How many have you loved

Who, what, when, where, why. I would not have been impressed with this guy's smooth talk if I had asked the same question, "how many have you loved?"

I've sang it countless times in song lyrics, in English, in Chinese, and more. Wrote it out once, maybe twice, in an indirect, roundabout way. How far along a relationship do you first start to say "I love you", we discussed, in our lovely but not so productive group study session - which ended up to be a delicious feast of Korean fried chicken with pear salad, mango and grapes, jelly and flavoured seaweed, and lots of random chit chats. I can't remember ever having said those three words aloud, ever. Really?! That's so weird. 

Anyway, I thought about how I would answer that question, and whether what the guy in the short film said resonated with me. Did I love at the time; and even if I did, is it fair to retrospectively say that I did or did not love, based on my thoughts about what love means now.

What is love? Oh how it changes.

As a child love was the desk buddy you blamed for something that was your own fault, but still brought your homework books to your house when you left them at school. Or a classmate who twirled red and green pipe cleaners to create a perfectly shaped heart and sweetly handed it to you for Christmas - instead of the other boy who saw what the first boy had done, and made a wonky white and yellow imitation that barely resembled a heart. Love was a poorly written piece of poetry, left beside your scooter, which you tried hard to decipher because it was barely legible, but soon gave up and forgot about shortly after. Love, was the not very academic boy teased and hated by everyone in class, who had the foresight to bravely ask you to be his primary school graduation dance partner a whole half a year (no less!) in advance. Or for some, love was the cutest and most popular guy who expressed his interest.

In high school love was the boy who asked your mother for permission, before asking you out in person. Which was a refreshing change from randomly declarations of love from people who you never spoken to, who said you were beautiful, and declared their love from behind the screen of a computer. Love was the warm and fuzzy feeling that kept you awake after your first date, of watching a movie that neither of you paid much attention to. It was not caring what this or that person said about what he looked like, what his background was, or being together, despite the frownings by the nosy adults in our community who said - you are going to be distracted in your studies. Love was having a Valentine to bring you gifts and endure the teasing of your crazy girl friends. It was drawing a lovely blinking bear in front of a rainbow, childlishly playing footsies under the table, or letting someone hold your hand for the first time.

At the same time, love was not that best friend who awkwardly swapped seats to be seated next to you on a long international flight, then in the middle of the plane trip, abruptly held his hand up and declared that you should do the same so that you could, palm to palm, see how perfectly they fitted one another. Love was not the intensity of one depressed person paired with another sad person to create waves of negative emotions which would wash over from one to the other. Or him, having long DNMs (to borrow my friend's phrase) with other girls on long phone calls, or having other fights which would result in long silences on the phone whilst you felt the time pressure of trying to prepare for your piano exams, as well as high school finals.

Later on, love was being unfortunately paired with an annoying, arrogant jerk for school work, only to later become best friends with him. Love was catching each other's eye in class, then quickly looking away and feeling giddy inside. It was never exchanging words at school, but writing a million emails back and forth, every day, about every thing. Love was having a person to make you laugh after you had a fight with your parents, or listening to his sibling conflicts at home. Love was well, sort of nerdy. Getting through the final part of high school together, studying and racing to solve mathematic problems on practice exams, outdoing one another in assessments, seeing each other at the library every day during study week and pouring water on his head every time he took a drink at the water fountain. Or (get ready for more nerdiness) receiving clues via a message encoded in a series of matrices and colour codes. Love was the fun of changing your profile picture and screen names to be the same so that all your friends were confused. Or the awesome delight of receiving a creatively carved block of cheese, in the shape of a rat!

Love was being relentlessly pursued for years though you had laughed at him, offended him, when he first told you how he felt. Love made the high school formal magical, and made you dance happily until midnight, though your friends had left hours earlier. Love was saying goodbye for a year, waiting and hoping that the lyrics of (Guang Liang's) 童话 and 约定 would really come true. But fairytales are fairytales for a reason, ha ha. Love was going through many seasons thereafter as good friends, listening to each other's new love problems, but that would also end one day.

In a brand new city, love was the boy who shared his breakfast with you, and many meals thereafter. Love was filling an emptiness in one another, until the world seemed to only contain the two of you - only later do you realise how you each had neglected to invest in other friendships, interests and hobbies, to your detriment. Love was exploring the city, learning to do daily chores, and helping each other to get by with living away from home for the first time; vacuuming, laundry, dishes and all those mundane things in life. Love was not - having that closeness, then not acknowledging it by calling it, just friends.

Love was confiding secrets in one another, caring for one another, having someone to sit by you when you are delirious with fever. Love was staying overnight at the airport, so that he could pick you up early in the morning, and leaving you a lovely surprise in the fridge upon your return. Or the thoughtfulness of making a home-made drink out of green tea ice cream for you because you loved it so, and prettily completing the drink with bubble tea pearls and bright green mint leaves. Love was being taken to the highest mountain, or highest buildings in the city, looking out on a beautiful sunset, then being showered with multiple cakes, surprises, long road trips, and expensive gifts. Yet soon realising that you can have beautiful scenes and even beautiful times, but that doesn't always equate to a beautiful relationship. Love was a warm hug, but then seeing, how love was not a valid excuse for lust. Love was, sitting through church services with you every Sunday, and even taking notes; then perhaps realising, love was not about trying to meld two sets of values that were worlds apart. Never being able to agree on the fundamentals about what life and love was about - all that would do was make one another unhappy, or compromise on the essence of who we were.

As college students, love was about being crazy. Running around and literally chasing one another down the corridor, down the street. Having your headband and shoes stolen, and plotting revenge by throwing his shoe outside the window, or apple pieces into the principal's courtyard beneath his balcony. Hiding in the wardrobe and jumping out to scare the other person, smashing the table tennis ball at one another's faces, play fighting and choking one another. Then, love was about the quieter times too - talking until early hours of the morning, walking around the graveyard, learning from the Bible together, praying and asking God for help, and memorably, love was about honestly pointing out something wrong in your life. Love was crazily intoxicating, but it is not about being blind to how you hurt others in the process. Neither was love about taking a huge leap before you take a good long look, and think about what you were doing. Love, it seemed, was the long period of harmony at the begininning; until a year had passed and you saw that it was merely the sweetness that marked the first stage of a relationship.

Back in high school, I would show an interested guy this poem, which would basically ask whether he liked me or liked the notion and feeling of being in love. I would never have admitted it, but perhaps for many years, I too often confused the two. It seemed that anyone who came along the way was suitable enough as long as there was that buzz, or as long as they were totally, "my zing" (Hotel Transylvania, terrible movie). It took me a long time to realise that it's very inadequate not to be able to give specific reasons as to why you like someone - you have to look a bit harder, take a bit more time to work out who they are, whether there is something special, compatible, worthwhile pursuing, beyond the delusional feelings which would fade one day.

I agree with the guy on WongFu productions, how "the final" would contain bits of everything - the crazy times, the fun times, the mutual care, the hopes, learning together, getting through daily life, and more. But, with so many silly and strange ideas about love over the years, after seeing all that love is not, who would really want their final person to embody everything that they found in all their previous "loves"?? Looking back you wonder, how could I ever have thought this or that was true love. Then you wonder, would I mock myself with the same question if I looked back from the future, to where I am now?

What does the picture of love look like in my mind, now?


Ziph said...

wow. you should get wongfu to make a short film about your stories lol.

Winnie said...

Who said they were all my stories!! Haha


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