by Ayesha Siddiqui

Source: Jon Tyson, Unsplash

There’s something very endearing about the way we convince ourselves that the creation of a holiday, by ourselves and for ourselves, carries with it the ability to draw out some of the magic supposedly encased in the layers of the universe. You know, the magic that makes us believe that our lives are a lot more remarkable than we think. We did it in October; the coming of fall ensures that we remember the macabre is alive and well, but in a way that’s only the appropriate amount of truly morbid and, more fittingly, an opportunity to paint our lives with the gleeful romanticism of the evil and mysterious. Of course, the evil cannot be of this world, or, in other words, truly evil, lest we risk bordering insensitivity. October is the month we celebrate the tortured villain; it is the month we take it upon ourselves to play detective and reopen cold cases. Perhaps we like to believe that we can solve them, or perhaps we long for a reason—any reason to believe that there exists for us an adventure that can break the mundanity of this plain old human life.  

October comes and goes, and we are once again left with ourselves and the unremarkability of our existence. And so we seize December at the first sign of its coming; we playfully argue with our acquaintances over the right time to put up a tree (because maybe that tree carries with it some of the magic we are searching for), and we curb our urges to listen to music that does not rightfully embody the season. We swear that there is something about the month, particularly the second half, that makes us hate each other less and yearn to reconnect with the family members we otherwise cannot stand. It must be something in the air. We forget the man we are meant to celebrate, but perhaps it is okay since we have instead decided on being kinder, which is probably what he would have wanted anyway. Or so we tell ourselves. (I mean, our Eurocentric worldviews don’t leave room for us to consider the possibility that our magic isn’t everyone’s magic, but that’s another conversation). 

By the time February rolls around, the itch for more at the back of our heads starts to crawl back. And since we enjoyed loving each other so much the first time, we realise that we can elongate those affections by breaking them down into their constituent parts. Where Christmas may have been about the familial kind of love, February calls for the romantic. This one makes us giggle and blush. I do not think that we quite understand it, but we know that it entails a lot of swooning, a peculiar insect that flutters in the pit of our stomach, and Hugh Grant. So we are perpetually on the lookout for it because we are told that it is the most marvellous experience of our lives. And on the fourteenth of every February, we are reminded of our shortcomings as we witness the most public display of this secret that supposedly everyone is in on but us. Some of us wistfully watch from afar, the ubiquity of the notion serving as a glimmer of hope that perhaps next year it will be our turn. Others reject the notion entirely; love is a ruse, and this holiday is but a capitalistic venture in its most sickening form. 

For the greater part of my existence, I occupied the musings of the latter. It was not that I necessarily believed in the obsolescence of love; any yearnings for intimacy were quickly curbed by the phenomenon that was teenage boyhood—and I didn’t have to look further than my high school to believe that there was much truth to these cautionary tales. Boys seemed stupid and insufferable, and I, now in retrospect, admit that there was a part of me that took pride in not falling prey to the delusions of my friends. Love, I came to believe, seemed to add little to one’s life but exasperation and tears. Days such as Valentine’s Day were a flimsy (and capitalist) attempt to put a band-aid on all that was wrong, as if creating a day for love would actually create love. Love existed, out there, somewhere, whether in this world or a fantasy one. Of this, I was sure; whether that would leave the books or not was to be seen to, but if it did happen, I knew exactly what it would look like. I would be older and settled and at the prime of my existence. I would be so painfully content with my job and my life that it would only make sense for the universe to throw the love of my life my way to soften my cold heart and teach me how much more fulfilling life could be when one makes room for such things. I knew exactly what love would look like, exactly when it would look like it.

This article is different. Perhaps it is too intimate for my liking, but I think it needs to be said that when it comes to the enigma that is love, you will never get a singular answer to the questions you search for. In fact, many of the rules surrounding it are quite paradoxical. They say that you must be ready, but not too ready that you expect it to happen—and heaven forbid that you actively go searching for it. You must be ready enough that you like yourself sufficiently, but you must leave a piece out that only they can fit back into place. Part of its initial charm lies in the unexpected, but if they continue to shock you months into the relationship, perhaps you should run. You must enjoy yourself, but you must also not enjoy yourself too much; it must hurt you to be worth it (but not hurt you enough beyond repair, just the right amount). There are no rules but there are oh so many rules. Love is an old-fashioned fallacy; maybe we can reclaim love and love more simply. Maybe we like to love. Friendship trumps romance, and you can only have one or the other. Love is childish and frivolous; it is painfully adult and arduous. And what is it, exactly, you may ask? You mustn’t really know, and those who know may only silently smile as they watch the others discover it for themselves.

I can’t tell you the truth about love. But I can tell you this. 

Somewhere between high school and meeting you, I read a book that spoke of love, and in which a character said you would feel like family. When I met you, I chuckled to myself as I remembered the line because you did, as she said you would, feel like family. I wondered what it meant to feel like family. And I thought of how when I met new people, I often felt compelled to display the perfect balance between interested and distant: not too reserved that it was rude and not too eager that it was weird. I never worried about such things with you. I thought of how my favourite company had always been that of myself, but that I longed for your presence more often than I craved solitude.

I used to write a lot about love. I used to pretend that love was foolish and sordid, but in the safety of my private thoughts I’d yearn for the affections of the teenage boys I scoffed at. I’d waste ink turning them into the lovers I wished for them to be until I believed that they were. I wrote about the kind of big love that I’d learned about in books, the kind of love I thought I knew so well I would greet it with familiarity when it was mine. And I would never be able to stop writing about it, and these ruminations of high school crushes seemed to prove that. 

But I write less than I used to. This perplexed me. But the other day I read over my old ramblings and realised that much of what was made for the eyes and ears of my private journal had now expanded its audience to you. I used to think that doing so, that letting someone in on the innermost musings of my mind would mean giving up a part of myself. But when I walk into the kitchen in the morning to find you cutting strawberries for two bowls of yogurt, the swooning is met with something different, something greater, that consumes me wholly entirely but does not suffocate me. And I think of the tranquility in the midst of our bouts of unguarded, manic laughter, the wordless glances in between conversations with other people, and how food tastes better when it is shared with you. I think about how the one day I didn’t stick around at the library after class was the day you were not there. But often, I think of how when I met you I was not ready, but when loving you felt like the most natural thing in the world, I was. I think of how you smile often, and I think about how I have become everything I once laughed at, but I do not care. We laugh at ourselves together. I think of how you are somehow both everything and nothing they said you would be. Somehow this is better. Perhaps most often, I think of how I, a woman of many words, find that they often fall flat when used to describe the wonder that is you. 

I started this article as I would many others; relatable and somewhat generalised, equal parts snarky and meaningful, and a clear resolution. I did not at first realise that it would be about you. But it has been, all of it, always, about you. I think of how I never understood the Jane Austen quote, If I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more. You tease me about the letter I told you I was writing for you but never quite finished; I smirk and tell you that it is well underway. But in the interim I have realised that it will never quite be complete. I think that is a wonderful thing. 

Perhaps I will never find the words to describe love either, but know that it is you. And I celebrate you today, tomorrow, and on every capitalist holiday we continue to create. I don’t need an excuse to love you, but I’ll take any excuse to shamelessly repulse our friends. 

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