Mobolade was talking. The green border around her tile on the screen flashed in rhythm with her musical tone. She was holding court, as usual, that was her way. She was a surgeon who The four of us were on the Zoom call at her invitation. Mobolade, Yinka, Lola and me. The fantastic four. London’s Finest. Or perhaps, at that time, Lockdown’s Finest; we had not been together in person in months.
It was Valentine’s Day. As we were all single, we had decided to have a special virtual Galentine’s celebration. I had arranged for cocktail making kits to be delivered to each of our homes. We had checked in on each other’s well-being at the start of the call as we mixed the cocktails, but there was really only one topic of everyone’s hearts and minds: love.
Mobolade was convinced that love was nothing more than a series of chemical reactions. A position no doubt informed by her profession, she was a doctor. She cited examples of obsessive love as evidence for her position.
“What a stalker experiences, for example, is the same biochemical experience as someone who we would say is truly in love. The inward processes are more or less the same, but one of the outward manifestations is deemed acceptable, and the other is not.”
“OK, a case study: Joe in You,” said Yinka. “He stalked Guinevere, stole her phone, so he could keep tabs on her and killed everyone he saw as a threat to their relationship. Are you telling me that was love, just like any other relationship?”
“Joe from You most likely had antisocial personality disorder and narcissistic personality disorder, but, yes, internally, he was experiencing the same thing you felt when you said you loved Ryan.”
Yinka flushed. The mention of her ex causing a ripple of pain across her otherwise dignified demeanour. She was wearing her hair up that day, highlighting her sharp cheekbones and slender neck. Yinka was a film and TV critic for newspapers and online magazines. She was always begging the three of us to watch shows so that she could talk to us about them. You was the last series we had co-watched together, after weeks of begging on her part.
“No exes!” Lola commanded. “This is a Galentine’s celebration.”
“OK, but the point remains, love is a series of chemical reactions,” Mobolade repeated. “However they manifest, what’s going on under the hood, so to speak, is consistent.”
“Well, we experience love beyond the biological,” said Lola. “Even if there are chemical reactions at the base, you can’t reduce love to them.”
“Why not?” asked Mobolade.
“Because people have those chemical reactions and cheat.”
“Preach sis,” I said.
“People have those chemical reactions and dedicate their lives to chastity in a convent or monastery,” Lola explained. “Beyond the Biology, there’s a whole layer of choice and commitment.”
“Alright, so you think you can choose to love someone?”
“That’s how arranged marriages work,” said Lola. “In a way, that’s how all marriages work as far as I can – once the chemical reactions are not so potent, you have to choose to stay in the place of love with your significant other.”
“The place of love, I like that, you’re so poetic Lola,” said Yinka. “God, position me in the place of love. By next year, position all of us in the place of love.”
“Amen,” came the hearty reply of the other three women, followed by thunderous laughter.
“Going back to You, I guess the one supporting point for your argument Mobs is that he loved her enough to let her go – in like episode seven or eight, remember,” said Yinka. “And to your point Lola, that was a choice.”
“Let’s just remember, Joe is a fictional character,” said Lola. “His every attribute is contrived to make you keep watching.”
“All the world’s a stage. And all the men and women merely players,” said Lola. “Maybe the thing that the love in You and love in the real world have in common is that they are both performances.”
The other three women stared at their screens thoughtfully.
Lola continued, “I’m not attempting to invalidate love, but think about it – there are parts, each player wants to be seen in the best light, there are set words that we are expected to say, and lastly, whether it’s your mum asking about the person you’re dating, or the guests at your wedding, there’s an audience.
“I can’t lie, I think you’re spot on when I think back to how I’ve felt in previous relationships,” Mobolade said, leaning her head on her hand in contemplative thought. “Like when I was with Kevin. We’d speak on the phone at a certain time, go on dates every week at a certain time. He liked my hair a certain way; there were certain things he didn’t like me speaking about. There was definitely a role he wanted me to play.”
“No exes!” the other three women said in unison.
Mobolade sighed, “It’s hard to talk about love without talking about your exes.”
“Come on, we want positive stories of love,” said Yinka.
“You wasn’t a positive example,” replied Lola.
“OK, let’s move on,” I urged. “You isn’t the only love story, if you can even call it that. Let’s think of others.”
“Romeo and Juliet,” offered Yinka.
“Antony and Cleopatra,” added Mobolade.
“Tragedies, really,” I said, massaging my temples. “Are we saying love is tragic?”
