If I were to be asked what love looks like I might possibly attest to seeing it in an embrace, an exchange of banter and laughter, the joy of a couple learning they’re pregnant after living for years with infertility, or a strong but gentle hand placed on the small of a woman’s back. I have witnessed love. But before listening to New Orleans’ artists Tank and The Bangas I had never tasted love. To taste love I had to first hear it. Listen to it carefully. Repeat.
It was the whispers of small nothings in my ear, the percussions and the melodies that travel to my prefrontal cortex to retire, indefinitely, to my long-term memory each time I hear a song that bookmarks the milestones in my life. It’s the melodies and the memories that guide me to the exact place I stood in the gymnasium at a high school dance when I heard Tyrese’s “Sweet Lady,” or the smile on my face as I laid beneath a dozen glow-in-the-dark stars when Selena’s “Dreaming of You” was dedicated to me on the radio. Or the tears I cried listening to Lauryn Hill’s “I Gotta Find Peace of Mind” while silently talking myself into moving on in the face of defeat. That’s been my experience with love.
Love tastes bitter. It tastes juicy and lush. Sometimes so spicy that it makes my eyes water uncontrollably. And so sweet that it dissolves on my tongue like cotton candy; but famine isn’t relieved by cotton candy. Love is as unpredictable as the sampling of strangers’ macaroni and cheese or potato salad at a friend’s fish fry. Love’s aftertaste is a reminder to be more thoughtful in your selections or to never try it again, lest the chef adds just the right seasoning, the perfect wine pairing, and the declaration of “satisfaction guaranteed.”
But I am charmed by what I hear—the sweet nothings, the melodies turned memories, turned nostalgia, turned escapism, turned false reality. What I hear is what I eternalize and house in the safeguards of my memory, beside foregone days and nights when Love ate with me over breakfast in bed and dinner and drinks when the going was easy and the food suited my palate. Even when I’m alone I set a table for two so that love can pull up a chair should hunger strike at any time between the blessing of the meal and the last dish is set out to dry. I dine on oysters and sip lemon drops in honor of Love. But love isn’t sustained on a memory, in the same way that cotton candy doesn’t cure a grumbling stomach or an insatiable appetite. Damn if cotton candy and memories don’t taste good though.
Love can taste like edibles you devour when you’re so hungry that even your least favorite food tastes delicious. Desperately longing to give and receive love is like grocery shopping on an empty stomach: every aisle offers one seemingly delectable treat after another. Even the eggplant you’ve never quite learned to prepare appears to be a good purchase. You think a new eggplant dish has the potential to be the star of Sunday’s dinner. You scan your Pinterest recipe mentally confirming that you have all of the necessary ingredients to make a wonderful eggplant parmesan only to realize on Sunday morning that you forgot to add to your grocery cart the virgin olive oil. You substitute the olive oil for margarine. It doesn’t taste the same. One missing ingredient can make all the difference between disgusting, tolerable, and great.
Love tastes like that.
Thank you to Tank and The Bangas for their amazing artistry. It was their art that served as the inspiration for this post and as a reminder that sound and sight are gateways to taste. ~Andrea