A little over six months ago, a boy who was interested in me at the time asked me what I thought love was. "What do you think love means? What does being in love mean to you?" he asked. Of course, the first thing that came to my mind was a face. Not his face. Someone else's face. Someone I'd been trying to convince myself I hadn't been in love with for the past six months.
I didn't tell him what immediately popped into my head, although I did answer him. And I answered him honestly. "Love is wanting to be with someone all the time," I replied. "Love is the pain you feel when that person is gone for even five minutes." I rattled off a dozen or so more things that constituted love as love in my eyes.
"Love is when you care about someone else's happiness more than your own."
"Love is when you want the best for someone."
"Love is when nothing else matters to you more than being there for that other person."
"Love means never leaving, even when things get really hard."
"Love means being able to stick it out and hold on, even when the pain is enough to kill you."
"Love is when you don't see the other person's flaws. You know they have them, but yet they are perfect in your eyes."
"Love is when you don't want a future if that person is not in it."
"Love means that you are willing to fight for that love, no matter the cost."
"Love is wanting to wake up next to that person every day for the rest of your life."
"Love is when you know that if the only thing you will ever have is that person, you know that you will be okay."
"Love is when that other person is your happiness."
"Love means that you will work to overcome the battles that life throws at you, no matter the cost, and that you will always be by that person's side through it all."
When I finished talking, I looked back over at the boy who had asked me the question. He stared at me with a puzzled expression on his face. "You talk like you're already in love," he said. I laughed nervously, trying to brush away his comment as easily as the bangs hanging over my eyes. He kept trying to push the subject while I kept trying to change it. I was in denial. I had been in denial for a long time. And yet these are the things I knew that love was, even when I was in denial.
But I am no longer in denial. I know what love is just as well as I know the back of my own hand. I know how it feels to be in love as well as I know how it feels to blink. It is simple to love. It is necessary. When you try to stop, just like blinking, you can't. It burns, the same way your dry eye sockets sting, and you end up loving again the same way that you end up blinking again. Trying to stop both processes is unnatural, and both usually produce tears.
Now that I am no longer in denial, I could tell that boy a million more things that love is. If I saw him again, which is unlikely, I would pull him aside, grasp his wrists, and tell him:
"Those things that I said are not the only things that love is. Love is so much more. Love is everything. Love is the way you argue at the grocery store over what items to buy. Love is the way you sing along to the same song in the car. Love is holding hands and feeling nothing but peace in your heart. Love is being able to wear sweats all day and cuddle while watching your favorite TV show. Love is comforting someone when they are sick. Love is kissing someone the moment you wake up, morning breath and all, simply because you cannot wait even a moment longer. Love is when one person washes dishes and the other person dries them. Love is when you work together on a project and are happy, just because you are working on it with them. Love is singing together while boiling pasta. Love is talking about how you are going to decorate a room. Love is looking through photos and smiling about all the wonderful times you've had together. Love is watching someone's eyes sparkle as they tell you a story. Love is when you laugh together until you are crying. Love is sharing the last piece of dessert even though you wanted it for yourself. Love is holding someone when they are crying and wiping away their tears. Love is when you kiss someone on the top of their head when they are sad. Love is planning to always be in each other's lives. Love is when someone knows you better than you know yourself. Love is holding each other close while sleeping. Love is changing someone into pajamas when they are drunk. Love is listening to pointless dramas over and over again. Love is letting someone skip your favorite song in the playlist. Love is holding someone's hand when they feel sick. Love is offering a shoulder when someone gets bad news over the phone. Love is one big thing. Love is a million little things. Love is every single thing with the person that makes your blood boil and stop flowing all at once."
Those are the things I know about being in love. But there are two other things I have learned.
When I was dating an ex-boyfriend of mine, he told me that he was in love with me. I really liked the guy. I used to ask myself, "Is this what love is? Am I in love? Do I love him, or do I just really like him a lot?" Now that I have been in love, I realize how ignorant of a question that was.
Love is never a question. If you ever wonder if you are in love, you are not. Love is sure. Love knows the answer to that question before you do.
Love is when someone else can ask you, "Are you in love?" and your answer can be nothing but yes. "Shit. Yes. Fuck, I'm in love. How the hell did that happen?"
The other thing I have learned about love also came from that ex-boyfriend. After he told me he loved me, I asked him if he still loved his ex-girlfriend. After all, he'd said that he'd been in love with her too.
"Yes, I still love her," he answered. I remember seething at his answer, my nails digging into my bedspread. "I know you don't like that answer," he said calmly, reaching for my hand. "But I was in love with her. You haven't been in love yet. When that happens, you will understand. When you truly love someone, that love never fully goes away. You will always love that person. Always."
I hated his answer at the time, but now that I am in love, I learned that he was right.
So what is love? Love is everything. Love is never a question. And love is forever and for always.