WHIRLWIND WITHOUT WARNING

It's inexplicable what words can do to me.
  1. Last night I read the first chapter of a book that I've wanted to read for a bit (because I'd just learned it's going to be made into a film [Hollywood strikes again])
  2. and it socked me in the gut. Because I've been in two—sort of three—situations where I swear this lowkey happened to me.
  3. As I read it I realized for the first time why I spent so many months going on dating apps, messaging guys (and one lonelyheart girl), talking with them for a time—sometimes several weeks—about everything and nothing—hobbies, dreams, fears, plans, etc.—then sending them messages that included things I'd thoughtfully tailored to awaken their devotion, devouring the attention like the starving woman I was until they finally asked to meet me in person...
  4. Which is when I'd tell them I had zero interest in meeting them. I'd tell them I was afraid or insecure, that our endless conversations hadn't convinced me they were worth my time. All of which was halfway true and could be seen as considerate. However, underlying all of that was a hunger to feel the rush of being the rejecter instead of the rejected. I rationalized that as we'd only spoken online it didn't really matter: I couldn't truly hurt them. And probably I didn't hurt many—most—of them.
  5. But I think some of them were genuinely invested in my heart. And feeling yearned for enough to break someone's heart—or realistically only chip off a bit of it—was intoxicating. I strummed my fingers together and smirked into myself.
  6. In the days—a few blissful times it lasted weeks—following my refusal, I would feast, gorging myself on their guarded selfies, their pleading words, their desperate promises of a future they could see us living together... I gobbled it up like ice cream cake. Because I knew I'd miraculously succeeded in being the wanted instead of the wanter.
  7. I didn't need ecstasy or alcohol: I got high on the power of being the woman who was *wanted* that strongly, by someone with whom I did in fact feel a genuine bond, a pull strong enough that I felt twinges of guilt and sorrow for blowing them off and losing them—but not enough to stop me from casting them aside before they could inflict real pain upon me by discarding me first.
  8. Round and round my mind chanted: "He deserves it: all guys are slime driven by the urge to fuck." (Deep down I knew this wasn't true, but it was easier to focus on the lie than search for those who wanted the real thing. Safer for my eggshell heart.)
  9. The people I saw every single day knew nothing about the creature concealed within me. My coworkers. My parents. My sister. My very closest friends. No one knew. She was my most secret self, my inner stronghold: while everything else in my life was falling to quarter-life crap, she was dancing nude and breathless in the adoration of her victims.
  10. Call it cruelty. Call it self-preservation. Call it nothing. But today I am in a committed relationship—happy to be so, might I add; he's beyond good to me and I know I don't deserve anyone least of all him—yet I would be lying to you if I told you I didn't sometimes dearly miss holding that tantalizing power between my fingers.