A Love Song For No One (Essay)

Photo courtesy of Jacqui Miller.

Words by Gabrielle Pharms.

I’m bipolar in every sense of its definition, from medical diagnosis to melodramatic outbursts. What does this have to do with a true story of unrequited love? Everything.

At 21, I was diagnosed with a superhuman power called bipolar disorder. With such power came my acute ability to get over a guy as quickly as I can fall for him. I’ve spent years kissing frogs and engaging in faux dating, which is dating, but without the dignity of a title. (Welcome to the millennial’s edition of dating.) Now, here I am in my late ’20s, content with being single; except before arriving at this state, I met a guy that brought upon a wave of emotions that superseded my superpower–a guy I couldn’t get over as easily as I expected to.

This lingering attachment towards him is like an expensive, broken bottle of fragrance. When I was 17, I accompanied my mother to a flagship Chanel store in Las Vegas where she purchased a large bottle of her favorite perfume, Coco Mademoiselle. While packing for our return to Texas, my mom carefully wrapped the bottle in several layers of wrapping paper and a thick, cotton tee. Reclaiming our luggage from baggage claim, there was a faint smell of the fragrance in the air. Upon unpacking her suitcase at home, my mom shrieked and cried in her room riddled with the luxurious scent. It’s been over ten years since the tragic spill and the suitcase still reeks of its eau de toilette.

I met a guy that brought upon a wave of emotions that superseded my superpower–a guy I couldn’t get over as easily as I expected to.

He’s the lingering fragrance from the broken bottle of Coco Mademoiselle. It’s been over four years and the scent of his alluring charm, depth, wit, and uncomfortably good looks permeates the air. Perhaps one of the key frustrations about this unrequited love story is that I’ve yet to find a flaw in his character. I’ve analyzed the situation; even without the rose colored glasses, there are no chinks in his armor.

Five years ago, I received an unexpected text message from a number with Pennsylvania area code.The message consisted of an invite to a skateboard/music event, which is the way to my heart. His friends were in a California-based band, and they were scheduled to perform at a local venue in NYC. Still oblivious to the sender’s identity, I said something along the lines of, “I don’t know who this is, but you’re speaking my language.” He responded with his name and sibling affiliation. His sister was my best friend. She was one of the first friends I made upon arriving to northern New Jersey by way of Texas. I knew she had siblings that resided in Pennsylvania, but I had never met them. Intrigued, yet booked, I declined the invitation. It wasn’t until a couple of more invites from him over a brief time that we finally synced. Truthfully, my attraction to him was not instant. Physically he wasn’t, and still isn’t, my type: tall (win), blonde (fail), has dimples (win)…I won’t go on down my vapid list.

Along with my day job as a fashion buyer, I also write. From time to time, I’d cover entertainment events and interview artists. During CMJ Music Marathon, Alternative Press held an anniversary event for its magazine at a SoHo art gallery. I needed a date, or at least someone that wouldn’t annoy me. Who could be my date? Oh, I could ask Mr. Coco Mademoiselle since we’ve yet to connect. But, he’d have to drive all the way from Pennsylvania to NYC on a week night. Eh, it’s worth a shot, I thought. He accepted my invite and met me at the gallery. Finally, we’ll meet. After a few drinks, we headed out to conquer the CMJ madness and link up with my best friend.

One night, after being 105% frustrated with not dating Coco, I decided to be assertive about my feelings because I’m an attractive, independent woman in 2016 and stuff. Confidently, I sent him a text message stating that I liked him. To my discomfort, he responded with, “I think you’re the most awesome person ever, but…” Insert your friend zone text of choice here.

One boyfriend, a move from New Jersey to Texas, and five years later, I still longed for his acknowledgement, adoration, and subsequent acceptance. It’s quite uncanny. I’d go lengthy periods of time without accessing the slightest thought of Coco, but the sight of him in photos or in person gave me an un-welcomed fleet of butterflies.  At the end of 2014, I took a much needed getaway to Nicaragua. It was brought to my attention that Coco, along with four mutual friends, were scheduled to arrive during the last leg of my trip. Instead of feeling indifferent about his arrival, I was excited to hang out.

Six months passed until our next encounter. (I went six months without thinking of Coco.) We attended our friend’s wedding last summer. The bride rented a limo for herself the bridesmaids, myself included, in order to arrive to the venue in style. We were about 15 minutes ahead of schedule, so we took it upon ourselves to host our own wedding edition of Fashion Police behind the limo’s tinted windows. As guests would arrive, we’d marvel at their polished outfits. Though fully aware that Coco would be attending, I was unprepared for my reaction. Upon his arrival, the bridesmaids gushed over his suit and overall debonair aura. Then, as synchronized swimmers, the bride and five out of the seven bridesmaids immediately looked towards me, awaiting my response. “He looks alright, I guess,” I lied.

After the ceremony, we then attended the reception. Him and I danced the night away, and he confessed his undying affection for me…Just kidding. The real scenario was far from my fantasy. The only conversation we had was through eye contact, which left me with internal turmoil that resulted in tears. I messaged him the following day,  expressing that we didn’t talk at the reception and that I would be flying home the next day. He agreed to meet me and my best friend for drinks in Brooklyn. It felt like old times, but less thrilling. That was my most recent encounter with Coco.

Sometimes the idea of a relationship–despite its intangibility–is better than the reality, which makes unrequited romance a travesty of love.

I’ve asked myself many questions when it comes to liking Coco. Why do I really feel this way? Am I desperate? Why do I really feel this way? I know I’m not in love, but why have these feelings traversed time? The only plausible reason is a volatile combination of nostalgia and thrill that bipolar superheroes tend to favor. Falling for someone is exciting, and peppered with uncertainties. Sentimentality can paint a portrait akin to a Van Gogh instead of its true, grotesque reality. And let’s face it, sometimes the idea of a relationship–despite its intangibility–is better than the reality, which makes unrequited romance a travesty of love.

How did I get off the carousel? By acknowledging that I’m not in love. Even when doused in fragrance, something, or someone, can become a faint, scented reminder of the past. Key word: past.


  1. I’ve been diagnosed with bipolar disorder last week. Your essay has given me the strength to believe that I have, indeed, a superhuman power instead of a sad condition. Life in the eyes of a bipolar person tends to be exausting, but it’s still worth it. Thanks.

  2. Recently I’ve come to understand something about myself I’ve been unwilling to accept. It is not fear of fear which I’m afraid but, fear of love. Fear comes to me before every choice. Fear of love comes in a much deeper level, the consequence, the reminder of that abandonment executed immediately after the promises before a magistrate. The pain of driving home alone moments after the ceremony. The repelled confusion that comes without logic. Today, though I see some reason in her choices understanding I manufacture in the absence of any light. And, still, with rejection I re-feel the hollow fall into the empty dry well.
    Knowing is fine as far as it goes. Living it out is a lifetime job. Hope? the worst possible poison, that which does nothing at all.
    And so, I breathe in a circle. I walk after the rain. I rest. To feel on a good day.

  3. Thought provoking! I think most of us women have that one reclusive love , and no matter who we bocome or where we stand in life “coco” always stays in our hearts and minds .

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