Campus Life cursed thoughts

My love: it aches

A uquiz, a throwaway comment, and an introduction to this column

CW: Nonspecific Mentions of Sexual Assault

I have a playlist called Songs that make me feel That Thing on Spotify which consists of three songs:

I’ve gone back and forth about what “That Thing” means. It feels like the letters my dad wrote me after I left for college. It feels like the stillness that day I got the call that my friend was in the hospital. It feels like lying on a mattress with my friend — stripped of the pillows, sheets, and topper — the night they asked us to leave MIT. There’s birdsong in “Interlude: Set me free” that reminds me of the sunrise I saw on the Lyft ride to the airport.

For a long time, I thought that the feeling was “cursed.” But it’s not. It’s an ache, originating in my stomach, that stretches so far sometimes that I feel it in my fingertips. 

My realization of this started with a uquiz and a throwaway comment. The quiz in question — Which private expression of love do you most represent? — was like any other. I got “Peeling a clementine.” 

Like so many other things, I sent it into my sorority Slack. The responses came in immediately:

I was pleased; all of these expressions of love were nice. How lovely, I thought, that strangers can experience love so similarly. My friend started a thread in the slack after seeing their summary. 



scheming buddy • 5 days ago; 5:55 a.m.
ah heck this is a good one
Silence and static over the phone
both of your eyes are closed. you both want to say it but neither of you are speaking. if you listen closely, and focus on their breathing, it’s almost like they’re there with you. when one of you finally breaks the silence with a whisper, they sound so close your stomach aches. 

scheming buddy • 5 days ago
reread it and not sure where tf stomach aching comes in but i will stand by my first reaction

ana :flag-mx: • 5 days ago
does your stomach not ache with knowledge and being known ??????

scheming buddy • 5 days ago
no?? why stomach?? isn't the expression supposed to be heartache anyway

ana :flag-mx: • 5 days ago

scheming buddy • 5 days ago
that's so confusing do you just like,, feel extra loving when you drink spoiled milk or smth

ana :flag-mx: • 5 days ago
@scheming buddy where do you feel love ?
what aches ?

scheming buddy • 5 days ago
:concerned: why are you guys aching

ana :flag-mx: • 5 days ago
@scheming buddy DOES NOT ACHE

scheming buddy • 5 days ago
WHY WOULD I ACHE ???????????????????????

mother • 5 days ago
wait no okay fundamentally. do you not. is there not. something


This was the first time I had ever encountered someone not knowing exactly what I meant regarding love. Admittedly, this was also the first time I had ever really talked about the way that I experienced love. When I loved, it felt like I was gnawing right in my center. How else was I supposed to describe it if not as an ache?



PollyAPP • 8:42 a.m.
is love stored in the stomach
You may vote for multiple options
1: yes | 43% (3)
@black coffee, @jake from state farm, @ana :flag-mx: 
2: no????? | 29% (2)
@baby, @scheming buddy
3: stored in the stomach, hurts in the throat, i don't make the rules | 29% (2)
@bon bon @mother

scheming buddy • 8:44 a.m. 
thank you @baby!!!!

ana :flag-mx: • 8:45 a.m.
@baby HOW

baby • 8:45 a.m.
???? How could it be??
Stomach is for things that will be digested

ana :flag-mx: • 8:46 a.m.

mother • 8:46 a.m.
it’s about where the core of your being is bro
okay so where is it stored

baby • 8:50 a.m.
In the heart????

scheming buddy • 8:51 a.m.
exactly!! the only acceptable answer

ana :flag-mx: • 8:51 a.m.

baby • 8:51 a.m.
Omg my heart is in my chest
Idk what sort of messed up anatomy you have
:evil_laughter: :ear:

ana :flag-mx: • 8:52 a.m.
wait wait wait
@baby do you ache

baby • 8:53 a.m.
Not currently no
But sometimes??

ana :flag-mx: • 8:53 a.m.

scheming buddy • 8:53 a.m.
i think that would be heart disease or smth

ana :flag-mx: • 8:54 a.m.

scheming buddy • 8:59 a.m.
you guys are so dramatic


I turned to other group chats. Surely, I thought, there are more people who understand that love is an ache. I was sure that the way I saw love was universal. It was just lost in communication and eventually I would find the words to describe it.

