A neon light in the shape of a heart

Photo by Connor Wells on Unsplash

I’ve been asked to define “Love”. To compare it to an essay. But I do not think this comparison fits.

When I hear “essay” I think of something intellectual, well though-out, planned. Perhaps over-thought or maybe even over-wrought. Brainy. Something my mom would be proud of.

On my left forearm, I have a tattoo in the shape of a tree. It is a piece that I meant to remind me that Love is what life is all about. My core value, my mission and vision. My mom doesn’t know about this tattoo. When I emailed her after getting my first tattoo, she wrote back “I haven’t seen it, but I don’t like it.“ She wouldn’t be interested in this Love tattoo either.

Preparing for my Love tree tattoo, I corresponded with Vinny, the artist. “I’m thinking something like a tree”, I wrote. “Something about how it is a tree rooted in love, a growing thing, with heart at its core. Something that makes more love.”  ”Do you want it all black, or some red in it?“, he wrote back. We made an appointment for the next time he was visiting San Francisco.

Vinny took my ideas quite literally. This tattoo of mine consists of a tree, rendered in fine etch-like black lines. The tree’s roots are shaped like a heart. Thick branches intertwine in the shape of a heart. On this tree, a few little red fruits hang – shaped like hearts, of course. The whole thing is faintly embarrassing and, in its endearing cheesiness, an excellent metaphor for love. And also Love. And even LOVE.

Love is something that forever changes you, and something that you carry with you forever. It is something that might have seemed like a good idea at the time, but now you wonder what the heck were you thinking. Sometimes it is an open wound, sometimes an itchy scab and yet other times it is just like breathing, living skin. Something that makes you feel like you’re too old for it, and sometimes not nearly old enough to get it right. It is simultaneously disconcerting and comforting, awkward and glorious. It is something that you can share with others, or keep hidden under your sleeve. Sometimes you might write an essay about it.

Written during a Creative Nonfiction Bootcamp, in response to the prompt: “Define Love. If love were an essay, how would you classify its structure? What do its beginning and ending have in common? What are its classifiable parts?”