You are probably a Crackhead
“Are you a crackhead?”
If you are presently in the dating pool or are a serial-monogamist, you might be a crackhead. Before I explain, let’s consider the first lines of these classic novels.
“When Gregor Samsa woke up one morning from unsettling dreams, he found himself changed in his bed into a monstrous vermin.”
Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
“Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.”
One Hundred Years of Solitude Gabriel Garcia Marquez
“Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
An opening sentence can motivate you to buy a book made up of 300 pages. Expectations make the most out of the littlest things. Consider those novels you’ve bought and began because of the beginning only to put them away in a bookshelf for them to never be opened again. Or worse, those novels you read to the end only to regret the invested time.
So much of what motivates us to get to the end of the novel is the same thing that motivates us to commit in other areas of life; novelty. Something new. Something original. Something unusual.
How many of our present commitments, be they jobs, relationships or netflix series are the result of how were were introduced to them? Did we commit because we were realistic about what was to come or because we fell in love with the job ad, instagram profile or opening scene?
I’ve been a barista, waiter, busboy, call-center rep, teacher, professor and factory worker. I had to interview for all them. I’ve learned a job interview is a two way street. Not only are you being interviewed, but you’re interviewing the prospective boss. So just like you have your script and strategy, your prospective boss has theirs. Is this artificial? Maybe. What we know for sure is that the interview is only an opening line and not the novel. Regret could be waiting right around the corner.
Remember the first few days of the semester? You expect all As and Bs no matter how many writing intensive courses on your schedule. In the beginning everything is possible. By the time midterm exams come up reality sets in. You realize there are only so many hours in a day and so much willpower in a person. Expectations fucked your head over.
According to Psychology Today, “Falling in love is like smoking crack cocaine.” The article asks, “Would you leap into marriage after smoking crack cocaine?” Before answering that first ask yourself: Am I a crackhead? For most of you the answer is yes. If you’re addicted to a very narrow and mainstream idea of what love in a romantic relationship is than you might be a crackhead.
The beginning of a relationship is just you getting high off expectations. Those late night phone calls when you’re apart and pillow talks when you’re close will mature into cold-silences and passive aggressive acts. This is storyline is common. And if you’ve experienced this it’s because you were on crack.
So we’ve established that you are crackheads. The next question is why are you crackhead? Same reason why crackheads are crackheads; forces greater than you and your significant other.
The U.S. government has acknowledged that the U.S. Department under Ronald Reagan funded drug traffickers, an act that would ultimately lead to the crack epidemic of the 1980s and early 1990s.
What does this crime against poor black and brown people tell us about our ideas on love? It shows us that we have internalized ideas that have trickled down from the top. Once you acknowledge that you’re a crackhead because of powers greater than you, you look at your addiction differently. Instead of thinking about CIA operatives planting crack in inner-cities, think about what Disney movies, romantic comedies and telenovelas taught you about love. So much of your requirements, expectations, and ultimatums related to love are not really even yours.
Now, let’s consider the original question: Would you leap into marriage after smoking crack? The beginning will always be the beginning. There is no way around it. That hit of new love will always lead to a high. How does one resist the urge to commit and jump into a relationship from that high up? How does one wait until the “come down” before jumping from that high up? I don’t know. I suspect one needs patience and cynicism.
Patience is simple. Wait. You wait. Wait it out. The story that begins with, “I knew when we met” sometimes ends with, “But life’s great since the divorce.” The beginning rarely hints at the end. Even when it does we only notice in retrospect. You don’t know. No one knows. And if they claim to know they’re probably on crack. A relationship is not understood, but experienced. Time passing next to the same person experiencing change. Therefore wait before claiming someone is the one. Before saying, “I’ve found the one,” be cynical and say, “I can waste my time with this one.”
In the Psychology Today article Shauna H. Springer compares the beginning of a relationship phase to the rush of cocaine, “[a] highly pleasurable bonding based on the mutual fantasy that you and the other person are ideally matched and perfectly suited for each other.”
You are a crackhead thanks to Ronald Reagan’s U.S. Department and Disney Movies. So you must never trust yourself. They tell you to follow your instincts. What they don’t tell you is that impulses are often mistaken for instincts.
You will certainly relapse in the future. So prepare yourself for the fall. Brace yourself for the fuckery love produces in the brain. Drink milk before going out drinking. It’s been reported that milk coats the stomach which absorbs the alcohol and helps with the future hangover.
FYI: By milk I don’t mean leche. I mean milk. Preparing means telling each other your darkest, most embarrassing secrets. We present our best selves on first dates and job interviews. It’s not until the workload becomes unbearable that weaknesses begin to show. We find ourselves exposed. Seeing a partner naked for the first time without the aura of novelty feels like betrayal. A person in clothes is the rarely the same person naked.
Don’t drink the milk and qualities you liked in your partner become an unexpected problem a year into the relationship. The reason why he doesn’t like PDA, which you love because PDA is tacky, is the same reason why he’s cold while watching Netflix in your living room. And because you didn’t drink milk in the beginning, you can’t figure out why. Not until one day his brother tells you his mother tapped kissed him in front of his classmates in the fourth grade, creeping out his classmates and teachers, and planting a seed of shame that shades your relationship today.
Or maybe it’s darker. Turns out the girl you’ve been dating for a few weeks owns a rabbit. The rabbit endeared her to you because it showed how nurturing she could be. Well, it turns out the reason she owns a rabbit as an adult is because she’s trying to redeem herself. She killed two as a kid, one accidentally.
Imagine if we drank milk long before we got drunk in love? Now imagine if the shame and guilt ridden moments in our past were known from the onset? We would sober up a lot sooner and have a more manageable hangover. A book review that tells you the book drags in the middle, but worth getting through because of the ending. The movie critic who tells you to wait until the movie comes out on DVD.
There is a problem with being straight up with a prospective partner at the beginning. The complete truth about you might turn them off. But that’s OK because you’ve saved each other time. Another potential problem is that some people might romanticize your traumatic experience. You tell a potential partner that older cousins pressured you to have sex with a grown woman at a young age and they respond with, “So you’re experienced.”
The worse reaction to telling someone your truth is that they might they might accept you for you and tell you their truth. This possibility is terrifying because it’s full of unlimited potential. It means being finally seen. A close friend even if only for a limited amount of time. The lesson being that sometimes your soulmate is not the love you marry, but the one friend that remains.
John Paul “JP” Infante is a Dominican-American teacher and writer in New York City. He teaches high school and writing workshops throughout the city. He's taught creative writing at Lehman College of CUNY and holds an MFA in fiction from the New School for General Studies. His fiction, nonfiction and poetry can be found in Kweli Journal, The Poetry Project, Uptown Collective, Hip-Not Magazine and Manhattan Times.
His short story "Without a Big One" is a nominee for the O Henry Award and The Best American Short Stories 2019.
His writing has received the following accolades: The Bernard L. Einbond Memorial Prize and The Aaron Hochberg Family Award for fiction; Winner of DTM magazine’s “Latino Identity in the U.S.” essay contest; NY State Summer Writers Institute scholarship recipient; and 2013 Northern Manhattan Artists Alliance grantee for writing.
Follow him at https://www.instagram.com/infantejp/?hl=en