A Collective Love Print
This article was initially published as part of a collaboration between Kohl and AWID.
Love is a contraband in Hell,
cause love is acid
that eats away bars.
But you, me, and tomorrow
hold hands and make vows
that struggle will multiply.
The hacksaw has two blades.
The shotgun has two barrels.
We are pregnant with freedom.
We are a conspiracy.
It is our duty to fight for freedom.
It is our duty to win.
We must love each other and support each other.
We have nothing to lose but our chains.
- “Love” by Assata Shakur
“If we can inherit trauma, can we inherit an imprint related to love?”
That is the question Wazina Zondon asks in her collective memoir Loveprint. Loveprint is a wandering, an overlap, a deviation that (re)creates, at the intersection of interviews and personal essays, our family’s stories and insights on love, partnership and romance. Under Wazina’s guidance, the circle’s conspiracy of writers came together and attempted to reproduce this literal blueprint in the form of collective writing, where our different stories, our genders and sexual identities complement and contradict each other. With our voices overlapping, we complete each other’s sentences to create a conversation, a memorial, pieces of ourselves that speak to a “we.”
What are the origins of your love print?
I am a so-called “happy accident.” There is much narration about this – an accidental life, one that is entirely wanted at the same time. I feel this shaped my way of loving, I don’t just fall in love; I risk the slips that lead to the fall. Perhaps it made me an amor fati kind of person.
I was told that I was an unwanted child. So I grew up to become an unwanted adult. The origins of my love print are based on being eternally unwelcomed. I am not a fruit of love or any happy feelings but rather one pain and burden. I don’t have a love print – at least not in this sense.
I know for a fact that both my parents were in love at some point, but mental health is such a demon, and until one confronts their demons, there is no winning.
I will never associate “love” with my parents or normative family. Love growing up was full of violence and responsibilities I didn't sign up for or was even ready for. For the longest time, it felt like life and love were about carrying a big rock uphill. While my parents “loved each other,” it was a toxic ethos of violence, jealousy, and insecurity to grow up in. I grew up wanting to crave stability, and this is what is me now. I am a risk taker, but never in my “love space.”
I don’t know why my mother chose to host a child (me)
within her. She does not love in this form.
My mother tells me that if I have to think about “finding” love, I should never look at her marriage as a template. My love print comes instead from my raising dogs for the last two decades (18 years to be precise). The other way around is true as well – they raised me. I understand more and more about love and its many layers in their company.
I haven’t known love from a “print.” In our household we don’t talk about love. I had to teach myself how to love. It was hard work. Still, I fail and still, I keep on trying and I fail everyday. Perhaps failure is my love print.
My love print is the care, warmth, and understanding I give
to others surrounding me, whether a stranger, a friend, a
relative, a lover. My love print is political – uncalculated and
I was born under heavy shelling. My love print is the negative print of that.
Lessons learned about love
I know more about what love is not than I know about what love is.
Love is neither anxiety nor panic.
Love is not asking permission to live or breathe. It is always about love and there is no love without freedom.
Everything you do is about using your heart except love. Love is about using your mind.
Sometimes I fear that my love language is lost in translation.
--- There are many ways
to map the origins
of how to
how not to
love just enough
love far too much
to love lost ---
I cannot stand the idea of the couple. I cannot stand the idea of living alone while aging either. I am tired of doing the chores alone, moving houses alone, paying rent and bills alone... I imagine getting a stroke alone, and it scares me. I have no plan of “partnering up.” I want a world where I can get married to a friend, buy a house with a friend, not have sex.
Loving many does not corrupt a love shared between two, and whether love is romantic or not is really not that important.
When I reflect on the shoddy state of my relationships, I realize that I am in the relationship I was trained to be in. With all my “radicalness” I have not yet unlearned shitty gendered norms.
My need for stability feels “not radical” enough. I want to get out of this labeling. I want something I never had. I want to make it beautiful. I want to feel beautiful and safe – and only stability makes me feel that. Safe, sound, knowing home is neither about violence nor strife.
--- Love print – love to smell the books to see where they were printed
I try to think of the origin of my understanding and practice of love
Do we need origin, it is not the same as purity? No purity or origin of love.
Why is it understanding and practice, and not “emotion” that comes to mind? ---
When I call my parents, I don’t hang up the phone after we’ve said
goodbye, so I can hear the sounds of home.
What do we need to be/feel loved in death?
During my Sunni burial, I want all the women and men to come together for my burial. What’s with not being able to go say goodbye to dead people from a different sex? It will be Sunni because my mother would want it to be. It will be eco-friendly; no need for the headstone. I love all burial rituals. Quran is good, but I also want music. I really like Asmahan, Um Kulthum, and The Stone Roses.
I have a Monday-Friday playlist and two different ones for the weekend: one for Saturday and one for Sunday playlist. I would like those who loved me to play the music that I used to listen to, respecting the days – with some margin of tolerance as long as they stick to the playlists.
I want to be surrounded by the one(s) who have loved me, even for a moment. And in music and embowered in fresh cut flowers. I don’t want to be discovered dead; I want to pass away mid-laugh with loved ones.
I want to be remembered as someone who loved.
I don’t need to feel loved in death. I need the people around me to feel I loved them, even after I die. Being loved in death is about those who are alive. So I think more about how we come together as a living and loving community in the death of those we love and live with. How we take their memories with us. How we become archives of their lives.
--- Sometimes, you can only love people in their death ---
I have to think back to the body being connected to a space. My family is very tiny and although we come from different places, it is as if every generation moved somewhere new. Perhaps this is the reason why death is not connected to a special place, a cemetery. It is common in our family to bury the dead without names or gravestones, or to distribute the ashes in the wind. I feel at peace with this kind of spaceless remembrance. The idea that my ashes fertilize new life gives me the sense of being loved, being remembered through recreation. My grandmother died earlier this year due to complications after the vaccination. Two hours after she died, my family sat laughing tears about her jokes, her hilarious way to tell stories. We laughed and loved, and it was as though she sat with us again. This is what would make me feel at peace – fertilizing soil, fertilizing conversations, and collective remembrance.
--- There were
Two streets that I used
Five hours when the sun
The sky was blue
The earth was green
A flower I could
The friends I could
That would roll off my
There might still be
Those many places
After me ---
Perhaps a promise that I will be “spatially commemorated” as a plant and taken care of in turns until it becomes a tree is enough. No name, no plaques – just the plant/tree, and knowing that it will be cared for. As for my body, I want to be cremated without any rituals and my bone ashes set free in the Arabian sea.
I need my body to be treated as subversively as it’s lived.
I do not want to be buried next to my family. In this tiny drawer next to all of the people who never knew me. Trapped in death as I was in life. I want to be cremated, and my ashes finally set free.
I want to be allowed to pass, not hang in the in-between, so it is a presence, an active process, a trespassing.
I will ask of you:
- To release me and let me pass
- To not let nostalgia muddy this moment because I will ask only for the normalcy of your expressions
- I have snuck the gentle glimpses and hoarded away the already small and large ways you loved me in order to be sustained. I kept myself alive on these
- To set a finite amount of time to grieve
- To be be reminded there is no separation in the beauty of loving; it is infinite and it regenerates without the body
I want to be remembered for the love I put into the world. I want my body to be given away, and my organs to further fuel love in (an)other live(s).