Lack the technology skills to change your Facebook settings so you can block posts you don’t want to see. Plus, fear drastic moves, like Unfriending: anything detectable, anything that might raise questions.
Combine this with the voyeurism that leads you to scan the crumpled car for injured bodies, or that makes you stand in front of your mirror, pinching that rubbery roll of fat, examining that parabolic scar, like someone stapled your cheek, right there.
Consequently, be assaulted by the status updates from his wife: “Enjoying date night with Robert.” “Lighting candles to eat dinner with my sweetheart.” “Celebrating 20 years with my beloved Robert.”
To this last, do not click “Like”; “Like” is beyond you, beyond anyone sane. But scan, nonetheless, the scroll of comments (“Congratulations!” “Much love to the best couple ever!”). Locate his comment in that endless, endless string: “May there be 20 more! Love you.”
Try to read something meaningful into that “Love you,” into the fact that the “I” is excised, the subject erased. Is this a covert nod, an indicator that he is not really present in this declaration? Could Descartes possibly say, “Think, therefore am” and have the meaning hold? Contemplate this for a day.
Then give up on that shit.
Spot him, later that week, sitting at a table talking to Mahsa, your new colleague. Study Mahsa’s straight back, her ribbed, olive turtleneck, her ringletty hair that makes you think of coiled springs. See him lean forward on his elbows. Recognize, in the tilt of Robert’s head, his lopsided smile, how, a year ago, he looked at you. You are too far away to hear what they are saying, but when it comes to such detections, you have x-ray vision. You are Superman, and you wish your eyes, like his, could emit laser beams.
Now, listen to yourself. Listen when you tell your students to pay attention to the rhetoric we have for love. Hear yourself say desire, from desidare, means “to wish, to long for.” Point out to your students the implications of that: desire gropes towards what it can’t quite touch. Once sated, it ceases to mean, to be, desire.
They laugh, they groan. (It’s this kind of talk that has given you a certain pedagogical reputation. You are the Ghost of Christmas Future; you say weird shit. One class wanted to get you a coffee mug inscribed, “You’re all going to die”). But this time, actually process your spiel, the litany you tick off for them: crush, captivate, mad about, crazy about, head over heels, intoxicate. All those words represent love as coercion, lunacy, poison.
“Why do we fall in love, rather than rise in it?” Hear yourself pose that question. Actually straighten up, in that basement lecture room with its tiered seating and cave-like acoustics. Your students are doing their laughing, groaning thing, but you concentrate on some elusive echo.
Picture yourself at the bottom of something dark and damp; look up to the circle of light. Like a mime, extend your palm. Realize the wall is laddered with rungs you can grip. They might be smooth as a faucet, or they might be rubbery, like the handles of your bike: whatever works.
Take hold of one. Now climb up and out of this rabbit hole.
Photo by Jason