To my beloved on the occasion of her 24th birthday: Happy Birthday, Mia Katerina.
|I have wondered, deeply and frequently,
What we mean when we say, "I love you."
Why those three words, when so often
What we really mean is far more complicated,
Far more terrible,
And far more wonderful
Than three little words could ever possibly hold?
Do we mean, "I want you"?
"Your body calls me to it,
Drags me into its infinite capacity
To touch, to feel, to explore.
In you, I find fulfillment of every carnal longing.
To smell, to taste, to study your every curve
Like those on a life-warmed marble statue,
I would be your willing slave."
Or do we mean, "I need you"?
"I am but a vacant shell before you,
A gaping empty void, lacking in every way
But the way in which you fill me up.
I long, with every breath, to breathe you in.
Your essence, I want to hold it within myself
So that by your presence, my own becomes
More than a passing trifle, or more than a penance owed."
Do we mean, "I'm lost without you"?
"I wandered through my life sightless,
Blind and deaf to the wonders of the world
Spinning beneath and around me at every moment.
You are my compass in a world without direction.
Your light, your sound, your call to my very soul,
Climb through my defenses, pulling and pushing
To where I've always been destined to be."
So what do I mean when I say, "I love you"?
Do I not want you, the way that the river
Rushes to join with the ocean?
Do I not need you, the way wildflowers wilt
For lack of a summer rain?
Am I not lost without you, a wayfarer
Journeying without a map?
I mean all those things,
But I mean so much more.
With those three little words, I say, "I choose you."
I choose to want you when you look your best,
But also when you feel you look your worst.
I choose to need you when I feel most empty,
But also when I feel most fulfilled.
I choose to lose myself with and in you,
And to blaze trails off paths unseen.
But mostly, I choose to walk my life with you,
Not ahead of you, nor in front of you,
But beside you as my companion.
No matter how twisted the path may turn,
No matter whether we journey
At midnight or midday,
No matter whether we can even see one another
In the dimness of our own dark selfishness,
No matter whether we feel
The epitome of love
Or the extent of overarching apathy,
I choose you yesterday, today, and tomorrow.
I can give you no greater vow than this,
These three little words: "I love you."