How to Fall in (and out) of Love: A Step-By-Step Guide


By Daniela Mardero

A Step-By-Step Guide to Finding, Getting, Loving, and Losing The Girl

One: Finding

A wise internet quote once said, “The right person at the wrong time is still the wrong person.” But you’ll meet her at the right time. When everything is finally calm and still, when the ocean waves have finally given up trying to kiss the shore. She’ll come in at you like a tsunami, raging and beautiful, with the promise of total destruction.

I can’t tell you where you’ll find her. A crowded bar where you’ll spill your beer down her dress, a lecture hall, a gym where you’ll watch her, jaw reaching a scientifically-impossible latitude, doing squats in her spandex. I can tell you only that when you find her, every civilized instinct in your body will disappear entirely. You’ll suddenly feel five years old again, impulsive as hell, a total disregard for consequence. You’ll find her like a giant red “X” on a makeshift pirate map, you’ll find her like the home you grew up in. We’ll call this moment “Love At First Sight.” It’s not love yet, don’t be irrational, but while she’s holding the promise of total destruction, you’re holding, on your left, an empty fist where your self-control and logic once sat (they slid through your fingers like strands of her hair should), and on your right, the promise of love.

At this stage, it is of utmost important that you remain calm. Take deep breaths and small sips of water. Suppress any and all sudden urges to a) curl into the fetal position and weep, b) attempt a confident sashay towards her while reciting lines from Shakespeare that you likely have not accurately memorized, or c) run away. It is important to note that while A and B have a (microscopic) chance of being forgiven, C will catalyze a lifetime of regret, often coupled with substance abuse and/or a futile search for her in every crowded room you find yourself in. Here, I can tell you only to forget your own first name, offer a clumsy yet sincere, compliment, and do not walk away until you have her name, number, and face burned into your retinas.

Studies have shown many possible side effects of Finding, including but not limited to: insomnia, obsessive tendencies, infatuation, chain smoking, heightened sense of purpose and bliss, a surge in sexual appetite, an enhanced concern over your less-than-average good looks, a new-found resentment toward male-models, an unprecedented need for self-control, teeth grinding, sore smile muscles, a loss of priority (usually resulting in the neglect of every important thing in your life besides Her), singing in the shower, and sudden remorse over not being artistically talented enough to paint a picture of her face that could rival the Mona Lisa (although in my humble opinion, the Mona Lisa is a passionless piece of shit).

Two: Getting

You’ll exert more energy in the beginning of this phase than you have in all your living years combined. You’ll leave sticky notes on every surface of your home encouraging you to wait at least three days before calling. You will not wait three days before calling. You’ll call her that night. Dial her number four, six, eight times; hanging up before it ever had the chance to ring. You’ll pace around your room like a madman, smoke enough cigarettes to simultaneously cause lung cancer and force you to take out a second mortgage. Finally, you’ll let it ring. The sound of her voice over the phone will sound like chicken soup, or warm cookies, or the culmination of every want and need you’ve ever felt. It is very likely that you will once again forget your own first name.

I can’t tell you what to say to her. I can tell you only that you will love her harder than anyone has loved before, and that human beings can never be homes. She’s too volatile, too free. You’ve already forgotten that she’s a tsunami, haven’t you? She’s a wild stampede; you are the dust of desert sand. I tried to warn you.

Three: Loving

It is okay that you forgot your first name. You don’t need it anymore. Your first name is the way the lighting falls tangent on her cheeks in a two-star restaurant on your first date. Love her like a maniac. Love her like a schizophrenic wearing the same orange suit every day.

The first time you kiss her, either a) go 90°, she will go 10° or, b) fall on her like an avalanche, taste her lips like red velvet cake, hold her with such passion that your colours bleed into her like a fist fight, leave bruises in the shape of your fingerprints on her cheeks, chin, neck, shoulders, hair. Your first name is the scent of her hair.

