One of my favorite songs about heartbreak and love is “Nothing Compares 2 U.” Sinead O’Conner’s striking voice rings beautifully in the simple chorus of a song that was oh so 90’s. I was a child when it came out, and the song now additionally carries that nostalgic feeling that is often associated with love.
Nothing compares to you
“Nothing Compares 2 U” reminds me of first loves and of newly born love, and of the powerful and exciting feelings that accompany new relationships. Even today, revisiting past memories about such love can be emotional and intense.
I’m reminded of my sophomore year in high school, weeks before this boy from the desert southwest made his way to New York City on his first unaccompanied trip to visit the university he longed to attend – NYU.
I had taken a break from the Internet for one reason or another and returned to find that my best online bud had joined a group of individuals who regularly met in an AOL chatroom named “Witless.” It was a charming place and one I remember fondly; the regulars included the likes of the older curmudgeon/leader; the witty and kind standup comic; the drowsy and cool older girl; the aggravating younger adolescent; and my pal, the voice of reason.
There was also another person that frequented it – a young woman a couple of years younger than myself. I’d been told that she was very cool, but in the days following my first visit to “Witless,” I hadn’t encountered her – not until I received this instant message (screen names changed to protect the innocent…also because I don’t remember them):
Liz71483: runs away
I’d been soaked by a digital water balloon. As the gentleman I am, of course, I retaliated. And thus started a sweet little romance. I was totally taken in by her and was surprised to find that she felt the same, especially after I discovered that physically, she was quite out of my league.
One night, just a week or so into knowing her, I told her how I felt…*
Mulder54: I want to tell you something…but I’m really nervous.
Liz71483: What is it?
Mulder54: Sigh…I don’t know…
Liz71483: Please…just tell me?
Mulder54: Okay. Here goes.
Mulder54: I know we haven’t known each other very long, but you make me feel like I’ve never felt before. Every day, I can’t wait to get home and talk to you and you’re always on my mind. I’ve never told this to anyone because I’ve never felt this way. I love you.
Mulder54: Are you there? I’m sorry?
Liz071483: No, I’m here. I’m crying, but in a good way. I love you too.
My heart leaped – I couldn’t believe how serendipitous I’d been. This lovely girl whom I was in love with loved me, too! The next few days were glorious, as we wrote to each other constantly.
And so, it was with a heavy heart that I departed on my New York trip several days later. We wouldn’t be able to communicate for about a week. But while in New York, I was able to get on the Internet one time and speak with Elizabeth…but somehow, in that short conversation, things didn’t quite feel the same. I wondered why she didn’t seem ecstatic to hear from me and why I didn’t feel quite as lovey-dovey toward her.
After I returned from New York, we IMed often, like we had before. But that spark was no longer there for either of us. I don’t remember the conversation, but we came to the conclusion that it was over. Soon thereafter, Elizabeth didn’t come online anymore, or at least she stopped using that screen name.
I never spoke to her again.
Is love really that frail? Is it dependent on starting a spark and keeping it going? Can it disappear completely because someone has a few days to evaluate the situation or because one person goes on a trip? Isn’t it just wrong when the first person you said “I love you” to loses that same love so suddenly?
The reason for all of this, of course, is that neither of us loved the other – not in the realest sense, at least. Instead, we were, what I call, in love.
While we all enjoy the feeling of being in love, I think its novelty wears off when we see it in the movies or in anime largely because it often feels artificial, and because it’s fleeting. For instance, the scene where Keitaro falls on top of Naru in episode one of Love Hina is classic, but only because of that image we remember, not because our heart flutters. My heart fluttered a whole lot more during the Christmas special, when Keitaro suffered through so much just to make Naru happy.
And there’s the rub – our hearts make those connections in romantic anime when real love is expressed. But what is real love?
Well, it’s a lot of things (I Corinthians 13). But one major component, and one that always sucks me in, is demonstrated in a series that became one of my favorites after I recently watched it: Steins;gate.
Twice in the series, the mad professor, Rintaro, manifests great love – during the tortuous cycle involving Mayuri and in forgetting his own needs to aid Kurisu.
One of those instances involves loving a friend; the other involves loving one he feels romantic toward. But both loves are essentially the same – they are a sacrificial love.
Without spoiling with details, Rintaro gives and gives and gives – through madness, physical harm, and emotional scars – for the ones he loves. The intensity of his love struck me. That, I connected with. That’s an indisputable kind of love, one made out of decision and action rather than dopamine and desire.
And it wasn’t just simple action. It was painful action – and love is like that. Jesus taught us to turn the other cheek – to sacrifice painfully to love others. It’s easy to do this once, or twice, or ten times. It’s much harder to do for a lifetime or when, as in Rintaro’s case, the loving of another results in terrific pain for oneself.
Real love is not a thing that’s easily left behind, as it was in my teenage “relationship.” And it doesn’t give up easily. It gives and it gives and it gives and it gives and when there’s nothing left to give – it gives some more.
Maybe that’s why I like series where the characters have to show love rather than those where they fall into it. I like it when Ko does little things to take care of Aoba, when a tearful Taiga continues to push Ryuuji toward Minori for his happiness, and when Tomoe throws away bitterness and life to save Kenshin from others (and himself).
Real love is so much sweeter than the diluted chemistry of new romance.
*I don’t remember these conversations incredibly well, but this is the best recreation I can give. It’s more than possible that my remembrances of how Elizabeth spoke (or wrote) have become an amalgamation of several conversations.