Does Love Exist?
Affirmative by Hugh Cecil
People who don’t believe in love are just unwilling to give it a shot. Love doesn’t come easy; it catches you by surprise. If you look too hard, then you’ll miss it. It’s a strange thing, a powerful, and elusive emotion that only finds its way into your life when you look in the most unexpected places. So many things can go wrong, but, when love goes right, there’s nothing better.
You’re doing double takes around every corner because you’d do anything to see them again and god forbid you miss a chance to catch their eye. Your heart bursts through your throat at the thought of being with them. The world stands still but the clock stubbornly forges on.
Illustration by Rachel Chin
Love exists because there are people that will it into existence. Love, manifest, is the willingness to give up everything for something else. Love is an odd detachment from the self, to an emotional unification with another. You’re terribly vulnerable but blissfully comfortable. In Spike Jonze’s movie Her, they talk about love as a “socially acceptable form of insanity;” it’s an unconditional and impractical reliance on something else.
Love can take many forms, but it undoubtedly exists. For the landscape artist it might be just the right stratification of clouds across the sky; the musician plays just the right note at precisely the right time; or the chef delights in the right balance of tastes in his meal. Efforts to define love are futile because of its amorphous nature, but it exists. It’s just about finding the right companion.
On those cold winter days when the harsh winds burn ears and numb cheeks, there are few things that will get me out of my room, but I’d gladly do a walk of shame, in my underwear, back from Milano’s, so long as I have an H17 in my hand. It is something I cannot stop thinking about. When you are in class and your stomach aches because you are not with your significant other, you understand the pain. There is something unassuming about the way the H17 stares back at me. It seems to understand me only as far as I seek to be understood—I am exactly like Gatsby.
The H17 is tailored to my liking, too. It can be as little or as much baggage as I want. My relationship can be as heavy or as light as I’d like. I can keep coming back to it, guilt free, and the Milano’s staff will never judge me for it. Although there are many sandwiches on the robust pages of the Milano’s menu, there are none quite like the H17.
Those who deny love’s existence just haven’t found their own H17.
It would be a disservice to the emotional capacities we have developed over years of evolutionary empathy to say that love does not exist. The inexplicable nature of love is why it pertains to our lives so much and the reason that we have tried to denote this feeling. There’s no omnipotent oracle that could tell us why we do or feel the way we do— it’s just love.
Love has been written, drawn, and sung about by virtually every artist because nobody entirely understands it. The impression of love is entirely subjective, but it exists. There may not be a universal Love, but the emotional interdependence from person to person validates the irrational nature of our being and encapsulates what it means to be in love. The love for a sandwich is completely irrational and unhelpful to any future relationship I hope to have, but, as long as Milano’s keeps serving up the H17, I’ll be happy on Valentine’s day.
Negative by Virginia Ambeliotis
Love does not.
It is said that love for a person increases with knowledge of that person. Yet the closer I get to someone, the more I tend to discover things about them that just piss me off. Perhaps they lack my enthusiasm for oral hygiene; they consume alcohol, cannabis or pornography immoderately; or they urinate strangely.
There can be no love where there is shame, and for many of us who are trying to find love for the umpteenth time, it is shame that we ultimately feel. Shame of what we lack. Of coming asymptotically close to achieving a certain knowledge, only for our pillars to crumble down. Of thinking we are certain of something because we see no doubt in it, before realizing that doubt is the only certainty we have.
When we first started dating, there were things that I disliked about you. Your pretensions. Your humor. Your recurring references to Gogol. They didn’t bother me enough to leave you. We were two people going out, as youths do. I was ecstatic, not for us, but because we were helping each other fit in. Riding the conventional was a high; once we’d done it a few times I was hooked. Being with you felt so normal and I thought we belonged together.
After some time it became apparent to me that that normal feeling was actually an empty one. When you took me to that jazz club in Columbus Circle last summer, you apologized to me in advance that the venue was “commercial”. Why? The venue was perfect. The lights were dimmed. The music was sensuous as hell. Something about the scene still seemed artificial to you. By your comment you meant to vaguely ascribe this artificialness to our surroundings, but you knew: the problem was us. Amidst this music of extraordinary feeling, we were nagged by a sheepish revelation that we could not create this passion for ourselves.
After that night, I conceded that I wished to remain in a relationship with you but would no longer believe that it was possible to have passions for you that were real. Each time you unwittingly showed your
Illustration by Jennifer Bi
vulnerability reaffirmed my choice. You felt like you could trust me and I perceived your trust; this shared understanding made our being together feel right. But your inadvertent displays of vulnerability repulsed me just enough that you never became all-consuming to me. Like when you drunkenly confessed you can only write poetry when you’re high.
As for my least flattering memory of you, I must confess: I have revisited it many times in hopes of un-sentimentalizing the you I remember. Do you recall the time you dragged me to Sweetgreen and scolded the assembly-line person for having a certain root vegetable on hand that was not locally sourced? I never told you, but you mispronounced the name of the root vegetable. And no, I will not tell you what root vegetable I have in mind, nor how to pronounce said root vegetable, because I relish the idea of you moving down the Sweetgreen queue asking yourself what a root vegetable is anyway and nervously blurting out the names of add-ons that could fit the bill in front of your future dates.
“I love you too.” So often we say this to people for whom we have no such feelings. My hope is to someday tell someone I love them and really mean “you don’t repulse me.”
“I love you. Oops—I meant I hate you. Fuck. Do you want to fuck?”