The beginning doesn’t usually matter in the end. You met each other at a party. Your girlfriend guilted you into coming, his cousin forced him to show up. You both drag on about how you don’t want to be there. You don’t remember what else you talked about because you were only stalling for time, giving him an opportunity to ask for your number. He makes it casual, takes the pressure off. You put it into his phone so he doesn’t have to ask how to spell your name. You leave separately; he knows not to push his luck.

From this point on it is a power struggle.

The time it takes for either of you to return a text. The number of times you agree to meet up instead having other plans. If he asks you out last minute. If the phone rings after 10pm. How many calls either of you take or ignore in front of each other. Who listens and who gets distracted. Who lingers longer after you kiss. Who leans forward and who leans away. Who gets nervous and who gets bored. Who is busy and who is not. Who keeps their eyes open and who lets them close. Who ends the conversations.

For all the confusing aspects there are to falling in love with someone, there is something that if we’re paying attention close enough is always obvious. It happens between everything else. Everything seems normal; you show up on time, you smile, you laugh at a joke. But you’ve lost interest and he starts to panic. No one planned this, no one saw it coming. You didn’t make the decision, the decision made you. Something shifted and you wish it didn’t but you know there’s no going back. The minute it changes he feels it. He doesn’t know what it is, he thinks he did something wrong, but he knows he’s lost you. The power has shifted. When he kisses you he is trying to pull you back over to his side, and you’re already thinking about someone else. He takes your hand and walks next to you. You’re suddenly aware of your heart pulsing in your fist, your ring finger in an awkward position, not knowing how to adjust it . It doesn’t feel right. You pull away and he tries to make plans for next time. The harder he tries the further away you drift.

We know when the power shifts, when the energy in someone changes; when they become bored of you, when there’s nothing left you can do. We feel it when a delayed text means something, when a one word answer says a lot. A girl walks into the room and he wishes he could talk to her. And you can’t explain it to your friends because everything is normal, the conversations are the same, but nothing is the same.

We’ve all been both people. We’ve fallen out of love and watched someone fall out of love with us. We’ve slipped out of the room and listened to someone slip. We’ve begged for an answer and begged for some space. What is it that we feel the shift of? Someone looks you in the eye across a crowded room and you can feel that he would do anything you asked and would drive anywhere you told him to if it meant finding out your name. Other times the power is not in your favor. Nothing is smooth, everything is obvious, your charm is gone. No one knows where it went, but everyone knows its gone and you’re having a conversation with yourself. Three years in a row you woke up in each other’s arms, smiling in the morning with your eyes closed. One day you blink at the sun rising and see he’s on the other side of the bed with his back to you. You don’t know why, but you know that everything is different now.

We’re powerless when the energy turns against us and we’re powerless when it pushes us together. And it’s the same thing; heavy, clear, strong, unforgiving of all the reasons you should ignore it. You show up late to a dinner party. There is someone new at the table. The minute you see each other its over. You find excuses to sit next to each other, you forget other people are there, you forget to order food, you forget to stop smiling, you forget to look at your phone, you forget to seem unavailable. It feels like everything up to that moment was just making you good for this moment. When you describe it to your mom it doesn’t sound very eventful. There was no kiss, nothing ground breaking was said to each other, you went to sleep in separate beds. You can’t describe what you like about him, but every detail feels important. His sister has a baby! His dad is really into cars! Anyone who isn’t interested in these details is not supportive of real love and they aren’t welcome at your wedding.

When you fall hard for someone who’s wrong for you, when you make someone smile by looking at them, when you can tell someone needs a hug, when you know you’ve done something wrong by the way someone says hello, when you know you’ve done something right by the way someone kisses you, when you feel someone’s about to leave you, when you want to love someone back, when silence is loud, when yelling doesn’t make you flinch, when you can’t sleep, when you sleep through everything, or even when the power is absolutely balanced for a moment in time and you are both at the mercy of what will happen next and are both willing to find out what that is.

It’s everything in between everything else, and its stronger than all of it. And it’s the only reason we want anything, and it’s the reason we want to want nothing. It’s the only thing you will remember when you retrace the map that brought you here, and it’s the only thing you’ll remember when you track the mistakes that brought you here.

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