“It was then […] that I whispered to Julie the best love declaration in the world. I said: ‘Julie… Julie, I love you meticulously.’”
If there has ever been a common theme in art, poetry, and film, it’s love. This chaotic human experience we are all a part of is often bound by love, fuelled by love and comes down to love. It’s the single common denominator in most of our lives, but the experience of love is so vast, so magnanimous, it comes in so many different forms and shapes that one cannot help but wonder, does one single declaration truly convey what we feel? Three words, a multitude of feelings at stake, but still three, simple words: I love you. Is that enough?
“I love you meticulously”, writes Pennac, a love that reflects on knowing every single detail of a person, yet being in love anyway. “I will love you as misfortune loves orphans…,” says Daniel Handler, talking about a love that is simply an expected occurrence, so bound by its own nature that it is an inevitable reality. “You pierce my soul, I am half agony, half hope…I have loved none but you”, writes Austen, about an all-consuming, close to painful feeling of love.
The point remains that for a feeling so universal, the way we love is not a singular experience; we feel things on wavelengths that make sense to us as individuals, so surely one universal declaration consisting of three words doesn’t do the feeling justice. For some, Pennac’s words about love being meticulous may be very off-putting, since for them love by nature is not systematic, it’s not neat, it’s not organised. For some, meticulous could mean attention to detail, knowing every facet of another’s personality, knowing someone so closely that whatever comes next, that meticulous nature of love remains.
Then, there are some who are not made for flowery declarations or passionate expressions at all. For them, love is expressed every day, by the mundane and the routine, by things big and small. These individuals say what they need to by getting up earlier to put the kettle on, saving the last bite of dessert, patiently listening to rants about why the moon landing could be a conspiracy, habitually picking up snacks which are their person’s favourite but personally, their least favourite. For them, expressions are not necessary, three words are not valid, their life is an ode to their love.
Of course, we cannot ignore the different forms of love itself! So many versions of love exist, so do we find a different declaration for all of them? For the love between a grandmother and her grandchildren, between people who are part of the same fandom, for the quietest spark between strangers who smile at each other, between best friends exchanging knowing looks, between siblings while they duke it out over a remote, between friends who didn’t stay and friends who did, the love for our pets and the love for our favourite books – love is everywhere, essentially. To me, three words never seem enough but then again, I am an avid reader, a habitual writer and a top tier consumer of passionate poetry and lyrically overpowering music; I like my words. To someone else, these three words could say all they need to for love in all its forms, or their actions could speak for them, or they could be waiting for a particular kind of love to make up their mind about which declaration works for them – quiet or loud or meticulous or agonising. It’s all okay, honestly.
The declaration itself is also defined by tones and times; some days you’ll squeak out a “love you” to your mother while rushing to class; some days you’ll take your time, feel playful, draw out a slow, lyrically upbeat “I loooove youuuu”; some days you’ll exclaim “LOVE YOU!” at the end of a long day when your friend gets you takeout; some days you’ll be angry and you’ll forcefully cough out “yeah, love you too” and hang up the phone. On such days, three words in the form of a declaration seem to be more than enough.
We are fluid creatures; our lives, circumstances, moods define the words we use in a particular point in time. For me, while making sense of Pennac’s words, the only conclusion I can arrive at is that I cannot limit myself to the way I choose to express how I feel. Depending on the situation and the person, some days my love will be meticulous, some days fused with passion, some days unkind and some days led by my actions. While there are so many small pieces of myself that make me who I am, the presence of love tends to define my life. I can be a pessimist at times, but I am trying to remind myself these days, that everything will come and go, but essentially love will always remain. I’ll forget so many things that have happened, but I’ll always have different pockets of love. So, maybe, I don’t need to stress about what the perfect declaration of love is; love in all its shapes and all its seasons is a welcome presence in my life, and that is enough for now.
[Hooran M. Khattak – she/her – @hooran.m]
[Photo credit: Noelle Otto]