I find myself in the car, caught up in deep conversation, and I am hit by a wave of emotion. I look at my partner sitting next to me, and I put my hand on his knee. “I love you.” He grins. Then I say, “Even though I have no idea what that means.” And he grins wider.
It has been one of our ongoing conversations for years. What does this Love thing mean, anyway? I love my cat, I love my kids, I love my husband, and I love spaghetti. I think, for a moment, we need different words. Should “love” be banished for vagueness? He is surprised to hear my claim that I can summon this “feeling” of love without a particular object in mind. I experience this expansion in my chest and I call it love. Is it a mimic if there is no loved? Is love a transitive verb?
As the conversation continues and we poke about in the details, it is about my experience of love, not love in the abstract… or even his experience of love. My feelings are examined, prodded, and labelled. Is it really love or is it something else? Can you love somebody and then not love them? What does it mean to be in love? Can you feel love and something else at the same time? Is it just a chemical process triggered by sensory stimulae? That “love” of spaghetti… what is that, really?
And then he looks at me. And he says, “This is why I’m still with you after all this time. Because we can have this conversation over and over, and there is always something new.”
“I love you,” he says. “Whatever that means.”