what he calls love

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About 2/3 through reading Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Memories of my Melancholy Whores, I was compelled to write about it.

It’s simply written. The sentences are short and clear. The language is vivid, warm and breathing. The old man character is despicable but also oddly loveable. He’s despicable because he’s the product of another time and place. Because he’s stupid. Because he’s never been in love and at the age of 90 fancies himself in love with a 14-year-old child. He cannot bear to see her awake because though he says he loves her, he still thinks of her as a doll. And though he hasn’t had sex with her, he sees her as an object and a symbol — of his aging and the complex beauty and tragedy in the world. He sits and stares at her, embraces her in her sleep, and reads her great works of literature. But he doesn’t want her to open her eyes and ruin the illusion he has created — not an illusion of her, for he knows about her life, her illiteracy, her day job at the shirt factory, but an illusion of himself as gentle professor, loving benefactor, grandfatherly adorer when in reality, he is a very old man who is rather sad and alone, who has paid up front for her virginity and believes this gives him some right to her soul.

Then I took a break from writing and finished reading the book.

In the end, he runs into a “former love for hire” who convinces him to go back to the girl he obviously loves (he has left her due to his own jealous rage), and this occurs to me:

Does it matter if what he calls love is not what I call love? Do I have to get political with what he’s allowed to feel? He doesn’t hurt her. He admires her. He gives everything for her and wants nothing more than to be near her and provide for her — and even though he has nothing left to give, he finds a way to make that happen. Sometimes love is simply not wanting another to suffer. That plus longing to be near her is romance. Anyway, he meets that definition even if he is unable to see her fully yet, even if he doesn’t know her voice or her opinions on anything but the radio station she sets. We don’t have to be enlightened to be in love.

When we are really lucky, love enlightens us.

There’s no telling how we get into these incredible traps, but when we love, we can let go of confused jealous rages and even humble ourselves enough to let them pass. When we feel compassion for this poor creature lying in bed beside us, it may be the first stirring of Namaste.

just stop and listen
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