What Love Is

What Love Is

Advice from Maya

Sarah asked herself what love was: and coming up with no definitive answer, asked herself how it felt. Vulnerable was the first word that came to mind. It was giving yourself without being sure that your gift would be acceptable: it was feeling that you were minus an invisible layer of skin: it was seeing the Goddess Venus manifest herself without warning, in a four-ale bar: it was waiting at the crossroads with your suitcase, and becoming increasingly sure that your lover’s car would never come.

“I loved you once”. How many times had she heard that? A couple. It was always painful to hear. The last time, she had been forcibly reminded of childhood memories of a butcher’s shop. The animal corpses hung from hooks, and blood dropped onto the sawdust which had been carefully placed below. She had felt like one of those slaughtered beasts, that time.

And yet, and yet ... perhaps the problem was that she had not done her research properly: she had scattered the seeds in the wrong sort of soil. She had been full: but of what? She ought, perhaps, to have sought out those who might need her love, instead of wanting to possess their ideas, their laughter. That had been presumptuous: you couldn’t predict other people’s needs. Maya Angelou had urged her readers to take the risk of loving, even though it might be late and the last throw of the dice. And indeed if Sarah were to fall in love with someone now, it would feel like like unchartered territory. That was disquieting.

Suddenly she realised that the best sort of love was given without expectation of return. It was not a form of barter. You were simply a conduit through whom warmth and generosity might flow. Selfishness marred it, an eye to the sexual main chance soured it. Love was not a having and a taking and a displaying and a consuming: it was a shining and a blessing. If Love had a voice, it would say: “I am not you, I will never be you: but I see you as you are, and I love you still.”