puzzles and simmering

“You’ll be next, Kate.”

My friend said happily as we gathered together, catching up over dinner. Just a minute ago, everyone was gushing over their happy announcement of finally being in a relationship. Now, the whole table’s attention shifted towards me. The only single person in our little group.

At that time, this has already been a constant presence at the back of my mind, simmering for weeks, months– heck, even the past year. Not just being in a relationship but the idea of romance and all other kinds of attraction and how I experience and have been experiencing them in my mere twenty-something years in this floating rock. I’d always thought this personal riddle of mine was straightforward, like a nine-piece children’s puzzle you’d buy at Toys R Us. But over the past couple years, I’ve found no one ever really has just a nine-piece puzzle and what I have is actually a thousand-piece jigsaw. I’ve only completely figured out less than a quarter of it. Like a cauldron simmering, not quite there yet.

Still, I was comfortable with its incompletion. Happy to keep the cauldron simmering for as long as it needs. Happy with the parts I’ve figured out and I have allowed myself time and space I need to work out the rest. I am not in a hurry, not really.

“Oh no,” I said lightly. “I’m perfectly happy right now.”

“But don’t you ever imagine what it’ll be like to fall for someone and be with them?”

“Not really… I do want a pet bird, though.” I added. I’ve always loved birds and been immensely wanting to get one for years. To me, that felt like the same intense yearning as what my friend was asking.

The whole table laughed. Then my friend said, “Well, I’m sure you’ll experience it soon. You’ll know it when you feel it.”

I knew it was a lighthearted statement. I knew they had zero intention of being insensitive or hurtful. They are not aware of the internal shuffling of puzzle pieces that I’ve been doing for a while. The conspicuous cauldron simmering inside my very mind. Of course, of course, it was a common thing to say in this type of situation.

And yet.

I despised the comment. I despised the certainty upon which they spoke it. Because that is the mold many pour themselves over. But what if I don’t fit that mold? What if the pouring never happens? What if I don’t want to pour myself? What if I’m happy staying in the cauldron, simmering, forever?

I admit now, I was not happy with myself for lowkey going off my friend. I challenged their idea, asked them all of these “what if”s. In hindsight, I felt like I was backing them into a corner they weren’t aware of. Because they aren’t. They don’t know about the cauldron – no one does. I am only happy I caught myself. The subject, and the night, ended in a lighter mood.

It’s been months and months now, and I still think about that night.

Since then, I’ve told only two people – two of my closest, most trusted confidants – about my personal findings. About the puzzle, the simmering. (Though I didn’t really choose those words per se.) I did share a bit of the half-cooked crumbs with a couple more close friends but beyond that, no one else.

To be perfectly honest, when I wrote the first three-quarters of this post, I was in a very different mental and emotional state than where I am now finishing this draft. I have now forgotten where exactly I wanted to go with this anecdote.

I’m sure it’s something about molds, and boxes, and puzzles, and simmering.

Because I’ve been using that a lot here. (lol) But truly, those are words that have been on my mind for a while.

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