“You know,” Boggel says with a sad smile, “the exquisite thing about love isn’t the conquests or the victories, It’s the ones you let slip through your fingers.”
“Or the ones you lost,” Servaas adds, thinking about Siena. “I still miss her, every day.”
“But isn’t that the way love should be?” Gertruida allows herself to be transported back to the time when she and Ferdinand courted. “I mean – to remember something as perfect, is better than living with the reality that the romance died somewhere along the line?”
“But surely that isn’t the way love should be? It must be eternal. Once you’ve pledged your heart to someone, it should be forever. Just like Nat King Cole sang –
When I give my heart, it’ll be completely
Or I’ll never give my heart
And the moment I can feel that you feel that way too
Is when I fall in love with you.”
Boggel actually sings the lyrics, much to the surprise of his customers. They never realised what a beautiful voice he has. He bows to the gentle applause.
“That’s the problem,” Oudoom chips in as he accepts a new beer from the barman. “People expect to be loved, and then they will love in return. That, my friends, is the wrong formula. Dear Mister Cole had a beautiful voice, but man! He deceived generation after generation with that song. Must you feel obliged to love somebody, simply because they love you? No way! The right way is to love without any preconditions. You’re not forced into to love because somebody loves you. You can never be obliged to love in return. “
“Ag come on, Oudoom, you’re a wet rag. Parents are obliged to love their parents, not so?”
“Oh, now you’re touching a sensitive subject, Vetfaan. A parent’s love is something else. That is an absolute requirement: parents are responsible for kids, so they must guide them towards adulthood in love. And let me tell you: sometimes it’s hard to like your children, but you still love them..
“No, I’m talking about the love between a man and a woman. Boy meets girl, that sort of thing. Should they stand around, waiting for the other one to fall in love first? And only once that has happened, develop that special bond we romanticize about? The answer, my friends, is an emphatic ‘No’! “
“You’re saying love is unconditional?” Vetfaan raises an eyebrow, hesitates, and continues, “We know that, of course.” He doesn’t sound completely convinced. “What happens if you love somebody, and they don’t love you back? That’s stupid, isn’t it?”
“No Vetfaan. That, my friend is the purest form of love there is. To love, despite the painful knowledge that it won’t be returned – despite that – is the ultimate form of adoration. It’s only then that you give yourself completely. In fact, I’m convinced we were so misled by the commercial image of love that we’ve lost our way.
“People think love is a two-way street…and sometimes, for the lucky few…it is. But if you look at the divorce figures the whole world over, there seems to be something wrong with the picture. People think they’re in love, only to discover they’ve been chasing an illusion. They misfiled love under the heading of fascination, or even friendship. When it comes to being tested by Life, however, things come apart at the seams. It just doesn’t survive the stresses and strains a serious relationship brings. That’s when people split up – or even become enemies. The courts are filled with people trying to get out of relationships as much as churches are trying to preach the values needed for loving relationships.”
“Have another.” Boggel slides over a full glass to Oudoom. He doesn’t want to listen to this. In his mind, he’s never said goodbye to Mary Mitchell, the girl he loved – and still does. “Sometimes, Oudoom, Life just deals you cards you can’t play with. I loved Mary Mitchell with all my heart. It didn’t work out. That’s the way it is.”
“Then,” Oudoom says with a sad smile, “you’re the most blessed of all of us. To love truly, you must also be able to let go. If you can’t, it wasn’t love.”
For once, Sevaas nods. “Indeed, Dominee, you said it all.”