Newcastle. Monday, 7.20pm
Let’s talk about love. I want to know what love is.
Some people reckon you can fall in love at first sight.
I’ve done that.
But, it wasn’t with a human; it was with a building. (Come on, the Sagrada Familia is an attractive piece of eye candy. Like a drunk punk priest with strawberries in her hair, she beckons you from across Barcelona with her dribbly bits. Sure, it may be a church, but it feels like a safe place for poets and children.)
I have been attracted to people at first sight. I’m not sure if that’s love but there is certainly a chemistry – which may be amphetamine-based or it may be the precursor to true love. Ah, true love: the holy grail of modern existence; the nirvana of conscious coupling; the heaven attained through domestic suffering.
I am, of course, talking about romantic love. Apart from an expanding investment portfolio, romantic love is the prize we seek in contemporary society. It’s all we have left in a world strip-mined of mystery and magic. It’s our last hope.
Religion is kalashnikovs and dress-ups; spirituality is non-ego workshops for the spray-tanned; and government has so twisted and contorted truth, compassion and other human virtues that they have stopped breathing, their corpses floating on the flood of advertisements and political speeches.
Yes, Jesus died for nothing. Money trumps honour. Happiness depends on an algorithm.
The last refuge of human magic is romantic love. We’re desperate for it. I want to run towards my soulmate through a field of millet, in slow motion, the sun glinting off her hair… (I want to feel what love is.)
I have experienced other love. Such as pure, unconditional love.
When my son was born and I held a purple lump of wrinkly flesh in my hands, I loved something more than myself for the first time in my life. No conditions or expectations. It made me cry with joy. Love has made me cry since, but not with joy.
Last week, as I took my leave from my stepdad, a superman who taught me eternal values, a human who is old and ill, I felt a wave of love wash over me, almost knocking me over with its force, almost sucking me out with him into the depths.
And, despite my Facebook slackness, I have the love of friends.
But right now I’m pondering romantic love. I’m looking out across the Hunter River where a huge cargo ship is being nudged around the river bend by a pair of tiny tugs. Across the river, the last rays of sun light up trendy apartment buildings, lanky yellow cranes (like mantis legs) and black mountains of coal, all in a row.
In my life there has been heartache and pain. I don’t know if I can face it again.
A song is playing softly through the restaurant. (Can you guess which song?) A waitress brings a platter of seafood. I move my glass of Hunter Valley chardonnay to make room for it.
Ah yes, heartache and pain. Oh dear. Still, if one must suffer, then this is the way: wine from the coal mine; seafood from the collapsing fish stocks.
Love is not a first-sight thing. A person cannot be ‘the one’. You cannot create a lover. Love is not, like Netflix or Instagram, instant gratification. Love is not, except in Hollywood, a 90-minute journey to permanent bliss. Love is a big ship, a foreigner loaded with goodies, being nursed gently and tenderly through the turns and bends of a river. Will it reach a port? Who cares…
I’m gonna take a little time, a little time to think things over.