Love. Is. A.

That was the headline of the opinion piece. It ran from the beginning of February until the weekend after Valentine’s. It asked ‘regular citizens’ how they would finish the sentence, “Love is a…”

For the last few years, I’ve made it a sort of ritual to sit down with my morning coffee and peruse people’s answers. Sometimes they were humorous, other times they were tragic. And of course, a good many of them are cheesy, keeping in tone with the holiday. This year was no different.

The coffee was still brewing as I opened the paper, flipping through the pages. I started reading the middle of the page.

“Love is a word to kickstart a good time.” – Single, 20 year old college student
“Love is a pacifier word.” – Married, 52 year old man
“Love is a lie.” – Recently divorced, 29 year old
“Love is a boy giving you his cookie for free.” – 8 year old girl

The last one made me smile. The coffee marker gave its final grunt, announcing that the pot was full of freshly brewed java. I set the paper down and went to get myself a cup.

I often wondered what it would be like to find these people and ask them what they thought about love. Did the writer just walk up to them in the middle of the street, interrupting their day? Did they dial random numbers and hope that someone would answer? Did they hope on a city bus and ask the person that they happened to sit next to?

I eagerly walked back to the kitchen table, peering back into the article. This time I looked to the beginning of the article rather than the middle.

“Love is a weapon to manipulate the masses.”

The phrase threw me back into my chair, dampening my spirits. ‘Love is a weapon’ stabbed me in the heart. And with that stabbing came questions.

What happened to that person? Who were they that they thought of love as something to use to control people? Were they controlling people? How successful were they? What happened to those people that were being used when the love ran out, or the plan was finished?

The idea of dictators of the recent past flashed in my mind. Men (and only men….) stood from great podiums and declared how they would save the people. Great promises were made. Gifts were given. And in return for that love, the people would respect, respond, almost worship those dictators.

Was that happening here? Was that happening here? This was my city paper. These were my people, in a way. Maybe I walked passed the man that was controlling the masses, and could not sense the twisted romance that he lived in.

The strong bitter taste lingered on my tongue as I thought about these things. The longer I let it linger, the more I realized that this ‘Love Is A’ statement was the result of a diseased maniac. Then my self-realization kicked in.

What if I was controlled by this love, by this man, and didn’t realize it?