I was speaking with another writer recently about love - specifically, the long-lasting variety. We debated whether love fades with the passage of time and distance; if the powerful, all-encompassing strength of first love survives, or does it vanish, as light and frail as cherry blossoms on the wind?
So many books and movies would not exist without this question. Scarlett O'Hara clings to her love of Ashley throughout the war...throughout 1000 pages, for that matter! In The Count of Monte Cristo, the love between Edmond and Mercedes survives 16 years, to be reborn as deeply passionate as it was before.
The first romance novel I ever read was Twice Loved, by Lavyrle Spencer. The hero returns after being missing and pronounced dead for several years. Inthe book's opening, he walks into his wife's house, expecting to find everything the way he left it. To his great surprise, she has married his best friend. The rest of the book was a whirlwind ride, to say the least. And, yes, she goes back to her first husband, the hero who has clung to their love while trying to find her again.
So, what about love? Does it transcend time and space? Does it vanish, only to reappear at the glance upon an old photo, or the whiff of a beloved's perfume? Does it hover in the background of every day life, only to pop its head back into reality, urging, intent and feverish, remember me...I am still here... ?
In the movie, Dan in Real Life, Dan informs his teenage daughter, besotted with passionate love for the first time, "you cannot love someone after only knowing them for 3 days." At the end of the movie, he confesses his love for Marie, whom he has just met - "I love her, I love her, I love her, I love her...." Each phrase, each firmly stated belief, stresses how life-changing his love for her has become. Though it's only been a few days, his love is as deep and true as what his daughter feels. He learns, as we do, that love is an elusive gift. We have to choose how to give it, because once we do, we cannot take it back.
But how is it possible to love as strongly and deeply as in the beginning? How does love retain the initial spark of a first kiss? The first...everything? Does romance fade? Is romance - love?
Were it not for these questions, Shakespeare, Browning, Byron, and millions of others would have no subject matter. We can take it apart, analyze it forever...and still never come up with the right answer. Love does not respond to logic or physics. Like the universe, it is infinite. Juliet tells Romeo her love is as boundless as the sea. How many times have we seen greeting cards that tell the recipient to count all the grains of sand, or stars in the sky, to show how much we love? We tell our beloved, I love you - and it always implies - before, since, during, and after. I love you with all that I am, and all that I can ever hope to be. Love never dies. It has no end.