I know he’s the mysterious one, and maybe that’s the point. I don’t know much more about him. But I know I love him. It’s a ridiculous teenage crush, of course. I could never get a boy like Zayn. For so many reasons. But I can’t help loving him.
When he announced he was leaving One Direction I was over the moon. I don’t listen to their music—I can’t even name a song—so the reason I was happy was because the spotlight shifted to Zayn. The other hapless morons in his band were pushed into the shadows while the world speculated on the mysterious one’s reasons. Was he going solo? Was he choosing to settle down? Had he fallen out with the other lads? Who knew? Six months on, do we have any answers at all?
Maybe we do, and I just don’t know them. I don’t follow the right websites and Twitter accounts. I don’t gossip with the right people. My crush on Zayn is a largely private affair. I see his beautiful face on the front of a magazine while I wait at the supermarket checkout and that’s when he and I have our moment. I’ll read the gawdy headline and count its exclamation marks, but I haven’t been following the saga so it makes little sense. For me, it’s all about the image. It’s all about the face, those eyes. His poses always imply he’s having a lark but if you look at his face, into his eyes—if you look through the pixels and into his soul—you see something deeper. There’s a search going on. He’s searching. For a good lyric? For decent band mates? A lover? A new framework of values? Who knows? That’s the mystery.
Over the years of One Direction, which has now crumbled just four months since Zayn announced his departure, I have sought him out. The five of them were pictured together frequently, in the street, on stage, on a photo shoot. My eyes always landed on Zayn’s. I glanced right over the forgettable ones—the boyish one, the generic one—and deliberately ignored Harry Styles, the laddish oil merchant who looks like he’s permanently infected with low-levels of chlamydia. I only had eyes for Zayn. I searched for his little face: sometimes he had shining eyes, sometimes a troubled forehead dealing in some kind of philosophical quandary. Always beautiful. Always mysterious.
What makes a crush? Does your crush have to be unobtainable? Or just enigmatic? Mine is both. This only means that my crush is more profound than yours. It means I have a deep connection with Zayn. It means that the record label executives—Simon fucking Cowell—and the music photographers and the magazine editors and the billboard designers have all done their jobs perfectly. They’ve sold me this mystery boy and they’ve made me love him.
They’ve made me want to be part of his world. If I was so inclined, I’d have bought a One Direction pencil case and seen the One Direction movie and learnt the One Direction lyrics. So maybe they didn’t do their job well enough—or at least not with me.
Instead I’m on the periphery of Zayn’s world. He’s made no money from me. He has laid out his stall and neatly displayed his goods for sale, but I’ve just browsed and then walked on by. Perhaps I’m as much of a mystery to him as he is to me. Perhaps that is where my crush comes from: we are strangers to each other, we come from different worlds, he won’t ever have to try to know me.