They do love you. Question is do they like you ?

By Mationesa

“Babe, there are a lot of straightforward things in this world and love is not one of them. Even the smartest people have failed to fully comprehend it.” Robin and I were on our way back to the students’ car park from the Chicken Inn drive through, nibbling on the last few French fries remaining in the bucket. I dropped the napkin I just used into the empty bucket and reclined the leather seat of the 2002 snack-blue BMW, my first car. It was a gift from my parents for performing well at the Advanced Level examinations, and I learned how to drive in it. Unfortunately, it went through a series of mini accidents until we became confident driving on the road. Robin was driving; it took most of my energy to convince her. I had been dating her for about two and a half years now. She was kind and motivated, she wanted us to become successful. She always seemed to be a step ahead of me in her thinking process. I loved that about her.
“Well, why don’t we try to define what love is,” she said, turning to face me.
“Feeling loquacious?”
“Using fancy words now? I’m serious! I think love means sacrifice and compromise.”
“Yeah, but it’s not exclusive to love though. I sacrificed and compromised for the A-levels but hated them.”
“No, but it’s a signal at least. This traffic light has been red forever. You also wake up earlier every morning to come and pick me up and bring me to school, that’s sacrifice.”
“And that means I love you? Maybe I just like you!”
“Just like you like these fries so much I barely eat them?” Robin said, a beautiful smile on her face as she threw the bucket playfully on the floor of the car. I turned the air conditioning on and put my sunglasses on. It was a hot October afternoon, the sun hung low in the sky, adding long shadows to the trees and lampposts by the side of the road.
“Loving and liking someone have different depths,” I said, turning to look directly in her eyes. “It upsets me that people use these words as if they mean the same thing. One loves despite and likes because of. Love is without reason, liking demands – Jesus!” Robin hit a huge pothole.
“Sorry,” she said.
“No worries. The car’s already scrambled. Did I tell you I scratched the door again yesterday?
“Not on that pillar in the garage?”
“Yeah, again.”
“That’s the hundredth time!”
“I know, I don’t know why I always forget.”
“Well, I like you for it nevertheless!”
“Where was I… Oh right. Liking demands a reason. It’s conditional.”
Robin hummed. She always did this when she was pondering something, when she wasn’t sure if she agreed, but didn’t want to remain silent, as if silence would take away momentum from the conversation.
“Anyway,” I continued, “like I always tell you, there is nothing like love at first sight in a romantic relationship.” She glanced at me with a talking eye.
“Oops. Forget I said it.”
She smiled afterwards.
I connected my phone to the car speakers and played Coldplay, our favorite band.
“Please start with Yellow, but keep the volume low so we can hear each other well.”
“I understand that we like what we see and we then grow to love it over time,” she said. “The issue is, except in our relationship obviously because it’s perfect, there is a big list of non-negotiables people tend to have in the beginning. You hear people telling each other that if you do a certain thing, for example cheat, I will walk away. With time, they tend to circumvent these non-negotiables when they realize the good from the other person,” she added, smiling at her smart move on making our relationship the disclaimer of our discussion. We always had a rule that the one who passes the wrong comment about our relationship would buy the next meal as an apology.
“I totally agree with you,” I said.
“Yeah right!” She replied smiling.
…I swam across, I jumped across for you…
“See! Even our favorite song talks of the sacrifice we were discussing,” she started singing along. I closed my eyes and just listened a while.
“Generally,” Robin continued – I opened my eyes – “we like someone because of their characteristics. A pregnant woman initially likes the idea of conceiving and grows to love over time the child growing inside her. By the time she gives birth, that’s when the love at first sight ideology applies.”
“There are times my sister does not even notice that I am low,” I said. Robin reminded me of her, our conflicts. “It annoys me and makes me feel like she doesn’t pay enough attention.”
“I get that… You could say those who love you, stick around when you are at your lowest or when you are totally irrational. At least, that’s how I recognize love. Jessica loves you, I’m sure of it, I know you can always count on her,” Robin said looking into the rearview mirror before turning left. “At times it’s only a perception of how we want to be loved that brings the difference,” she went on. “You may do many things to another that you think are necessary, but if you don’t love them in the way they want to be loved, it may take time for them to actually notice your actions.”
“Real love never dies, but it can fade. Liking is more of a decision based on circumstances, I guess. It’s seasonal. You know how fans turn away from celebrities when they don’t live up to their standards, right?”
“Yeah,” replied Robin, driving into the car park slowly. “I hope this spot will stay shadowy for a while, but I just can’t tell the movement of the sun,” she said, looking at the canopy. “Those fans you’re talking about are a classic example. They won’t be getting what initially drew their interest.”
“With football teams it’s always love. After all, you’re still stuck with Chelsea!” Robin laughed. Chelsea had been losing almost every match that they were playing.
“You have said it well, Alistair. Better try to give and receive love as much as we can. But just being loved isn’t enough. I should have a reason to like you. Find out what I like, because at times you forget, and give me that. In that way we cultivate our mustard seed.”
“That’s the first sensible thing you’ve said! I guess the bottom line is it takes loving and liking to make the coin. Those who love you deserve a reason to like you hence, let us work on developing our relationship.”
After giving each other a warm hug, I raised the volume. The Coldplay song was on repeat and we looked at the leaves through the windscreen, waiting for the sun to set and bring an end to the day.

5 September, 2023