On Love

First of all, let's get one thing straight: I've never been in love. Never. I got up to the part where you try to match what you feel towards another person to the word love - but that's it. I called it love because I didn't want her to feel she loved someone who didn't love her back. I thought I was being a nice guy. It wasn't love. After it ended and I got over whatever it was that I was in, I believed I was incapable of ever falling in love. I still do. I've already gotten over the sadness that comes with such a realization - and I must admit there is still a small part of me somewhere that still believes I am able to love. The eternal optimist in me. Otherwise I would probably start wearing black trench coats and working at the post office.

But that's not the point - "I" that is. I am not the central theme of this discussion. Love is. Let's just lay it out on the table now: yes I'm aware that any credibility I may have had to write anything about love is pretty much shot after that first paragraph. I'm aware I'm saying to you, "I know not of this personally, and now I will write about it." So I'm not stupid, I am aware.

Words are what give shape to our feelings. We no longer feel the torrent of things - chemically - that happen. The brain no longer releases endorphins into the bloodstream. It's no longer that fuzzy feeling or that "je ne sais qua." Now we have one word that throws all these feelings away and demands that you either do or you don't. This is word-choice imperialism. How did this one word come to have such power? The short answer is we gave it to it. Soap operas, old movies, ballads, commercials, parents, church, etc.

Somehow something in our environment made love a bar that determines how strongly (or more importantly - how little) you feel about something or someone. Think about this. Our feelings can still be grossly oversimplified by thinking of their potency in terms of a thermometer. Negative infinity to infinity. If only it were as easy as saying, "I feel 90 degrees for you." Unfortunately, it doesn't work that way. There is a line - a big, dark, red, blinking line - drawn somewhere on the emotional thermometer that reads LOVE. I don't know how high it is, but let's make up a number. Let's say that love is 100 degrees (hot enough for you?). The way love works is it ignores everything below a hundred and bunches everyone above it into one big, happy, homogenous group. What of the people who feel 95 degrees towards someone? And here I'm talking about the honest people who don't mind admitting, "I'm not in love - but this is a pretty strong disposition I have towards you." Love ignores this persons' feelings, it isn't enough. It's not worthy of being involved in the ever-important discussion of love. Wordism, I say.

But so back to the language issue. I have, on several occasions, uttered the words "I fell in love today." Countless times, probably too many. Please notice the past tense of my verbiage - and this is where the crux of my argument lies (by the way, I also use the phrase "thank god" more than someone with my belief structure should. It's become a colloquialism. Has love followed the same path?).

For the most part, I've fallen in love with strangers. If I actually got to know them, I'm sure it would've been ruined. The love, that is. So perhaps a few concrete examples would be in order to help accentuate what I'm trying to say. One time I got into an elevator and found myself staring at my blurry reflection in the closed elevator doors. I looked like a ghost. The elevator stopped on a floor that wasn't the one I was going to and in stepped a girl. I avoided eye contact and basically ignored her. No hellos or anything, typical behavior at a relatively large east coast Jesuit university. But so I'm standing there looking up at the numbers feeling very uncomfortable at the idea that I no longer have the elevator all to myself. Not that I was doing anything that warranted privacy before, but still. Then she sneezed, the girl that is. I turn around towards her, mostly out of instinct, and say, "bless you."

I caught only a glimpse of her small face concealed behind long black hair. She looked up from her sneeze in a smile - she looked like a wild animal in her natural habitat behind her charcoal hair - and giggled, "Thanks." The giggle shook an ancient part of me that didn't want to be disturbed. I turned back around to beg the elevator to hurry as one word kept coming into consciousness: angel. I was done for. I couldn't, at this point, function properly, let alone my normal, awkward self. A short circuit had rendered me completely useless and helpless, begging the elevator for mercy.

The door finally opened and I let her out first. We were strangers again and I walked behind her. She had a solitary blue streak of hair mixed in with the black. Her ass was hot in a non-obscene way that makes you want to say "her ass is hot." I watched her walk until fate separated us at last. Because of the blue streak I figured I could easily find her again - since her face was too much of a traumatic even for me to remember. Something beyond words happened in that elevator. I cannot label it or explain it.

When I got to my apartment I announced to my roommate I had fallen in love. He rolled his eyes and made it a point that I was probably overreacting. It's the same thing I do internally when someone tells me they're in love.

I've fallen in love with numerous adult entertainment stars (which is just a fancy way of saying porn stars). Not because they fuck on film or love to suck cock. Most of these incidents have occurred with European "starlets". Not very famous, not big name stars. Something about their faces, however, grabs me and shakes me to the core. Then to see them surrender to our most primal and natural urge, well that's just the icing on the cake.

What I'm trying to say, albeit in a very roundabout way, is that love is too delicate to survive. To survive time and to survive the reality of human beings. Language ruins it. The less chance you have to talk and get out all your jumbled up feelings - the better. Love is a word. Shit. Pope. Paper. Lamp. They mean nothing. Two people can be made to feel the exact same thing - say a pin prick. Identical circumstances - and yet when you ask them to describe in one sentence what they felt and you could potentially get thousands of different answers because language is neither exact nor precise enough to perfectly translate chemical occurrences in our body to words that can be spoken, heard, understood, and the translated again. I'm saying that, in time, illusion will start to clash with reality and it will kill whatever it was that actually existed between two people.

Take me and the blue-streak-elevator-angel girl, we'll call her Angel. Say Angel and I met up at a coffee shot and got snowed in, with nothing to do but talk and drink lattes. We would probably have one of those awesome, walking on clouds dates that everyone always envies those who actually go on them. So far, so good. But eventually we would get to talking about the elevator incident. If I tried to tell her my side of it, she would get the wrong idea because the words she would hear could never be translated by her in a way where she would feel what I felt about it. Never. And the same goes for her. What if she didn't even remember? Illusion, in this case, will eventually de-mystify the reality of the actual feelings that are happening.

I'll admit that the idea of reality being confined to oneself, unable to be truly shared, is a lonely and depressing thought. Imagine losing your virginity to a swimsuit supermodel but she tells you her career will be ruined if the news gets out. Not being able to tell your friends, to brag, to have your ego inflated - it would drive you nuts. It is a fairly base and Neanderthal-like example, but if that's frustrating think about how the true and worthwhile things would feel like.

The difference is that in our emotional world we are always alone - no one lives it with us. Brave and exemplary poets and musicians translated their feelings into beautiful words and sounds, but think how much more beautiful they would be if we truly understood them instead of just translated them.

The idea is that love, in the everyday boyfriend-girlfriend, wife-husband context, is no sustainable. Gradually, and so without notice, it will slip back beneath 100 degrees amidst the confusion and conflict between reality and illusion. Time will take its toll.

So next time you're in the elevator and love gets on, let it go before you ruin it. Know that this was not an "illusion" or wishful thinking. It is real and true and pure, and for it to remain like that you have to let love get off and go. Enjoy it. Appreciate the fact that you held something delicate and beautiful, and saw it go instead of holding on to it greedily until it died.

And Angel, if you're out there, I love you still.

Related reading: Brida



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