I do not love you as if you were salt-rose, or topaz,
or the arrow of carnations the fire shoots off.
I love you as certain dark things are to be loved,
in secret, between the shadow and the soul.
I love you as the plant that never blooms
but carries in itself the light of hidden flowers;
thanks to your love a certain solid fragrance,
risen from the earth, lives darkly in my body.
I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where.
I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride;
so I love you because I know no other way
than this: where I does not exist, nor you,
so close that your hand on my chest is my hand,
so close that your eyes close as I fall asleep.
I do not love you ... is a poem written around 1950s by Chilean poet, Pablo Neruda, as the 17th Love Sonnets in his Cien Sonetos de Amor.
As far as I can remember, I never really like or understand any poem, not even my own which I wrote when I was still in middle school as a part of Bahasa Indonesia class’ assignment (mine was about an insomniac guy who suffered from chronic depression and decided to hang himself to die – reminiscing of it now, well, no wonder I hate it back then, and even still).
However, things changed after I watched Il Postino, an Italian movie set in the 1950s when Pablo Neruda was exiled to a small island in Italy and befriended with a local guy name Mario Ruoppolo who became his personal postman – thus came the title of this beautiful movie.
Neruda tried his best to explain what poems are all about – as similes and metaphors – to his new friend : by explicating to him that that’s where the beauty of them lay, on not in the literary meaning but in the comparisons of things.
I browsed the web searching for Pablo Neruda after watching this movie, and found the sonnet cited above. Originally he wrote it in Spanish, and I didn’t find any piece of information as who translated it into English. However, the 17th Love Sonnet still mesmerized me; it captured my attention and was so absorbed by it, I wrote a copy of it in my scrapbook which I always bring everywhere when I was still studying in university.
I could say for sure that I fell in love with that specific sonnet, not knowing that it was also used in a movie.
Inspired by what Mario did with one of Neruda’s poems he found in the poet's house – he used one it to attract a beautiful girl he loves long before Neruda set foot upon the tiny Italian fishing village – I did almost the same.
Almost, because I wasn’t quite sure that I love this girl who lives in a boarding house a couple of blocks away from mine, but was very curious to find out what would happened if I pretend to her and her friends that I like her.
Out of sheer curiosity.
Perhaps, this insincere act I am about to tell you below was driven solely by all of her friends whom told me that she had a crush on me.
Knowing that her 20th birthday is just around the corner, I called her pretending that I wanted to talk about some things. Later before we ended that conversation, she invited me to come over to her room the next evening.
So I prepared an Il Postino novel, written by Antonio Skármeta, and inserted a small Harvest card on which I wrote the “I do not love you ...” sonnet.
We chatted for about an hour before I presented her my gift. She was surprised and seemed very contented with the book, telling me that she just watched the movie she and her friends rented on VideoEzy the weekend before. Of course, I deliberately failed to mention that it was supposed to be an ahead of time birthday gift instead of a casually surprise one.
Flipping through the pages, she eventually found the card and read it. I noticed how her expression changed while reading it but unable to guess what she felt that moment. All I can say was that I sensed everything was gradually changed into an awkward situation. To make the long story short, my visit ended in half an hour later.
I held myself from contacting her until a week after her birthday, pretending I forgot it. When I finally met her that particular evening, she looked and acted normal to me, as if nothing awkward ever happened a fortnight ago. During our brief met-up, she never mentioned anything about that night. And when I finally asked her if she already read or even finished the book, she told me she got loads of assignment from her professors and couldn’t find time to read it. And then we just continued talking about everything else but that book. Especially not that small card written with Neruda’s 17th Love Sonnet.
It has been almost eight years since that particular night. I haven’t heard anything from her after I moved into Jakarta four years ago. But last year when I met Renee, one of her closest friend which also happened to be mine, she told me that when she met that girl a year before, she still asked about my wellbeing. And from the way she talked to me, I even sensed that Renee also knew about that particular card which I gave to her friend.
I didn’t understand her (reaction) back then. And now I know that I still do.
All I know for sure is that I still wish that someday I will find a special someone that I love much to whom I can read that 17th Love Sonnet in our special moments, and to feel its true intended meaning each day, and to share its beauty together in our lives.