Desperate. A word spread across the mouth like a bitter aftertaste. Acerbic and wanting. The children from my sixth former in school who had just hit puberty or stood on the fringes of growing up, said it like a cold revenge. Their mouth curled around the word silently, gaining momentum, before unfurling it in neat, straight pellets, hurling it at their targets: the fat girl with curly hair, the girl who was better than them at something, the girl who was too ugly to be their friend. ‘Desperate’ lurked out of their dart-like mouths, like plastic arrows moulded from epics, slashing through the contours of friendship and rickety insecurities.
At eighth former, I learnt of the word when I fell in love with a guy with scurrying eyes. Unrequited love was always desperate. His girlfriend with long tresses smidged it right across my short, auburn, in-the-face hair and just-bespectacled eyes. But she couldn’t have been “desperate, even to tumble a river of giggle across his shoulders or drop in his arms at the slightest inconvenience. She even got him to braid her hair. I cried and then I grew my hair. I hated ‘desperate’ and how it made me feel: hurt, scared and wanting. Almost like they described ‘falling in love’.
At twenty when I chopped off my waist-length hair, ‘desperate’ didn’t seem like such a bad word. I knew now how it was to be unloved. And that no one could do it right unless you showed them how to do it. And I had come to like ‘alone’. Desperate, now became a word that was too ambitious to make it unloved. I liked that about it. Most ambitious things are hard to love. You don’t want to get caught in the whirring madness of their striving. The whizzing-wheels of want, always in momentum: restless circular motions. Fast, rapid, uncompromising. Desperate was the relentless pursuit of something that never learnt to leave. Desperate was the full potential of desire, to want something right in your bone with every fibre of your body, to crave something with every thought. It was scary and dangerous. I had read once about the ‘calling thought’. That if you want something with all your heart, you call it to yourself. You send an unseen message out into space, a call of desire that pulls the object of your desire in your direction. The universe sets in motion with the calling thought, pulling you towards the weight of your desires. Desperation for me was the calling thought. Desperation knew that the depth of love was bottomless and was too scared to settle for anything with a visible horizon. Desperation found it hard to give in, to settle too soon for too less. Desperation never knew of the words quit. Desperation never heard of “let go”. It was like an all encompassing spirit-word in the large compendium of languages. It knew of no other words – no synonyms, no alternatives, no back-up plan. It was the only truth: get it or get it! Desperation, was what kept me going.
At twenty, I look back upon all the times I was truly desperate, all the things I was really desperate about. The ones that kept me up at night with salt-stained cheeks and hurried texts to confidants. I was too anxious about the future. I had a panic whirlwind inside the place you call heart. “Desperate” went in like a bomb-diffuser, right into the eye of the storm.
“I get what I want when I am desperate”, I sigh out loud. A long relief-sigh. The clouds are gone. The sky is clear. The whirlwind subsides. I don’t feel so scared anymore.
When I think I don’t have it in me, remind me that I’m desperate.