Ana • Jan. 5 at 8:54 p.m.
hey hey
When you love, does it
Does it ache?

i would say
only if the love feels incomplete?

oh my god


Other people did not experience love the same way I did. I felt the wind knocked out of me. Friends started chiming in with their own experiences of love:

Love was comfort.
Love was healing. 
Love was mutual.
Love was secure. 

These were true, but they weren’t exactly right. For me, love was the punched-out feeling in your stomach that never feels quite full. 


ana :flag-mx: •  9:01 a.m.

scheming buddy •  9:01 a.m.

mother •  9:01 a.m.
you guys are feeling complete???

scheming buddy •  9:02 a.m.
dang feeling incomplete sounds like it would suck :pensive: sorry u guys are going through that


Most of my friends expressed worry, in one way or another, about the way that I talked about love. Some of them had experienced love’s ache and disliked it. They brought up past experiences and explained that they would never want to be back there again.

I felt my stomach churn, and thought, what had love felt like before my sexual assault? My sophomore fall, I was terrified that something fundamental about me had been twisted:

God, I really thought I loved him. That’s part of what hurts the most. How can I say that I loved someone that hurt me? Not only for the duration of our relationship, but who will haunt me for a long, long time. Are there still remnants of that love? Have I relearned what love is because of him? Nov. 21, 24, 2019.

After talking with my friends, I scoured through more and more journal entries from before MIT. I read through pages and pages of journal entries and found, everywhere, staring back at me, that my love has always been an ache.

Time always did feel like it was winding down to an inevitable end
I wonder what it says that we await the taking
hollow ourselves out and give

On Female Friendships, Oct. 21, 2017

I was reassured to find that, even though I didn’t use the word, I was describing the ache. Love had never felt complete in the way that people were describing it to me. I tried to explain it by comparing it to an endless pit. You’re falling, but you can’t feel anything to latch on to. You stop being able to tell how deep you’ve gone.

This wasn’t quite right. My friend made another metaphor:

you know how the open ocean just keeps going till it hits the horizon but the horizon isn’t actually a physical limit it’s just the curvature of the earth? that.

And she was right. 

Of course it aches. In the same way that thinking about the endlessness of the future does. Like the human brain cannot possibly understand how big and vast and full love is, and when it has nowhere else to go, it aches. All the way to your bones.

After this conversation, I felt it everywhere. I listened to that Spotify playlist on repeat for a couple days and understood that “That Thing” was love. I read love stories and felt it all the way to my toes. I laid my head down on my dad’s hand at breakfast and felt the endless hollow in my chest. I wrote, and wrote, and wrote, and time stopped in the quiet that you feel rather than hear at 2 a.m.

It was on one of those nights this New Year’s that I thought of the past. Specifically, I thought about how my high school self had ached so strongly, so proudly. 

I read an article a couple of years ago that I still think about sometimes. The article is better as a whole, but you might recognize this iconic line that became a meme a while back:

“If we want the rewards of being loved we have to submit to the mortifying ordeal of being known.”
Tim Kreider, “I Know What You Think of Me”

I’ve shied away from being known for a while now. I don’t remember when it changed. This was my biggest New Year’s goal. 

Do you know me? Do you remember what it’s like to love me? I don’t know. It feels like you’ve lost yourself. Do you know what you’re looking for yet?
I imagine you feel the same, you always do. Here is some advice for the next year:

This isn’t easy, I know that because I know you. But you want this. I know you do.
I hope you are happy. I will work to make you happy. 
I am your biggest fan and your first supporter. Go make the change you want.
Querida Ana,
Jan. 3, 2021

I texted my friend, “do you wanna hear a cursed thought?” and felt that ever-present ache. Such a simple question, such a complicated request — please, know me. 

That’s the real point of this article (thanks for sticking by me). I hope that whenever you read this column, you hear, do you wanna hear a cursed thought? and answer yes.