I mean, I guess this is a love letter. But it's not the sort of love letter one typically thinks of when one thinks of "love letters." It might not be Webster's definition of love letter. Even our personal definitions of love and letter may differ.
Wait. Hold on. Before you start deliberating whether to use my heart as a trampoline, hear me out.
With global disaster looming, large-scale crises and tragedies happening on a daily basis and the impending end of the world, it seems prudent to reach out to loved ones in some meaningful way sooner rather than later. It shouldn't take an apocalypse to prompt personal correspondence, just as it shouldn't take a capitalistic holiday to motivate people to send gifts or treat others with kindness. In our hectic everyday lives, with our jobs and side hustles and sundry family activities, we've forced to pick our leisurely pursuits based on how easily they fit into the quiet pockets of the days. It's far less demanding to binge a podcast in a blanket fort than it is to meet up for brunch with friends across town. It's rare that anyone sends more than a quick email to check in with anyone without following up with the need of a favour. On the train to work today, I could've caught up on the backlog of electronic correspondence since 1998, read any of the Facebook messages accumulated in the last five years, and responded to a friend's "sup" text from two weeks ago. Instead, I stared out the window and then skimmed four tweet threads dedicated to theories about '90s sitcom spin-offs.
Anyway, here I am, taking time out of my very hectic life at the end of the world to write a declaration of my love for you. A declaration that seems unnecessary. I suspect you know that I love you. At the very least, you must suspect something, based on the frequency of our social media interactions alone. I feel that I could have lived the rest of my life without blatantly expressing what must be obvious fact and to which you may reply, "Well, duh."
In an ideal world, I could just scribble “I love you” on a scrap of paper and pass it to you and that would be enough. If free love still existed, you’d need only respond with “Right on, man” and we'd go about our lives. But ours is not an ideal world. When the idea that love could be distributed cost-free and double as its own reward couldn't be successfully monetized, the liberation of love was short-lived. We've instead been conditioned to feel anxiety whenever this four-letter word is introduced between two people, to believe that saying "I love you" to someone outside of your bloodline means the relationship must advance or change course in some way.
Now that I have invoked that three-word phrase, what social contract have I unwittingly entered us into? What does it mean and what do we do about it? The declaration of love is often accompanied by the expectation of reciprocation, or a detailed explanation of why the declared love cannot be reciprocated. Please rest assured, there is no need for that here. I don’t feel that my love is unrequited. It need not be requited. I am quite content with my... quited love for you. I confess there will be a twinge of embarrassment should you say that you consider me nothing more than the most distant of acquaintances. Even then, I should not regret my revelation. I love you and you are a person deserving of love, in whatever form it takes.
Whatever form does it take? My heart pounds, my stomach flutters, my pulse quickens as I search for the words that convey my feelings accurately. How can I quantify my love in a way that isn't intimidating or off-putting? What kind of love do I feel? Romantic? Platonic? Some as yet uncategorized -ic? I just did a Google search to look for a Buzzfeed quiz that could help me define it. Did you know there are seven types of love, apparently? I'm not sure any one type defines my love for you. It's probably on the cusp of several types or perhaps in the centre of a complex Venn diagram. Perhaps I could define my love for you with a colour from the overlap within the diagram. I think it's somewhere in the purple family. Violet seems too common. Lavender and Lilac seem too lightweight. It's a deeper, richer hue, I think, with an exotic sounding name, like Mauveine or Purpureus or Byzantium.
My Aubergine love is one that does not demand impossible tasks or commit them. I have not constructed a bespoke pedestal for you to perch atop so that I might do whatever one does for people on pedestals. It is far beyond my power to feng shui the universe in order to demonstrate my love or to encourage you to reciprocate. I don't think my love for you is strong enough to move earthly or heavenly bodies to woo and win you. In fact, I'm disinclined to pitch woo of any sort. Any fantastic notions of riding off into the sunset together on a motorcycle or yacht as Michael McDonald sings over our end credits must be quashed. I've no plans to rent one of these romantic escapade vehicles with grand intentions to sweep you away. Love stories rarely start with the yacht whisking our romantic leads away to embark on their new lives together. We always catch them at the end of a troubled tale and presume they've got two tickets to Paradise just across the bay from Happily Ever After. If the two of us set sail on the sea of love, we'd have so much real life, un-cinematic baggage to sort out and all the upending and rearranging of lives that is messy and unpleasant and full of risks.
So, I don't love you enough to embarrass myself with expensive gestures or to complicate our otherwise comfortable, separate lives. I could knit you a hat or perhaps some socks. Do you need wooly socks that feel like someone is always hugging your feet?
It is true that many people toss love around carelessly, casually upselling their feelings for celebrities and superhero movies and pumpkin spice lattes and sun-dried tomatoes. Could I be guilty of this semantic bleaching, using "love" as a tidy shorthand for what is likely more accurate, but decidedly awkward and cringeworthy? Have I said "I love you" when what I really mean is--
I have a fondness for you.
I feel warmth towards you.
I have great admiration and affection for you.
I hold you in high esteem.
I cherish our bond.
I enjoy your company.
I relish our interactions.
Yuck, right? None of these are things you’d like to see scribbled on a bar napkin, much less printed as spoken by an anthropomorphic pimento-loaf cupid on some vintage novelty Valentine’s Day card.
I didn't say this is a good love letter.
But, I do love you.
I'm sorry. It is crass to unpack my feelings for you to you. Perhaps it would've been better had I just tweeted you a couple of heart emojis and a nonthreatening Homestar Runner GIF.
I could not tell you why, or when, or what you did to provoke such strong emotions in your favour? I can't tell you how to replicate that process for someone whose love you seek? It probably wasn't one isolatable incidence, but countless insignificant moments—a dozen little acts of kindnesses, glances, gestures, and jokes inflated to absurd significance.
In idle moments, I might analyze our shared moments, looking for signs that you love me back—an intentional grazing of hands, eye contact we might've held for a beat longer than usual, a reluctance to part company, or a meaningful string of internet-based graphics. As if our friendship were a Magic Eye picture, I stare at it, into it, through it until I see the sailboat of our mutual admiration.
I wonder what kind of love, if any, you might have for me? How many types of love? Do our loves exist on separate planes, never to intersect? Or would our Venn diagrams mesh perfectly? I shouldn't speculate. You are entitled to whatever is in your heart, even if that is the platonic goodwill we should carry for all creatures throughout the universe.
Oh, but, what if, in professing my feeling for you while trying to free you from the obligation to reciprocate or respond, I have unwittingly broken your heart? Was it foolish of me to not consider that you might possess a greater love for me? And, by attempting to minimize the intensity of my feelings, made you feel it necessary to minimize your own feelings?
Damn the poets and damn the advertisers and damn the movies and music and literature and chocolate boxes and damn the Church and the State and the human body and all its involuntary reactions to stimuli and damn the atom for making love so damned difficult to convey.
All I really wanted to do was to express my positive feelings for you, here at what could be the end of the world as we know it. I just wanted you to know that, even at one of the darkest points in human history or your own personal history, someone is rooting for you to be safe and comfortable, that someone has been affected for the better by your existence, that someone out here does love you.