How often do you hear someone describing their feelings towards something as being a ‘love-hate’ thing? It isn’t something you hear often, because it makes more sense to choose. It does not seem so natural to both love and hate something, or someone. What a useless contradiction that serves no purpose but to confuse, entertain, and apparently draw us closer together.
Such is the human condition. It is riddled with oxymorons, and we are hedonists who are attracted to what’s on the other side of the fence.
“He loves me, he loves me not. He loves me, he loves me not…”-
I remember, clear as day, a silly distraction I was taught as a kid. Effeuiller la marguerite…
Pluck a daisy. This daisy is going to predict your love life. Each petal represents the truth about a love that can be. He either loves you, or he doesn’t, and if the last petal you pluck says he doesn’t… well then just pluck another daisy until you get it right, God damn it!
I believed in the power of the daisy.
Lucky me, who had entire fields dotted with daisy flowers at my disposal when I was growing up at some point. My immune system could only handle this fantasy for a few years before puberty and hay fever came to slap me in the face.
Suddenly, spring time was not all daisies, grasshoppers and butterfly flutters from a crush. Suddenly, it became my worst nightmare to get out there and smell the roses. It became a physical metaphor for how simultaneously beautiful and painful love can be.
Deep down inside, I knew that this thing called love was inevitable. It would strike me one day, any minute now! Just ask the daisy! Anything to keep a kid distracted from doing homework, right?
When I ran out of daisies, I’d turn to leaves, and when the leaves turned me down too, I waited for autumn so that I could have my revenge, crush those damn leaves like they crushed my belief in a love that could be.
I was a romantic kid– can’t you tell?
Winter caught up with me quite fast, and with it, the death of a love that could be. With every passing year, that feeling that love was waiting for me intensified, but my belief in the daisy waned and I became bitter.
With every passing year, I learnt more about boys and love, but also heartache. I learnt that there is a time and place for everything, just like daisies and silly games. I learnt that the love you read about in fairy tales, much like Santa Claus in Christmas, is rarely the love you come by.
Eventually, I let winter take over, and there was something comforting about the fact that stormy weather complemented my inner turmoil. Winter became my new spring, except it was loaded with pessimism. Not exactly the best thing to be preoccupied with especially around Christmas time: the epitome of good faith, unconditional love and gifting as a symbol of thanks.
My personal family situation did not help the matter either, as with every passing Christmas, we celebrated less and less. I turned to friends to keep the tradition alive, but by that time, my Christmas breaks were the furthest thing away from traditional and familial anyway.
I suppose you could say that I became a bit of a Grinch. The next thing you know, dreading Christmas became normal, and I felt no need to put on a happy act or dress.
Then one Christmas eve, I received a message that was part of a series of romantic endeavors quite frankly I could not care the slightest for at the time. In fact, I remember rolling my eyes and exhaling with exacerbation, my head pounding from a hangover I didn’t care to cure from the night before.
Turns out, I could not have been more blinded by the moment I’d been waiting for– that moment that was the equivalent of the joy I felt as a child plucking a final “he loves me so!” petal.
Far too consumed by the resentment I felt because mother cancelled Christmas entirely that year by refusing to even put up a tree, while simultaneously trying to convince me to attend a Christmas dinner with her (which only confused me more), I buried myself in an oversized hoody and a ton of self-loathing pity. At this point, I was guilty for making my mother feel guilty, and guilty of living out an anti-Christmas.
Love was the last thing I felt, but the first thing to scribble my phone’s inbox that evening. I’d already messed up Christmas by turning down my mom’s last minute invitation. She was long gone by then, probably already half way to the dinner.
I could decide to let the holiday blues get to me, or open my heart to this young man, a friend who had taken up an interest. I did not know why someone would take up an interest in me, this Grinch who craved and despised all the festivities. Wouldn’t I only make it worse for him, ruin his Christmas spirit?
I decided not to continue questioning it. I dragged myself out of the house, head still pounding, hoody still in place to protect me from looking good, and headed towards Bliss street and campus.
I picked up a medium coffee with cream to go from Dunkin Donuts before walking through Main Gate, which was deserted for the most part. “This should help”, I thought, but I was avoiding the streets for a reason and the sobriety of coffee was not helping.
I didn’t want to be reminded of where everyone else was- probably sitting around their Christmas tree, sipping on eggnog, eyeballing gifts and tantalizing their senses with tryptophan from all the turkey. I could not imagine why he’d want anything else, but here he was instead, waiting for me at the ‘lover’s garden’ next to the most hated stairs on campus, looking his best.
While there I was: hair tangled, oversized hoody now stained with coffee (because, of course) and more confused than ever. I was embarrassed, cheeks rosy red (the merriest thing about me). “When did you stop caring about the way you look?”, I thought to myself, “and when did he start caring about the way he looks?”.
You see, the last thing on an engineering student’s mind is what he’s wearing. Pfft. They don’t have time for that, but they have time to tell you all about the origin of time (at least this particular engineer did).
Not much was said. Not much needed to be said. He handed over his iPod to me, screen faced down, and told me to press play on his instruction. Then he walked over to his bag, and began to prepare for what became my most memorable Christmas scene.
It was my first time in the ‘lover’s garden’. I used to make fun of that name too, thinking that it was such an ironic name to have for a spot situated between two things students found the least romantic and unwanted on campus: the endless Chemistry stairs and the infirmary (a.k.a paracetamol central, the cure for everything).
“You can press play now”, he said. So I did. Suddenly, that sorry excuse of a lover’s garden overlooking the stairs of death turned into the most romantic moment of my life. I started to imagine all the things I would have worn to suit the mood had I known, but then it dawned on me that things couldn’t have been more perfect in that hoody of mine.
He had replicated the most romantic scene from a popular Christmas themed movie we’d watched together for the first time, and countless times after that day: Love Actually.
You know, that cue cards scene with Kiera Knightly and Andrew Lincoln.
I did not need a Christmas tree, turkey or the thrill of ripping up wrapping paper for it to be Christmas. In fact, this was the merriest I’d ever been.
You see; love, actually, is all you need.