Bloom: That soda pop feeling

The teenage romance that didn’t happen


To me, crushes felt like soda fizz – bubbly and bright. Graphic by Kripa Mayureshwar

Shivani Verma

It was official: I was down bad. 

She was tying her shoelaces — of all the mundane things to do — and glanced up at me, blinking. “Oh, hey.”

My heart fluttered.

It’s embarrassing to admit that I got flustered over a girl I liked tying her shoelaces, but in my defense, crushes are often like that — they’re confusing, weird and annoying. And I’m no stranger to the mechanics of catching feelings. I’ve even developed my own system to work through all of it: I give myself a couple weeks to feel it out — if my interest in someone dwindles, it was just an infatuation to pass time. But if the curiosity doesn’t fade, there must be something worthwhile in the emotion after all. 

With just a month left in 9th grade, I certainly wasn’t planning on being interested in someone again. Don’t get me wrong — having feelings for people doesn’t bother me. But I also know that liking people takes energy. And I wasn’t sure I wanted to spend it this time. 

I knew that having feelings for her was a lost cause, but like with all emotions, I just couldn’t … turn them off. The more I tried to ignore them, the more her face seemed to pop up in my mind. 

Maybe it’ll disappear on its own, I hoped. I wouldn’t see her all summer, and the months away would dilute my feelings until they were gone. I probably couldn’t expend all that energy having feelings for someone I didn’t even see in person, right? 

So I decided to indulge in the fizzy soda feeling while it lasted. I didn’t stop myself from smiling when I received her text notifications, or from rolling my eyes when she sent me memes on Instagram. We talked on the phone for hours, about anything and everything. Being around her felt so easy, and instead of drifting apart over the summer, we fell into a kind of comfortability I’d never had with anyone else. I let myself be happy about her, because liking her was fun

But … my plan backfired. By the time 10th grade began, the soda fizz hadn’t lost its pop — it had only grown more effervescent. At school, I couldn’t stop my brain from conjuring up fluffy daydreams about her in Pre-Calc, or stop my gaze from following her figure across the Academic Court. I couldn’t stop indulging in my feelings, despite how irrational it was. I was caught in a haze, and I loved it. 

But one night in September, only a month into the school year, she found out. And as I’d always known, she didn’t feel the same about me as I did about her.

Yet I wasn’t upset that she didn’t like me back. Instead, I was nervous about what would happen to the us that we’d created. I finally understood why movies always warned you against falling for your friends. All I could think about as I drifted off into an uneasy sleep was, Did I ruin everything? 

When I woke up, I saw a notification from her. My heart was in my throat as I opened Instagram to reveal — 

A cat meme.

Somehow, I realized, the friendship we’d cultivated over the past months was stronger than the effect of my feelings on us. I was so relieved, especially because my feelings wouldn’t matter anymore. Now that I knew for sure that I had no chance, I waited for my crush on her to dwindle for good.

Only … it didn’t. That didn’t make any sense — I’d always believed that my emotions would peter out if I didn’t get anything in return, so why did I still like her? 

As the months passed, with no end to my feelings in sight, I began to understand. This whole time, my emotions had remained completely separate from my actions — I wasn’t bothering her or begging her to like me back. My feelings were just … existing. And for a romantic like me, that carbonated soda feeling was intoxicating. I still imagined us holding hands and going to each other’s sports games and getting boba together. I liked the way my heart skipped a beat when she said my name. I … liked liking her. It was just as fun as it had always been. 

My feelings for her had started unexpectedly, and I never imagined they would turn out this way. Because in all the romance I’d seen in books, movies and TV shows, unrequited feelings almost always ended in agony or heartbreak, or caused destruction and pain. And discovering that the feelings were reciprocated and finally getting together were key parts of a happy ending. 

I didn’t have either of those, and yet, I wasn’t unhappy about it at all. 

This realization opened up a whole new way of thinking. Whether it was my feelings for someone, a new hobby, an extracurricular or a class at school, my thought process shifted. There didn’t need to be an end goal to achieve to make everything worthwhile, I learned. Sometimes, all that mattered was enjoying the ride.