Flash fiction on love in multiple languages
|I don't know of any time in history where a phrase was dissected to the extent that it became a cold analysis of the banal. The fact of the matter is that the words dissolved into nothingness and yet became everything.
How many days had it been? I had lost count. The lack of natural light made it impossible to distinguish day from night.
The door opened, and Kroll walked in. I sighed and resigned myself to another grilling. The single-seater leather sofa beckoned to me, and I settled down on it, fussing over the gadgets on it to provide maximum comfort.
"Have you had your breakfast, Mr. Architect?" Kroll began as his opening gambit.
"Yes. And thank you for telling me what meal that was."
Sarcasm did not penetrate. I shrugged my shoulders in defeat.
"Today, we will explore the words we hear across the world, but to keep you at ease, we will focus on only a few languages."
I stared at him blankly.
Kroll continued with the air of an absorbed professor. "We have understood many things from you and from our own discoveries, but we do not understand the meaning of these words."
"What words?" I enquired, flicking an errant crumb from the left arm of the plush sofa.
"I love you," he stated flatly.
"Sorry, are we bonding now?"
"I do not understand bonding. Perhaps another day."
Why do I even bother?
"What does it mean when someone says that?"
I leaned back. It was going to be a long day.
"It means he or she has deep feelings for the recipient of these words."
The remaining part of Kroll's opening line struck me.
"What was that about focusing on a few languages?"
"Ah, the architect is incisive. We like that." It seemed like he smiled, but I couldn't tell.
"We understand it is a complex subject, so we wanted to limit it to Germanic languages today. And French."
"Why, French?" I was intrigued.
This time, there was no doubt. An unmistakable smile.
"Because it sounds good. Je t'aime. So concise, and aesthetic."
I matched his facial expression.
"Yes, hence it is a Romance language."
Kroll looked confused again.
"What is this romance? We don't understand. Everywhere we go, we hear this word, and we hear Love. Explain."
Kroll's face displayed all the eagerness of an apt scholar about to make a significant breakthrough.
"You must have understood different emotions by now. Romance is the action that follows Love to put it in the simplest terms."
He moved his head and indicated that I need to continue.
"Love takes many forms. You love your children, your father, your mother, your wife, your husband, sister, brother…"
His raised hand stopped the listing.
"Yes, yes, we know all about relations. But, I say 'Ik ha dy leaf' to someone on the street. That is acceptable?"
I smiled again, marveling at his perfect Frisian pronunciation.
"No, you need to have genuine feelings for that person."
The apt scholar act crumbled.
"The other day, I was at a soccer game. A Dutch girl screamed at a player 'Ik hou van jou' at the top of her voice. She did not know the man."
For the first time, I enjoyed our tête-à-tête.
"It is an expression of exuberance and joy. It doesn't mean she actually loves the man."
I couldn't resist but add, "But then, she also might."
He knew I was toying with him and stood up.
"Mr. Architect, you are mocking me. I know that expression."
"Are you insulted?"
"I don't have such feelings, but I understand that I must not encourage it."
I smothered my demonstrative mirth. Kroll regained his seat.
"I apologize, Kroll. I will not mock you."
"Good. I seek to understand as much as I can."
"Okay, I'll try and do my best to help."
My eyes closed, I contemplated.
"See Kroll, Love is an intangible emotion. When a child is born, the mother develops an intense affection for that baby that stands the test of time. By saying, 'I love you,' you are reinforcing that feeling."
"At the same time, it does not mean that the other person feels the same. When both do, that is magic. I have no other way of explaining it."
Kroll nodded with a philosophical air.
"It is not easy, but I am beginning to grasp it."
Over the next few hours, I expounded all the different aspects of Love with ample examples of heartbreak, pain, and sacrifice.
Meals came and went, and I had no idea how long we sat there, two strangers, in more ways than one.
The light began to show in his eyes, in his demeanor, and I had the feeling of a teacher whose student receives the Nobel Prize.
At long last, our verbal rallies ended.
"Mr. Architect. You are very wise. We have tried so hard to understand the ways of the human and this planet. We do not have Love where we come from, as you know. Your work here is exemplary."
"I know. Without emotions, this race is doomed. So, I had to throw a whole lot of emotions into them."
Kroll's features relaxed. Gone was the interrogator and hard-nosed act.
"Mr. Architect, you can leave. You have always been free to go. You knew that. We do not have the power to keep you constrained."
There was only so much time I wanted to spend in outer space, so far from the planet, I had invested so much time in.
As I stood up, Kroll touched my shoulder.
“Mr. Architect, Ich liebe dich.”
The tiniest of tears escaped the human face he had put for me.
As the droplet disappeared in the vacuum, I brightened.
"Tell me, again, the name of your stellar system?"
I loved new projects.