Are Bitcoins More Real Than Boyfriends?

This post was originally published on this site


Recently, my brother experienced a cryptocurrency windfall. Almost overnight, $300 ballooned into tens of thousands, and now he can remodel his basement. Maybe. I don’t know. I suppose he can if he finds the money lurking behind the math.

Since the spring, I have furrowed my brow through two lunches, three dinners and half a dozen kaffeeklatsches during which my conversation partners made pronouncements about the ever-mystifying Bitcoin. They were certain of the simplicity of what I call “space money,” certain of its life cycle, certain of its dynamics.

My mind, on the other hand, can manage only a few key words before it charges merrily toward free association: Bitcoin, blockchain, key chain, chain of fools, fools rush in, Salma Hayek, etc.

Throughout these brain-blitz discussions, my boyfriend sat beside me and, I assumed, shared my skepticism. But then the impassioned talk would animate him, and I wondered if he, too, may soon invest. And I judged them all for it.

I thought: “Why invest in something you can never hold in hand?” Faith in things unseen, with the stakes as high as they are — I couldn’t surrender to it.

And that’s curious, because I’m a religious person: hopeful, faithful and forever looking toward the nothingness of sky knowing, in my bones, that there’s a “there” there.

But with love, I was focused on something tangible. I could see what I was holding. The very flesh of it. And I knew it was substantial enough to warrant all of my beaten-down but unrelenting faith.

I was holding someone who generated so much noise, in me and for us. He stimulated thought and conversation in a way that felt endlessly curious.

He was insistent about everything: that people apologize, that he bring hot tea to his evening doorman, that deodorant and body spray are one and the same, that I drink more water.

He was set ablaze by the political news ticker. He had dreams for this country and suffered no one’s apathy.

He preferred winter to summer and took to snow like a child.

When he painted — a leisure habit he was trying to incorporate into his everyday life — there was no leisure in it. He was fierce, self-deprecating and determined.

He loved his family as I did mine: completely, proudly and with the highest priority.

Whenever I placed a meal before him, he looked like a recent escapee from prison, wild-eyed and deliriously happy.

His absurd physical comedy worked like a charm on me.

And for someone born in the 1990s, he had an inexplicable love of jazz.

When we first met, I was battling to extricate myself from a relationship with someone profoundly kind but with whom I was misaligned. Months after the demise of that relationship, I saw him again, at a lazy Saturday gathering of friends. Engrossed in an hourslong conversation, we ignored everyone else all afternoon until I let him walk me home.

I knew he would ask me for a date before long, and, after twice declining in consideration of a friend who had once dated him, I could no longer resist. He felt too familiar to bypass. As if, despite having no shared roots, we had been growing toward this encounter all along.

On our first date, I belly laughed multiple times. I thought of my friend Rebecca, who instinctively knew that the man who is now her husband was “it” because of a sidesplitting first dinner.

On our second date, we lay awake on the cold cement in Joan of Arc Park until the birds began their morning repertoire.

And, at the end of our third, he huddled beside me in a bus station, pressed play on “Try a Little Tenderness” and slipped his phone into his breast pocket, the music drifting between us like the softest and most fated stitching of time.

Six months later, walking through Midtown amid the bitter November cold, we noticed a bedraggled man peering into the window of a pizza shop, retreating to the curb, and then returning to look through the panes.

My boyfriend asked if he was hungry and pressed a sandwich into his hands. The man thanked us, but then met our gaze beseechingly and said, “How did you know?”

I listened long enough to hear my boyfriend say, “We didn’t. You just looked a little tired,” before I turned my back and burst into tears.

A month later, my boyfriend would say that this was the moment he fell in love with me. For me, it was just one of hundreds of times I fell in love with him all over again.

Like the time he defended me against a critical friend. Or when he was waiting in my office one morning with a sly smile on his face and flowers in his hands. Or when he sneaked into my apartment to assemble a behemoth of an armchair. Or when he deferred to my expertise in conversations about education. Or when he fed my niece supper. Or when he capaciously took interest in my friends or childhood home, people and places to which he had no connection other than me. Or when he fearfully, but finally, said he loved me.

Every time I introduced him to friends, I felt proud. He was magnetic, interested, interesting and always warm.

To be fair, a month into our relationship, he said he was worried about the pressure my readiness for commitment might visit upon him. But I believed there was something between us that could not be replicated. I had a hunch, even then, that this union bore my sought-after truth — that we vibrated at the same frequency and would always grow in lock-step pace.

Several months later, after a painful fight, we parted at the subway — I in sadness and he in anger. But moments later, he came bounding down the stairwell just as my train arrived, followed me into the car and said he felt sick the instant he’d left me.

Over the coming months, he would say that we were his deepest love, that he had no reservations about me, just about his own readiness.

Piteously, I would hear only the first part.

For years before we met, I had been consumed by a numbness that utterly reduced me. The pain of leaving home to attempt adulthood was exacerbated by my inability to find peace in partnership. I tried to turn every relationship into a love that could replace the mighty one with which I was raised, but they left me feeling unseen or stagnant.

With him, though, I felt alive. I felt like the version of myself I long assumed had been dead and buried. And I began to believe that I was meant to be paralyzed by fear throughout all of those tumultuous years so that, when he finally appeared, I would be free to love him.

I started to understand what others had always described: the softening of edges that certainty affords us. All the things that might have troubled me about him — his inability to hear me when he was fixed upon a computer screen, his lukewarm interest in fiction, his occasional melodrama — could be set aside if it meant that I could keep him.

For the first time in my life, I didn’t label our differences as damning. They were the space within which we divided, leaving room for us to yearn for each other, to be dazzled by our distinctiveness, to always want to draw the other closer.

Everyone with whom I have discussed Bitcoin has affirmed that it is a system based on trust. These elusive wonder coins bear and accrue value because of the shared faith that miners and moneymakers place in them.

And now, I’m kicking myself for not investing some paltry sum at an earlier date.

All along, I thought I was holding something of value because I could see and feel it. But realness and value are products of shared and equal faith, no matter if in things unseen. I can’t find or visualize Bitcoins, and I will never understand how complex math brings them deeper into reality. But when people equally believe in them, they become viable.

He and I, on the other hand, were doing our arithmetic separately, in each of our messy minds. And while I will never understand how someone could hold the full weight of me in his arms and choose to let go, I understand that his final calculus was different from mine.

With Bitcoin, you know exactly how much you invest, how much you stand to lose, how much you own.

Going into this — my hard-won, full-bodied love — I only knew that I had everything to gain. And I just thought that, if I could see it, feel it and know it to be true, it couldn’t possibly disappear.

But between my brother and me, one of us now has a soon-to-be remodeled home, its reliable cemented foundation paid for by “space money.” And the other, palms bare, remains suspended in space.