On Love, Being in Love, and Waiting on a Train


For Damon Young, the idea of being so into someone that he felt their everything merging with his own scared him. It still does. But now he realizes how necessary that fear is.

Between Hans Zimmer’s oft-criticized but legitimately impactful score to Marion Cotillard’s Marion Cotillardness, there are a few reasons why the surprisingly rewatchable “Inception” has slowly and unexpectedly inched its way onto my “25 Favorite Movies Ever” list.

The main reason, though, has nothing to do with the special effects, the screenplay’s ambiguity, or even the experience of seeing Tom Hardy and thinking to yourself “Wait, that guy played Bane???” and everything to do with the fact that it contained one of the best explanations of how it feels to be in love I’ve ever heard.

Mal: How could you understand? Do you know what it is to be a lover? To be half of a whole? 

Ariadne: No… 

Mal: I’ll tell you a riddle. You’re waiting for a train. A train that will take you far away. You know where you hope this train will take you; but you don’t know for sure. But it doesn’t matter. How can it not matter to you where that train will take you? 

Cobb: Because you’ll be together.

In the past several years, I’ve gone back and forth with whether it was necessary to feel this way about a person—an extension progressively fused into your whole, to be down for whatever as long as you’re together—to be in a fulfilling relationship. When I last wrote extensively about love, I argued that butterflies—and “butterflies” in this instance describes the collection of feelings possessed when in a certain type of love with someone—were insignificant, too fleeting to be able to influence something as serious as the decision to spend the rest of your life with someone.

My feelings since then have evolved. I’ve come to realize that being in love—the characteristics of it, the feelings and actions cultivated by it, even the importance of it—varies from person to person. We all have our own capacities for and expectations of love, and, while there’s really no right or wrong answers here, it’s paramount to find someone whose definition of the word mirrors your own. Basically, some people need butterflies. Some don’t.

More importantly, that butterflies post was dishonest. It wasn’t intentionally dishonest, but it was written from a place of fear. The idea of being so into someone that I literally felt their everything merging with my own scared me. Shit, it still does.

Even the language usually used to describe what happens when first realizing you’re in love (“falling”) suggests a tenuousness that should be avoided instead of pursued. Who in their right mind would sign up for a perpetual state of weightlessness, a psychosis where you allow one person—not a deity or even an idea but a living, breathing, and bleeding human f*cking being just like you—to be your everything? What sense does it make to grant someone that power?

It scared/scares me so because I knew then what I know and will admit to now: I need it too. 

I am one of those people who needs to leap, catch, and be caught in order to be fulfilled. Who looks forward to embracing both the powerlessness and the fear cultivated by it. Who needs to want and wants to need someone. Who knows exactly how all of this sounds—and exactly what all of this means—and doesn’t give a damn anymore.

What I thought would be restricting—admitting to needing something so fleeting and uncommon—has actually proven to be liberating. Owning to what I truly want has cultivated a single-mindedness that makes things a bit clearer for me now, a bit less ambiguous.

I’m waiting for a train. A train that will take me far away. I know where I hope this train will take me; but I don’t know for sure. But, as long as she’s with me, it doesn’t matter, and I hope it never will.

Originally appeared on Very Smart Brothas
Photo: Flickr/RBerteig
About Damon Young

Pittsburgh native Damon Young (aka “The Champ”) is the co-founder of VerySmartBrothas.com. Their first book Your Degrees Won’t Keep You Warm At Night: The Very Smart Brothas Guide To Dating, Mating and Fighting Crime is available at Amazon.com


  1. I love this article. So honest and beautiful. I love how you said that it’s scary to admit that you need it too. I remember the first time I admitted openly that I wanted gentleness… Love… Tenderness… Passionate desire… Burning absence…

    I grew up tough. I grew up on porn culture. In the era of sex advice and cynicism and gender warfare. It was really the scariest thing to admit that I wanted more than a quick romp. You know, the kind of romp that so much proposedly pro-fem lit I read told me I should want, need, and learn to do. That to be a woman, I had to be able to screw and love “like a man”, I.e. love ’em and leave ’em.

    The more I have allowed myself to communicate about my previously shameful desires about love and sex, the more I have found that I was never kissing frogs wrongly… I was just kissing the wrong frogs. The men who love us and leave us are to be avoided, not emulated. We don’t become murderers to even out the negative effects of serial killers, so why become desensitized to love to even out the negative effects of anti-attachment and anti-love discourse?

  2. First of all, wonderful description of what love feels like.I hear you talking about two things by the end of your post: one sounds like the thrill of the chase, and the other is enduring love. The train metaphor is apt, because “far away” is where you’ll be when you’ve let this relationship transform you over time. It’s not the psychotic feeling of loss of control, loss of identity, and of being in the thrall of a single individual. That might be butterflies—lust. The longer change of enduring love is not the result of a singular flood of hormones, but more like the way water widens the caverns through which it passes, by passing there constantly and strongly.


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