Months ago, a friend asked me if I had ever loved someone. Romantically.

“Yes,” I answered.

And then, I thought about what it felt like.

Love is trying, I think. It’s being nervous as hell to paint her on her birthday because you’re scared you’ll get it wrong and she’ll hate it. Love is doing it anyway.

Love is knowing that every wig is functional art, and knowing that there are frontals, lace fronts, closures, wig caps, stands and all the work it takes to really make one. Love is watching, smiling, not completely understanding, but watching them come to life. In awe.

Love is learning medical terms you’ve never heard and paying attention like they are the only words in your vocabulary. It’s watching her recite them by heart, as you add them to yours.

Love is facetime calls at odd hours, while she’s in her bonnet and you’re drawing or writing, or working, or some other excuse you give yourself because laying down and being with yourself has become a horror you don’t want to bear.

Love is sharing that, and her listening. Caring.

Love is talking about your favourite books, favourite authors, ideas and thoughts. It’s feeling safe, and comfortable.

Love is her asking if you’ve eaten, because you both know you don’t take the best care of yourself.

It’s understanding, and then accepting, that really, there are people in the human population that do not love Doctor Who.

It’s thinking of her every day, and how she is, and whether she’s eaten. She can get really busy sometimes, and things slip her mind.

It’s flowers and notes and bears you send her, especially when she’s feeling down. It’s the feeling of wishing you could do more, anything, to take that pain away.

It’s knowing that you can’t, and so you sit and listen.

It’s learning the time difference by heart and wondering if she’s asleep, then texting, just to know.

It’s thinking about her everyday and wondering if she’s okay.

Love is laughter, it’s sharing, it’s the awe you feel when you look at her think there is nothing on this world more beautiful, more stunning, more true.

It’s accepting that you’re both different. You can see, and she can’t, not really. And she can breathe, and you can’t, not really.

It’s the little things.

And the big things too.

Because love can also be hard conversations of childhood pain, and how love didn’t go right there, not with our parents, not with us. It’s uncomfortable situations that force us to grow, as individuals, as we face up to who we are, and are becoming.

Love can also be tears that you held on to for too long, shed because of insecurities, shed because of fear, of things changing, of things ending.

Love is a walk on air as we ascend above the trees, the birds envious of our feat. It’s annoyingly asking if she’s okay, every two steps. You know it gets on her nerves, but you worry. A lot.

About you, about her, about the both of you.

Love can be pain. It’s being so close to this person that you can tell exactly the colour of her eyes, the brown of a tree bark cracked by age, and see just how her lips crinkle when she’s about to laugh, but it’s being so far away from that person at the same time.

Love is a dinner. Filled with laughter, candlelight, and food. A lot of food, that neither of you can finish.

It’s kicking her out of the room while you light candles and her walking on a trail of fire when she comes back in, her face glowing, like an angel.

It’s that night, and the morning after.

It’s the crumpling feeling you’ve never felt, and never want to feel again. But that’s foolish, because life has a lot more in store.

It’s music you’ve never heard, it’s feelings you’ve never felt. It’s the tumbling and crashing and building and rising and falling of everything you thought you knew about yourself. Because this was never one of them.

Love is learning that things break and bond and fall apart and come back together, but never like how you thought they would.

Love is accepting, that things would never be like how you thought they would. For better, or worse. But different, always.

Love is the crushing loneliness as she sleeps and you’re on the balcony, the view that was once beautiful now sour. Love is that feeling of grief, and of life. That feeling of joy, and of pain. Love is looking at the Lagos skyline, as she sleeps still, the sun peeking from the shadows, and thinking about how beautiful they both are.

Love is standing on that same balcony with tears in your eyes that won’t fall, and thinking to yourself, softly, “What have I done?”

“I sought not fire, yet is my heart all flame. Layla, this love is not of Earth.”

Anthony Azekwoh is a Nigerian-based author and artist. He has written five books so far, and is now working on the sequel to his fourth book Ṣàngó, Oya.