What I talk about when I talk about love is nothing


What I am, ever, is this: composure
Of stone. Spare weather visiting
The garden, small as the hours
I keep watch by. Beyond this wall
Must be better weathers.

– Mookie Katigbak-Lacuesta “As Far as Cho-Fu-Sa

Outside, it is raining. This is how it always begins. With rain. With cold. With night. With solitude that fits too snugly, like an old, favorite pair of pajamas that you can’t throw away. And I think, November came early this year.

I have written many lines about this before, the cliché of November rain. It rains all year in this country, of course, but the peculiar loneliness it sometimes brings and the rumination on it for me will always belong to November. Maybe it’s that Guns N’ Roses song, or the 30 days of certain cold weather. Maybe I just like to believe that all sentiment of this kind, a year’s worth of it, can be gathered and boxed into one month. One month for dealing and dramatizing, playing and packing up. Eleven for forgetting the feeling was ever there.


In the end, all is fiction. There is no Beloved, no You; therefore, there is no My Love for You. There is no Heartbreak, only Loneliness. And who’s to say this loneliness is real, in the way that raindrops are real, that the cold and the dark are real? Right now it is 3:43 a.m. It is raining lightly and the temperature is 23 degrees Celsius. Everyone else is asleep and I am alone. In my scheme of things and meanings, these must add up to loneliness. And so I feel lonely and write about love and desire and forgetting. But all I know of love, I know secondhand, from songs, films, friends, books. I learn their metaphors and imagery, their dialogues and narratives, create characters — I and You — and manufacture emotion from What-Ifs.


Write what you know, they always say. Good thing I’m good at research.


The truth is that I only know how to love. I know what to say and do to show what I feel or want to feel or make you think I feel. The actual feeling — its existential reality, if you will — is another matter. I may be fond of you, fancy you, admire you, want you, like you, even care about you. I may feel these for a very long time, I may throw myself into a role and hold on to these for life, but they never go very deep. I think that I could wake up one day and feel like leaving the person lying next to me and just do it, or stand there and watch him walk out of my life and it would be no disaster. Love, I find, is a word better suited for poetry and popcorn movies than for breathing, eating, shitting, fucking, hurting people.

But if love is a verb and I go through its motions very well, who’s to say it isn’t enough? Who can tell, if I don’t, that it isn’t “real”?


These are the things that I say because I am young, and my heart never needed stitches or even a band-aid, never got steeped in stale beer.


Through high school and college and work my friends would cry over people they thought they loved who screwed them over and I told myself I’d never be so silly. So I don’t let anybody get close enough to cry about, and now I think what a tragedy this is becoming, to not be able to give myself fully to another, to be unable to dissolve the distinction between You and I, to be stuck in Me and the space — the very wide space — around it.

In some ways this has proven useful. I have never missed a day of school or work, never missed a deadline or botched a project for a date, a spat, a breaking up. I have never had to throw out things that remind me of the You that does not exist. I have never had to burn letters. I have never had to tear down dreams.

I tell myself, if I am going to hurt for somebody, he had better be worth it.


I have written down an idea of You to love in my little gray notebook, for future reference:

Someone who’s intelligent and funny, who’s responsible, purposeful, and determined, but also knows how and when to get adventurous, when to just go with the flow. Someone who is passionate about something — an idea, a cause — and devotes his life to it, but who also has myriad interests. Someone curious and open to different experiences. Someone grave and erudite. Someone silly. Someone who believes in and aspires to the profundity of the human spirit, but realizes how small humans are compared to the vastness and sheer awesomeness of nature and the universe. Someone who loves ideas. Someone who loves people. Someone who, most of all, loves himself — and whose sense of self is so vast as to go beyond his puny individuality. Someone who loves discussion and debate yet respects and tries to understand perspectives different from his own. Someone who accepts who he is and is content and even happy with what he has, but is never complacent about what he is — someone who realizes that there is always room for improvement. Someone who aspires, always, to perfection — the point not being perfection, but the striving.

I have written down an idea of You to love. I create narratives about You and I, and I wait for them to happen, hope to stumble into the “Somewhere” where “You are actual.”


In the meantime, I walk around with free-floating feeling, the product of all the songs I have listened to upon waking and before sleep, the novels I have read, the romantic comedies I have gushed over and cried to in the wee hours of the morning.

One of the great pleasures of my life is harnessing this vague, fashioned emotion, giving it a story, putting it in language and participating in cultural production, in the manufacture of daydreams. Say, I buy a 15-peso ice-cream cone from the corner MiniStop one evening and trudge to the nearest bus terminal on the way home, without an umbrella as it begins to drizzle, post-romantic. Later in the night this scene will be in a story, only, a guy would be walking beside a young woman, who is a bit like me but more beautiful, and the remnants of rain on the asphalt and the headlights of passing cars would make for stars, and his ice-cream cone would fall to the ground because she would be saying goodbye.

These are the things that I write because I am young, and my heart never needed stitches or even a band-aid, never got steeped in stale beer.


When I write about love, I worry about authenticity. I worry that the reader will see beyond the imagery I weave, the narratives I plot (classic enough to be relatable, particular enough not to be too clichéd) and know that I am only faking it. When the reader succumbs to the lie, takes it for truth, and feels and acts accordingly—goes to look for her boyfriend, maybe, to embrace him—I think that I have succeeded.


When I tell you I love you, do not believe me so readily. You may just be a character. I may just be writing a story.


2 thoughts on “What I talk about when I talk about love is nothing

  1. Pingback: notes on not quite heartbreak | tenant on the top floor

  2. Pingback: Pieces for Silliman | tenant on the top floor

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