That curious affliction called “love.”
“Love is a temporary madness, it erupts like volcanoes and then subsides. And when it subsides you have to make a decision. You have to work out whether your roots have so entwined together that it is inconceivable that you should ever part. Because this is what love is. Love is not breathlessness, it is not excitement, it is not the promulgation of promises of eternal passion, it is not the desire to mate every second minute of the day, it is not lying awake at night imagining that he is kissing every cranny of your body. No, don’t blush, I am telling you some truths. That is just being “in love,” which any fool can do. Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away, and this is both an art and a fortunate accident. Your mother and I had it, we had roots that grew towards each other underground, and when all the pretty blossom had fallen from our branches we found that we were one tree and not two. But sometimes the petals fall away and the roots have not entwined. Imagine giving up your home and your people, only to discover after six months, a year, three years, that the trees have had no roots and have fallen over. Imagine the desolation. Imagine the imprisonment.”
Excerpt from “Corelli’s Mandolin” by LOUIS DE BERNIERES.
I prefer the above explanation of “love” over all others because it includes a practical interpretation. Love isn’t constant passion. At some point it becomes a conscious choice. And it seems that most people prefer to think of it as something beyond their control.
The air surrounding her was thick and sultry. She sat there, wilting. She was being drained of whatever freshness she possessed. I am a sick person… I am a doomed person, she thought to herself. She sat there, wilting, ruminating upon life’s great many disappointments. She thought herself silly. She saw herself as some vain twit, vain because she thought she could contemplate all of the world’s ruins all at once. And a twit because, well, she always felt that way. She wafted across the room toward the vanity mirror; she wanted to examine herself as someone else might. But she found she could not. She couldn’t see herself the way others might view her. She spun around and turned her neck in order that she may see herself from behind; the only result this accomplished was a pose of coyness. She saw herself as being coquettish. In frustration she stood up and started pacing her bedroom, the bare wooden floors beneath her feet squeaking in accompaniment. When she looked at herself full on, she only saw empty space. She wasn’t quite finished yet. Life had not yet filled her up. She was still only a blank canvas, whatever number of years she had thus far spent on Earth.
She glanced through her window, beyond the lace curtains, to the chestnut tree that stood guard and shielded her window from passersby on the street. She looked down and saw a flash of white beneath the chestnut’s lower limbs. The flash of light quickened her heartbeat. Is it him? she thought. Will her dream finally become real, or is this just another rotten trick of the mind? She backed away from the window ever so slightly. She remembered his instructions. Wait for a sign. Then make some gesture of acknowledgment. Now she was frightened. If this was real, could she now really leave everything behind? Could she really say, “to hell with everyone else,” and run off into the night?
Back to the window. Was he still there? Was it even him? Something was moving below. A small light flared up. A cigarette. He was there. The slight glow illuminated him for just a second. She caught a glimpse of his neck where his shirt opened. She saw his mouth and the shadow of his hand. It was him. He was there beneath her chestnut tree, watching her, just as he said he would some day. And he wanted her to know that it was time.
Her heart was racing harder now. No longer wilting, she felt electrified. But she didn’t know what to do. She was sickened by her hesitation. The man she truly loved, or the security, the wealth, of the prison she’d been forced to live in? But she couldn’t stall for long. She had to give him a sign. She drew back the curtain and blew him a kiss. A goodnight kiss. Something he could cherish or imagine before he went to sleep. After that she couldn’t detect his presence at all. Where had he gone to so quickly? She was tempted to climb out of her window, shimmy down the tree trunk, and search the night for him. She berated herself for dismissing him so frivolously. She drew back the curtain yet again, this time to try to call to him somehow, but the door behind her opened wide. Her respectable, commanding husband walked in. He asked her what she was doing. She told him she had just been trying to taste the fresh air. What fresh air? he scowled. The air’s as heavy as your mink coat. Besides, a delicate flower such as yourself must be thirsty more than anything else. He left to fetch her a glass of water, but not before telling her to go to bed. He would join her soon. This was the norm. She’d lie there, staring at the ceiling while rowdy things went on somewhere below her. The last time, he’d left a golf ball-sized bruise on her inner thigh. She hadn’t felt it, nor did it bother her in the least.
Had she been dreaming, or had he really been there last night, outside of her window? As she left the house on her daily muffin run, she noticed a new carving in the chestnut’s tree trunk. It was a message for her, cryptic enough so that only she could decode it. It was a place and time. And so it begins again, she thought to herself. Once again, the cloak-and-dagger routine. But doesn’t she prefer it this way? Doesn’t the danger heighten the pleasure she feels when she is with him? Would she really like him, love him, as much as she did if they didn’t have to hide? After her short trip, she went inside and informed them that she was going shopping in the city, and that she would be a while. Then, on her way out, she filched a few cigarettes from the box on the mantle, and managed to secure a full bottle of premium scotch. She hurried. She felt electrified again. This is what he does to me, she thought. This is what I want, whatever the cost.
It should still be considered “love,” even after the excitement has dulled. I wish I knew why many of us believe the thrill is an inherent part of love.
It almost seems like a dream. You were here and time stopped. I always feel that my world is revolving far too fast and I am forced to catch up, but with you beside me, the world slowed to a crawl and I could finally breathe. It was a long breath, a deep and fulfilling one. Would it feel that way if you were with me every day? Would I feel the same ease and calm if I could wake up beside you?
I opened my eyes in the middle of the night. I couldn’t sleep; I could still feel you with me. I wanted you with me. But there in the darkness you felt like a mere ghost. A hopeful flicker of a disparaged imagination.
I should have left with you. I would have if you had asked. That brief reprieve with you turned everything upside down. I am not the same now; I feel stronger. Now I can simply walk away.
Hum. Maybe it’s me. Perhaps I desire too much control, of love, of all things in my life.
I don’t believe love is something to be worried about. It is far too easy for two people to fall in love; the real challenge lies in the commitment. Perhaps that is scary for most people; I tend to shy away from any public, and hence “real,” declarations of commitment, like marriage. But oh, if you know me at all, you know I stand by my commitments. I don’t need pretty words, or a ring, or some bloody certificate to prove anything. I simply need reciprocity: We love each other, and we are committed to one another.
No dilly-dallying. It isn’t a terrible thing if you are in love. It isn’t a terrible thing if you are not. But it is certainly a terrible thing to keep someone waiting for an answer. It is a terrible thing to drag someone along because of your own fears and insecurities.
Bah. I don’t know where I’m going with this. I sometimes feel like love should be that all-encompassing, I-want-you-here-and-now-and-always sort of feeling. I’m fairly certain that’s mostly due to my upbringing as a female.
But oh, romance is nice. That strange fluttering sensation right below the heart. Knowing that thisperson fell in love with you completely for who you are now, and does not fault you for who you once were.