I have a problem. And it’s in the words, “I love you”.
Let me explain. Those three words are my kryptonite. When I hear those words, in that order, I feel… okay. It doesn’t matter where the words come from. For me, there is an intrinsic power in those words that convey a safety; a healing. When “I love you” comes out of a person’s mouth, their body is merely a vessel being used to convey the energy from themselves to another. The words themselves have an innate fire in them.
The issue is in replying. I have trouble every time. My boyfriend says “I love you” at least five times a day. It’s hard to find a reply that will do the feeling justice — “I love you too” seems tacky, like an afterthought to love that is only being acknowledged out of etiquette or convention. Really, the phrase ends too soon. I love you too. Too what? Multiple qualifiers come to mind, too much, too hard, too truly. That’s getting closer. But it’s still grasping for a feeling that’s just way out of reach.
“I love you more” is even worse. Do I love more? More than what— more than people love me? More than my boyfriend, my family, my friends love me? Can I claim that? Do I know that? I don’t see how it is in my place to assume that my love is more powerful than anyone else’s, more important. More potent, somehow. The last thing that I would want to do is quantify love into units that can be “more” or less”. I just don’t think love works like that. I don’t ever recall loving my boyfriend “less”, even in times of anguish or heartbreak — part of what makes love so appealing, so tantalising, is its unconditionality — there is no less. Sometimes, the feelings just happen to compound and mix. It’s love and anguish, it’s love and heartbreak. Love does not just become cancelled out once you find yourself hurt or annoyed. It’s layered.
That’s what hurts — it’s that internal battle, in times of falling out — how do I still love this person who has hurt me so much? How can this person still love me when I have hurt them so much?
Why does love act as an undercurrent, and not just beat discretely with each present moment? Why is there that degree of everlastingness? Is it that familiarity, obligation, fear of starting over? If so, doesn’t that take the magic out of it? There are questions whose answers are more questions and other answers that spiral further and further away from comprehension. I don’t understand love, it just happens to me. The more I try to comprehend it, the more unraveled it becomes.
So how, then, do people fall out of love? Is it a sudden thing, or does it just fade — like an asymptoting feeling that becomes so unlively that there is no real feeling at all, just existence at it’s purest? But as we go around the horseshoe I can see the appeal in a relationship like that, see the appeal in what many would consider the first steps to “unloving” someone. I can understand wanting to feel comfortable in purely existing around your lover without the need to “feel” something — the idea that having them there is as natural as being alone, like you’re one soul divided into two corporeal beings. Together at least. Whole.
Love mirrors itself, reflects itself against everything it touches; becomes mixed up in our words, starts to taint the colours of our world; so every other way of describing such a concise, powerful feeling seems artificial or unsatisfying, unsustainable. It’s tricky, it infiltrates, and there really is no way to deflect it or constrain it, to hold it down — to pinpoint its wings like a distressed buttery on the cold table of a Lepidopterist.
I’m no closer to understanding how to answer that energy-laden “I love you”. But, I think, the closest way is to have no deviation from the initial comment, the divine compliment that sounds like the taste-equivalent to chocolate cake. Love stretches infinitely, so any other words to try and make sense of it just become lost in its vastness.
I guess the only proper way to respond to someone saying “I love you” is to answer with your own chorus of infinitely-complex, tunneling, booming, laughing, shrieking, hurting, singing, burning replies: Yes, and I love you, I love you, I love you.