By R. CHASE
In the Supreme Court case Jacobellis vs. Ohio, 1964, Justice Potter Stewart was pressed to define pornography. He answered that he could never intelligibly do so, but, he said, “I know it when I see it.”
Love is a lot like that. You can’t define it, but you know it when you feel it. The problem with love and relationships is that it’s dangerous. Good sex and companionship can be pretty pleasant. Why bother with all that love crap if the other options are less difficult?
But love doesn’t like to play by those rules. You can create relationships. You can work on a relationship. Love is an occurrence. Love just happens. You don’t get to choose when or who.
Love happened to me at approximately Nov. 24, 8:30 p.m., at The Mondrian Hotel in Miami, Fla. The walls were dark granite and the showerhead was a waterfall nozzle that was built into the ceiling. There was a beautiful view of Miami Bay from behind the swimming pool, dotted with topless supermodels and twenty-dollar cocktails. The only thing that was missing was her.
Despite the plethora of actual sunshine, my Sunshine was not there. We had planned to go together to visit a relative for Thanksgiving, but she had to cancel the trip due to her divorce, which was getting uglier and uglier by the moment. When you find yourself in a beautiful place without the person want to be with, you suddenly realize how much you want to be with them. I was talking to her on the phone, and then it just happened.
“I’m in love with you.” I said it.
There was no hesitation, no concern, no butterflies in my stomach and – most importantly – no fear. It was simply a matter of fact. Love had arrived. And like Lady Gaga walking into a hair salon with a dress made out of meat, you just couldn’t deny its presence. Love had arrived and I felt the need to say it. I wasn’t looking for an answer. I wasn’t looking for her to love me back. I just needed her to know it.
There was a silence across the phone line. A fraction of a second after I realized I had actually said those words I came upon a second, far more startling realization that I had never said them to anyone before. Just a fraction of a second after that I was led to the even more shocking conclusion that I had never really been in love with anyone before.
I’d been infatuated, enamored, enthralled, engaged, engorged and enthused, but I had never been in love.
Of course I’d had many girlfriends, and one ex-wife. I’d said I loved them – after numerous arguments and mock break-ups, and the constant driving force of their supposed love for me made me say it out of deference, out of fear, out of a deep-seated need to end the relationship discussion immediately and forever. But I don’t think I had ever really meant it. It had simply been rote. I had merely said it because I was supposed to.
“I love you, too.” Her words, like her smile, poured across the phone line as bright as her moniker. It hadn’t occurred to me that she might not have loved me back. It hadn’t mattered, because the event of love was not something that demanded it back.
But where did we go from there?
The answer was not simple. We were already in a relationship. But it was a secret relationship. We couldn’t openly show our affection at work. We couldn’t move in together. We couldn’t get married. We could only stand there, across the thousand miles of distance and wonder exactly where things could go.
William Burroughs once compared love to heroin because it makes you feel really, really good at first, but then it makes you feel really, really bad. He preferred heroin to love, however, because, as he so blithely pointed out, “there’s an endless supply of heroin.”
Is there a limited supply of love? Is there an endless supply of love, but a limited supply of people who will love you? Or is the feeling of love, much like the feeling of heroin, brief and fleeting? What the hell is love, anyway? Will anyone ever know the answer?
But, just like Justice Potter, I don’t think any of those questions are going to lead to an intelligible definition. Rational semantics are not going to lead you to an understanding of what is beyond understanding.
Don’t ask so many questions. You’ll know it when you feel it.
Contact R. Chase at YourVoice@voice-tribune.com.