Monday, May 25, 2009

EVERYONE SAYS "I LOVE YOU"

Yesterday I received a crash course in just how limiting the English language can be. Although I have my share of commitment and intimacy issues, I've never been the guy who has a problem showing love. My friends and I often end our conversations with the casual "love you," just as a way to express our feelings of deep affection and admiration. There's nothing romantic or all-consuming about our love. We just, you know, totally dig each other, in the most platonic way.

And note the absence of the word "I." For me (I can't speak for them, but I suspect for them, too), it's not there for a reason. I think that in my entire adult life, there are only two people with whom I haven't been sleeping to whom I've said, "I love you": my mom and my best friend Lori. And I've even slept with Lori twice (platonically, of course) -- once, during her recent visit to BA, and the other time during the blackout of the summer of 2002 that left much of the northeast U.S. without electricity for nearly 24 hours.

I recently began dating a guy whom I totally dig in the most non-platonic way. We've had exactly two dates, but for the past couple of weeks, we've spent hours every day talking to each other online, where his personality is as perfect as his English. Sometimes it feels like we've been acquainted with each other far longer than a couple of months. I'm not sure whether it's the fact that we can communicate in English and therefore, I can more comfortably express the real me. Maybe it's just pure chemistry. Or perhaps it's in his kiss. I have a theory that it's a little and a lot of all of the above.

But yesterday I did the wackiest thing. I could blame it on the a-a-a-a-alcohol, because when I did it, I was still slightly under the influence of a giddy buzz from the evening before (my first night out since my birthday party two weeks earlier). There we were, talking online, the conversation flowing freely. I was completely happy and at ease chatting with my new friend. Then it happened. We were wrapping up our conversation, and it just came out: "Love you," I wrote, without even thinking (a sign?).

"Love you, too!" he wrote back.

Immediately, I wanted the earth to swallow me up. Was I losing my religion? Had I said too much? Too soon? Had I given him the wrong impression -- that I just toss around the L word, like a dirty pair of socks? And had he responded in kind just out of the warmness of his heart? Best-case scenario: Maybe he was just like my friends and me, and he'd never bring it up because to him it wasn't such a big deal. Dream on, Jeremy. I knew that was one fantasy that was not going to come true. This is one of the most sensitive, soulful guys I've met in Buenos Aires, and there was no way he was going to let it go.

Hours into our date that evening, it finally came up, that thing I'd said. I tried to explain myself without coming off as if I was merely back pedalling. At the same time, I wanted him to know how deeply I dig him. He seemed to understand and actually appeared to be a little relieved. "In Spanish," he said, "there are many ways of saying, 'I love you.' There is 'te quiero,' 'te amo'.... In English, there is only one way."

Bingo! I was the victim of a language malfunction. I couldn't believe he totally got it. Suddenly, I was struck by the feeling that somewhere down the road, I could actually imagine myself adding on that rarely seen or heard "I."

Later on, after he went home, I sent him a text message to let him know how much I had enjoyed the evening. He wrote back that he'd also had a great time. His final words: "Love you!"

Ah, yes, this one totally gets it.
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