The first time you make love, you will play these heaven-scented strands of her hair like an electric guitar. The first time you make love, you will finger-paint every square millimeter of her body like it is your vocation. Your first name is the dimples on her back. Your first name is the seraphic curve of her breast. Your first name the way her breath stains itself in the hot air, on your ugly sheets, on your skin, on your skin, on your skin. These are stains you will never wash clean.

The morning after your first night with her, you will wake to her wearing your t-shirt. You will not care about morning breath. You will not worry about seeing each other’s bodies in the exposing light of day. No, you will instead slow dance into your kitchen, messy hair, stained bodies. You will cook a breakfast (that should be lunch) of scrambled eggs, fried potatoes; butter drenched toast, and bacon. This will be the greatest meal of your life. This will be the meal that destroys the chance of satisfaction at every Christmas, Thanksgiving, and birthday dinner to come. This is the meal that every man on death row has recreated for his last supper. How else can I put it? This is the meal — or the cake — that inspired Richard Harris to write McArthur Park, a mystery only to those who’ve yet to love so hard that they forget their first names. And this is how you lose her.

Four: Losing

A wiser internet quote once said, “the wrong person at the wrong time will leave you in a catastrophic heap on the ground.” They will hire search and rescue teams to gather your remains. They will piece you back together like a jigsaw puzzle. I tried to warn you. She came in like a tsunami, holding only the promise of total destruction. She left quietly, softly, in waves resonating further and further away.

Every night after your first, you will lose her a little more. It starts in paces so small that only hindsight could see them. They say that your nose never stops growing; from the moment you are conceived to the moment that even the blood in your veins loses the strength to move. This, exactly this, is how you lose her. Small steps, nothing the naked eye can see. But one day, you’re seventy-five and your nose has suddenly quadrupled in size.

She’ll leave you on a cold night, and you’ll never feel more alone. She’ll leave you after a fistfight, after your words have left each other looking like fallen soldiers of war. She’ll leave you empty. Empty fridge, empty bed, empty stomach. Empty. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

You’ll call your parents who’ll bring you a hug, a kiss, and a “please don’t move back in with us.” You’ll tell your friends who will offer you condolences like gift baskets after a funeral. You will plan your funeral. You will write mental suicide notes in the shower, “Dear Samantha, fuck you.” “Dear Diane, I hope your next fuck gives you syphilis.” “Dear She Whose Name I Shall Not Say,”

You will sift through one-night stands trying to find her. Bring home girls with the same colour hair she had, or the same first name. You will become religious, handing out prayers like pamphlets no one will ever read. You will pray for her death, for her life to be miserable, for her to come back to you like a dog that’s run away to die at the wrong time. You’ll watch Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind so many times that the disc refuses to play anymore. You will listen to “Fuck It (I Don’t Want You Back)” on repeat.

You will practice destruction. You will rinse your mouth with acetone. Shave your head, grow a beard, scrub the underside of your fingernails until they bleed out every last one of her skin cells. You will take up the art of arson. Make a career of setting fire to your life with her. Your bed sheets, your pillows, your bed. Every place you fucked her. Every place you told her you loved her. You will set fire to the ashes. You will start smoking the cigarettes you quit for her. Your lung cancer will come back, so will your second mortgage. You will pay psychics, magicians, self-help authors to either bring her back or take her away.

You will exhaust. You will collapse. You will have used up all the fire. You will teach yourself how to stand, how to spell, how to fall asleep. You will find all the pieces. You will find them like blood diamonds. You will find them buried in sand, lost in forests, drowned in seas. You will find them slowly, patiently. You will find a new bed. You will find a new meal. You will find, suddenly, all at once, on a Sunday afternoon, that in tiny, microscopic bits, you’ve left her. You’ve forgotten the sound of her voice, the colour of her hair, the number of freckles she held like prisoners on her skin. You will get a new job — in a bank or in retail or a school. You will date girls, some nothing like her, some with traces of her you fail to notice. You will enroll in adult education, find hobbies, find passions, start collections, read magazines, learn to speak Mandarin.

You will remember your first name.

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Daniela Mardero

Some kinda writer. On a steady diet of books and black coffee.

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