"Do you love her?" he asks. The question is unexpected. This guy is total bro. The second time we train he asks me, out of the blue, and in these exact words, "Do you grow a beard because you like how it looks or to get pussy?" Now, the third time, he's asking about love. It catches me off guard.
How do I respond? There’s a smart answer; that answer is "no". You shouldn't love someone who rejects you. And even if the feeling is genuinely felt, to admit and verbalize it gives it too much power. It is a feeling that must be changed. To hold onto it is sad and counterproductive. You say "no" for your own protection.
Maybe there's no smart and there's no dumb; there is just a feeling that, left unchecked, will be felt. Allowing myself that, the question gets no easier. I can come up with this thesis statement. "There were times where I felt a contentedness and confidence about the rightness of the times we spent together." I can recall each moment supporting this thesis. I can also recall every instance of anxiety. I can recall instances of doubt, and every moment of panic not knowing what to say or do. But, to love someone, shit, that's a sustained feeling, not just a collection of miscellaneous and momentary ones. It's unclear to me that these moments are even the supporting arguments that, when weighed out—and how would I begin to weigh them, point to a conclusion that answers the simply-stated question.
I don't remember exactly how I respond. I think I make a wordless sound that is contemplative but noncommittal and resume the side crunches that I was doing before.