“No,” said Yinka. “But they are popular love stories.”
“Well, the Bible does say: There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends,” Mobolade quoted.
“So love and death are inextricably linked?” I asked.
“No, I think the point is that sacrifice is the ultimate demonstration of love,” said Lola.
“Time for a refill I think,” Mobolade said, grabbing her glass.
“Good idea,” said Yinka.
“Yep,” Lola said in agreement.
Yinka and Lola muted both their audio and video. Mobolade muted her audio and got up from her seat. She walked over to the far side of the room, to her fridge, and took out a bottle. Within a couple of minutes, all three had returned to the call, picking up from where we had left off.
“I do think self-sacrifice is important in love,” continued Lola. “But what stands out to me about that Bible passage you just mentioned is that it’s about friends.”
“That’s true,” Yinka said nodding.
“And as we talk about love, I think we’re overlooking the love on this Zoom,” said Lola. “Our friendship is a form of love. A form of love without all of that drama.”
“With a lot less drama,” Lola corrected herself.
We all laughed.
“You’re right,” said Mobolade. “And that’s the whole point of Galentines, to celebrate the love between girlfriends.”
“Ahhhhh, I love you ladies,” said Lola.
“Love you babes,” said Mobolade.
“Love you all,” added Yinka.
“You see, the problem is that the English language has only one word for love,” explained Lola “Unlike the Ancient Greeks who had several words for love. For example, the love we started off talking about was eros, that passionate, sensual love of the movies, series and tragedies we mentioned. Then you have philia, which is the love we have for one another as friends.”
A lawyer who had studied Classics at university, Lola was in her element. She liked nothing more than citing ancient wisdom, building her case and convincing people. We could all see what she was doing, but we were nonetheless enthralled.
“The thing is, there’s no concept of hierarchy in these different types, but our culture treats eros as if it is the be-all and end-all,” Lola continued. “Even if we were to meet the loves of our lives tomorrow, it would be a long time before it could even compare to what the four of us share. A love that has stood the test of time, a love that has made each of us better over the years.”
“I think it’s particularly a thing with women,” said Yinka. “It’s like Chimamanda said, society teaches us to see one another as rivals.”
“Exactly,” agreed Lola. “They make out as if the point of life is an ascent to eros, but in reality, the truth of love in our lives is more like the Pokemon motto.”
“Gotta catch em all,” we said in unison and collapsed into laughter.
“We should aim to experience every kind of love, as broadly and deeply as possible,” Lola said as her laughter dissipated.
“Here, here,” I said, raising my glass in agreement.
“So am I supposed to just give up on eros?” asked Yinka.
The line was silent for a few seconds.
“Don’t all rush to answer,” Yinka said with a look of half-feigned disappointment.
“Sis, we’re all in the same boat,” Mobolade said. “We’re just giving the question due consideration.”
“No of course not,” Lola said, clearly still thinking of a supporting argument.
“If it’s just one of the many loves, does that mean we can do without it?” Yinka pressed further.
“I definitely think that some people can,” I said. “But eros is a very particular kind of love. One of the translations of eros is ‘love of the body.’”
“Alright now,” Mobolade said, wiggling her eyebrows suggestively.
“Other loves have different… focuses, if you will,” I continued. “But, I think that there is harmony between the different loves. They work together; they speak to one another. I see it now. I’m just remembering this case I had many years ago.”
“One night, an elderly couple came in. They had been in the hospital after she had had a fall. The woman was a bit younger than her husband, and before the accident, she had been in good health and was his carer. The fall left her completely immobile. So, they were both moved into our care home. Because of her condition, we wanted to put her in a special medical room, whereas he would go to the general accommodation. He would not move from her side. He held on to her hand, day and night. From what I could tell, he barely spoke to her. He just sat there, sometimes with the TV on, but other times in complete silence. I remember asking him once, why he didn’t speak to his wife more, and he said ‘I already know her.’ At first, I thought that his answer was dismissive, but it’s like you said. Eros is the love of the body, but in the complete sense – from the outside in. Over years and years, that man and his wife had formed a deep bond, a connection. It had probably started with a look, the external appreciation of the beauty of the other, but then it progressed into something much deeper,”
“All that to say – I think the value of eros is that journey,” I concluded.
“A toast,” requested Mobolade.
“May we find parts that we actually want to play.”
“May our friendships continue to last the test of time.”
“May take the journey of love when the time is right.”