When a person has been single for a while, they start to think they’re being pursued by the biggest love imaginable. They think love is coming for them down the street like the Grim Reaper, like an unstoppable madman with an axe. It’s there. They can feel it. They wonder what it is going to taste like, but they think they know. They look into the stars and they see it. They miss their flight and suddenly it’s a sign that the biggest love imaginable will be in the airport at the end of the later flight, waiting to be bumped into at baggage reclaim.
Being single is like being left in charge of a library book that hasn’t had a date stamped in it. You don’t know when the call is going to come, just that it will come, because it has to come, this ultimate of ultimates. The single person wants to shave her legs to make sure she’s ready. And then she wants not to shave her legs, to tempt fate into letting love arrive when she’s looking the other way, all hairy and unprepared. The attached person smiles at this single person and laughs, saying, "Bless you, you’re trying too hard, why, love will come when you least expect it." The single person is irritated and sits there with a furrowed brow, furiously least expecting it and least expecting it. The single person reads all this guff about how nobody will love her until she loves herself, and so she becomes ever more determined to love herself. She loves herself with the force of a small child trying to prise the lid off a jar of peanut butter.
And then it is Valentine's Day, when the greatest love imaginable needs to hurry up and find you, ideally the week before. Urgently, you don’t care, nobody cares, it’s such balls, everybody cares. I used to share a flat with two other girls, and three guys we knew lived in the matching flat downstairs, and we were all mainly single and mainly unable to fall in love with each other for whatever reason. And on the evening of one February 14th, most of us were to be found drinking in my living room, feeling righteously angry that society had not rewarded us with love. Until Kat got a tin of paint from under the kitchen sink and painted "HAPPY FUCKING VALENTINES" in big dripping capitals across the living room wall.
Everybody screamed in excitement and said "Oh my god, will we be able to paint over that, oh my god." Not only because it looked ridiculous (amazing) but also because we knew this was, surely, the last year we would be here like this, waiting for our other halves to find us. I was only a human girl, I wanted red roses! And the next year, like it was written in the stars, somebody sent me them! Only they came in a enormous box inside which the stems had all tipped upside down, and the card with the message printed on it somehow had the order printed on it too, so it read "happy valentines soph luv from guess who SOPHIE HEAWOOD 89d 00745 SEXY REDS BOUQUET £36.99".
And so. The single person waits for a love like a shiny-suited conman who promises to take her away from all this, even though "all this" is everything that she is.
The single person imagines that love will make him into a better man, and so he tempts fate by becoming a worse man. The single person wonders about his other half, and so he throws himself down rabbit holes, to drink from the bottle marked "Drink Me", and eat the cake marked "Eat Me", and try to reach the feeling where he has become both halves himself. The single person is powered by nervous energy, convinced that he is on the hook, and that the greatest love imaginable will get him off it. Sometimes, he wonders if a relationship will accelerate his mass to a stated velocity, the stated velocity being ALL OF THE MUSIC, ALL OF THE FUCKING TIME. But this might just be the "Eat Me" and the "Drink Me" talking. It will make sense when she finds him.
Really, all you people who are actually in love should be jealous of single people. They’re having the biggest love affair imaginable. Much bigger than yours. They don’t even hear you when you complain that living together isn’t that great because it’s only been two years and already the sex has dropped off and it’s just become this sort of arrangement where your spouse isn’t so much your soulmate as just that person who passes you in the kitchen, asking why you haven’t given the cat its eyedrops. A single person can’t even hear you when you say this.
Because the longer a person is single, the more ultimate their big love becomes, the time spent alone being directly proportional to the increase in its size. Until the single person’s love grows so large that it threatens to invade small countries, print its own stamps and compose a national anthem. Single people dream of a love so big that a wrestler can’t lift it, so loud that Rammstein can’t deafen it, a love so morbidly obese that it has to be winched out through the roof, pursued by a TV documentary crew as it makes its way to the stomach-stapling operation in a jumbulance.
This love, it is the day when the rain finally stops. It is the day when somebody looks into your eyes and says "You, you, are the end of all possibility of rain."
Although, of course, single person, you could just go out with that friend of yours who you get on brilliantly with and who is so lovely and who is, as all your friends point out, completely in love with you. But that would never do.
Follow Sophie on Twitter: @heawood