the same researchers found that when volunteers who had recently been dumped were presented with pictures of their exes:
The insular cortex, the part of the brain that experiences physical pain, became very active. “People came out of the machine crying,” [Dr. Brown] said. “We won’t be doing that experiment again for a long time.”
On the face of it, this research appears to suck some of the romanticism out of romance, but underneath, it actually supports the concept. Everyone has the need for it; everyone has the capability for providing it. The complication is found in all the layers of crap we place on top of it; the Ritual, the Dance, the waiting three days before calling the number handed to you at a party, the preening and posturing to be bigger and more cocksure than the twenty roosters before you and the twenty after. The best tactic is to relax and be your awesome self; be honest, be genuine, listen to your needs. It sounds like good advice. Maybe it is.
The other day a feeling passed over me and stuck. It spawned a thought concerning past relationships (an ill ground to tread repeatedly, yes, but it is what I have left to keep). My first relationship, even though it failed miserably, there was something there in those first months that was special: the blind innocence, the exploration. I was treading new ground. We were treading new ground.
It is The Fool who leads the Major Arcana of the tarot, and here it is quite fitting: The Fool begins the journey with great intent, great ignorance, great innocence. Every turn in the road is new to him. Every sight, eye-opening. Every experience a life lesson.
And it was with that Fool-like abandon that we learned, we explored our relationship, we loved. The nervousness, the giddiness; I had no idea what I was doing or what I was supposed to be thinking or saying, but I learned. And it’s been a long, long time since I felt that new-ness. Maybe I’m jaded. Maybe I’ve seen too much. Maybe I’ve pushed the boundaries too far, and now I seldom brush against them — that’s where the real pleasure of something new exists. My world was small back then, so every boundary was new (my world’s small now, but in a grownup way, I guess). I was a simple boy from Texarkana fumbling into this relationship; and now I’m this jaded adult going on his 9th year without a steady relationship. One night stands are a poor substitute; in them, you have no space to explore, just something “new” and then you move on with no time to savor, learn, and enjoy. Almost no chance to brush the boundaries.
I want to feel that new-ness again, the simmering beneath the surface, the coy smiles, the exploration, the trial and error. Can I feel that? Can I go back to the beginning? I feel this burden to already have it figured out when I go into a relationship; is this a requirement for today’s woman? Can I drop the pretense, be honest and make another attempt at innocence?