The Purgatory of an Endless Crush

Forever living in the space between desire and futility

Adeline Dimond

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Pope Saint Gregory I Frees the Souls from Purgatory With His Prayers, 1731, Francesco Fontebasso (From the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Open Access Collection)

My crush is twenty-five years old. Not the man himself. He’s fifty-one, born in 1970 like me, and I’ve thought about him for at least a quarter of a century by now. We will never get together, but my desire never goes away. This might be the definition of Purgatory.

Long before I met this guy — let’s call him Rigatoni, because why not? — I spent a year in Florence, wandering through churches, staring at frescoes. I smelled the cool plaster walls, tattooed with paint. For a gal who grew up in California, raised by sunlight, dust and mini-malls, these churches were a revelation: dark, cool, quiet, housing ghosts and history. It may have been the first time it occurred to me that the world didn’t start and end with me. That I had to reach (early) adulthood to learn this lesson is appalling, but to be fair I was a spoiled brat from Los Angeles.

My teachers gave up teaching me the dates of important events early on, because I just didn’t care. I did care, quite a bit, about what people were cooking and wearing in the past; how they lived day-to-day. I couldn’t get enough of the mundane details of long-ago lives. I read the Laura Ingalls Wilder books and focused on what she cooked Almanzo for dinner. When Laura got the Sears catalog — that was a big moment for me. I read The Red Pony, and other than sobbing for days (I won’t spoil the ending) my big take-away was that the men tucked biscuits with bacon grease into their shirt pockets before they went out do whatever men did back then. I read The Island of the Blue Dolphins, and practically took notes about how the protagonist learned how to spear fish.

So of course I knew that people had come and gone before me, but it was those Florentine churches with their soaring ceilings, crypts, detailed frescoes, stone floors, the eerie quiet that made me feel it in my spine. I started to take school a little more seriously. I learned about Dante’s Divine Comedy, and the idea of Purgatory.

In Dante’s version of Purgatory, you can eventually get out. But I can’t get out of the endless loop of my crush on Rigatoni. All I can do is stare at his Instagram account, trying to figure out if he’s dating someone. I exist forever between desire and…

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