What Is Love? I Asked A Few People

October 13, 2020
two pieces of pink fabric hanging on a rod, on a black background with blue swirls
Art by Kim Salac

Do you want to know what’s funny to me? There’s never really a “last” goodbye, is there? Only unsuspecting “when the time is right,” and the old-go-around of “it’s-not-you-it’s-me.” However, my bitterness should not stop others’ outright sunshine beaming from their smiles and being absorbed by eyes that would never leave them stranded at a Dairy Queen on Route 6. How lovely.

A few years back I had a coach tell me, “Never keep your emotions a secret. If you have something to say, say it. You never know what they’re thinking, and you don’t have to hold it in.” Well then, let me get it out. But not everything I need to say can best be said by me. So I asked a few people in and out of relationships to answer the age-old question: “What is love?” 

 

That isn’t love. Or is it? Is love not yearning? Is love not wondering and bouncing back and forth and back and forth on the balls of your heels trying to decide if they would like cedar pine or cedar mint better in their stocking?

 

In its simplest terms, love is making time for someone. Love is knowing how to listen and paying attention. That’s really all there is to it.” -E.K. And if that is all there is to it, then I am not sure why I am pondering this at 8:18 PM with two papers, a midterm, another paper after that, and God knows what else sneaking up behind me. All I have is time, apparently. So I have more love than I knew?

One of the more interesting things about love is that it makes you leave the hall light on, far after your love has gone, because they were afraid of the dark. You weren’t afraid of anything, and now look at you. On edge every moment? That isn’t love. Or is it? Is love not yearning? Is love not wondering and bouncing back and forth and back and forth on the balls of your heels trying to decide if they would like cedar pine or cedar mint better in their stocking? If they would prefer 50 count sheets over 100 because it reminds them of their old home. If they still love — no, love doesn’t make you wonder that. You know that. Don’t ask silly questions if you don’t want silly answers. 

But love IS all the silly questions and answers when you're making time for and paying attention to the one you love. Loving someone is knowing their favorite ice cream flavor and bringing it to them from their favorite ice cream shop. Mint chocolate chip is their default, but Gelati Celesti makes a crazy good peppermint flavor in the winter. It’s knowing that they don't like peas, so when your mom asks if they should put peas in the alfredo sauce, you reply with a loud and hurried “Noooooo!” It’s knowing that they want extra bread with their meal, so when they go to the bathroom you flag down the waiter and ask kindly for just that. And for some Charlottesville natives: “I mean love is letting somebody have the last bite of your paffle.” -B.C. Honestly, I'll do a lot for love, but giving up the last bite of my paffle? That's serious — but maybe love means sacrifice?

 

Is that love? A sense of completeness? I give you the last bite of what nourishes me, I fold myself into the shape you need. That surely can’t be it either, can it?

 

Love is why you stack towels in sets of two — you don’t quite remember why they needed two, it was always a silly reason, but important enough that your hands still follow what they said like gospel. As if the monotonous one fold, two fold, three fold, and done will bring back something happier, something more whole, something more complete. Is that love? A sense of completeness? I give you the last bite of what nourishes me, I fold myself into the shape you need. That surely can’t be it either, can it?

"Love is what makes life worth living. Love makes us do things we never expected to, both in foresight and hindsight. No matter how much pain it brings us, we all ultimately return to it.” -R.A. Love has made me, and probably you, a bit crazy. Off our rockers, ever so slightly, but holding on for dear life. But without love we would be even worse off. I always find it frustrating when people say they love someone but they don’t have the energy to work it out. It seems to me that love ultimately brings you peace, and so the energy it takes is absolutely worth it. However, don’t confuse that with a lover that is abusive, because that person is not a lover at all. 

But what do I know? I’m only twenty and a little more than halfway through college. But I can say that I, Chloe Lyda, know love. I know that one of my best friends has bandanas in almost every single color and that if I got her a bunch more for Christmas she’d probably tear up. I know that a person who lived in my hall first year felt love for an artist, and I smiled every single time I walked past her room and heard Taylor Swift’s voice reaching through the door: “It feels like a perfect night.” I know moments that made someone feel they were on top of the world, flying into camp on a zipline, I mean, that is pretty bada**. I know whenever I see a shell-colored necklace dangling off of a rearview mirror, my heart palpitates. A memory. 

 

You may forget all of the specific details — I don’t know what the sound of a car squeaking its way up a hill will do to me in thirty years — but you will always remember how you felt. You’ll always remember their hand in yours. 

 

This all makes the letdown of love so incredibly worth it. Or, more accurately, the letdown of people. I refuse to believe that love is ever bad, but I know that people can be. My ponderings aren’t leading me in any certain direction, and to be honest, I don’t expect them to. No one has ever truly answered the question “What is love?” and so I most certainly don’t intend to be the end-all-be-all decider. 

What I can tell you, though, is that love does not go away. Ever. You may forget all of the specific details — I don’t know what the sound of a car squeaking its way up a hill will do to me in thirty years — but you will always remember how you felt. You’ll always remember their hand in yours. 

You will always remember the fake goodbye. 

Because that “last” goodbye was never real. It couldn’t be.

No one can say they’ve had their last goodbye with anyone unless they have left this earth. 

And if you keep telling yourself, “it wasn’t the last goodbye,” you get to dream that maybe “hello” will happen again, maybe everything will be normal again.

Everything will be loved again. You are loved again.

You are… love?

 

 

 

Special thanks to Emma Keller, Brianna Card, and Ryan Alcorn for answering my question!

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