We Need to Talk About Love - or Not
by Nicole Yeo
The day they announced there was no more love in the world it sent everyone into a panic.
Humans all over the planet flocked to find the last sentiments of love before it disappeared altogether. It had come as a shock, but no one was ready to admit: they had not noticed how long love had not been around.
Lovers, beloveds, the lovelorn, and even the love-masqueraders scoured libraries and bookstores first. Love poems and letters were the first to be taken. Contemporary stories were adequate but books grown thick with dust and love over the centuries were choicest. In the restricted section, people walked rare books right off the shelves.
Then, people began to look in other places for love. People swarmed the hospitals, so well-endowed in compassionate love after treating the sick. The dying were picked first. Love for those beyond saving must surely weigh more than the rest. Then, the sick were welcomed into strangers’ homes. Nurses, having spent more time with patients, were preferred over doctors. Doctors were taken eventually as well – there must be some love in their scalpels that fixed people up right.
At first, this seemed enough. Then, people decided to dig further. Family pictures were retrieved and estranged people reunited. Parents reclaimed abandoned children and orphans found themselves fought over. Unrequited lovers requited quickly over a handshake. The divorced tore up their papers and gave each other a kiss on the cheek. In churches everywhere, people rushed to fulfil engagements and solemnise marriages.
But more and more love kept slipping through.
Wordlessly, the love-haters stepped outside and began to dance. No music was playing – there were no love songs anymore – but the love-haters danced till their feet were bruised and the dust in the streets turned red.
Some people started hanging tokens of love around their bodies – rings, handkerchiefs, coins, small pebbles, locks of hair. Other people started eating flowers.
On the tenth day, the buzzards came. Flies started to gather on the lips of the love-masqueraders.
The last pair of lovers were captured and put in a room to be studied. It was said that when they spoke, butterflies would fly out of their mouths and love would be loosed in the air like song. The scientists wanted to study their love and make it in large quantities for everyone.
Then came the explanation of how it all happened. Over the years, the world had gotten larger and larger but hearts had grown smaller and smaller. In that small heart space, people were always dissatisfied. It was inevitable, but no one had seen the signs. Love maintained its existence on a smaller and smaller space, protecting itself. After many years, however, love was conceded to regret and longing.
The world fell sombrely quiet. There was so much longing now with nowhere to go. People started to leave their jobs and homes, travelling the world over to find a trace of love to fill their hearts once again.
Once, someone thought he found love on the side of the road from the Guadalajara airport to the city. I imagined it must have been like looking straight into a moonbeam continuum with a constantly shifting vertigo. It made me go out and look into sidewalk cracks to try to find love there too. I walked and walked till the roads first became unpaved, then finally ended.
But darling, tell me, how do I find something I don't recognise? When the calamity came down on us, I left the house and wandered the city looking for love. Like most people, I believed in finding examples of love that existed and then trying to understand it. Like most people, I looked for all the records of love. I went to a second-hand bookshop looking for a love I could hold in my hand. I found a book almost two hundred years old. It was about a love between two people who were cursed to become trees that grew next to each other, entwining and digging their roots deeper and deeper into the ground. I imagined placing the book against my chest so that the love could flow right into my heart. Like most people, I gathered photographs, some more stories, a flower even. But love isn’t something that you understand through other loves.
Darling, you said, let’s wait. I had grown accustomed to the emptiness inside me. I had decided it was necessary and there was always time later for love again. But we waited and now there is no more love.
And then the moment came when news spread that the last pair of lovers had died. Locked away, their love was no longer theirs. Locked away, their future remained unhappened. With their last breath, they let out a cry that was long and loud and hollow with no beginning and no end. But instead of butterflies, a piteousness of doves flew out of their mouths, beating ripples of lament with their wings and filling the air with their light cooing. And then the moment came when we had to admit: we were past love.
And there is something else as well. In what we tell each other the butterflies may still flutter, the glasses still gleam, the future may still be new. And, as long as we keep searching, it will seem as if love has just fallen shut like a book we had been reading in bed, that we can still find the page we were on when we wake again. But still, here we are, arrived at a paradox, a potentially tragic paradox: we choked on the nearness of love and we choked on the ruralness of love. Somehow, someway, we were always already losing love.