In Defense of Abstaining from Love

It’s so nice to wake up in the morning all alone
and not have to tell somebody you love them
when you don’t love them any more.
— Richard Brautigan


“I did love you once,” said Hamlet. Or maybe he didn’t say that, but I’ve yet to fact check every act. The play was penned at an uncertain date (the seizures of thrones are often ambiguous, political, and at times a bit obtuse) and perhaps all tragedies tend toward tentative origins. The linear narrative of love always folds back upon itself to check its own validity, like a snake eating its own tail in a computer game before the screen flashes GAME OVER. When a love affair is finished, don’t we always turn back to its wide-eyed beginnings to understand its awful end?


I sit here now, middle-aged, tired, and I have finally given up on love. I paid my assistant (young, nearly teenage, always sweating despite the overworking air conditioner) to input all the quantitative data we could gather of my romantic past into a massive, humming computer. Receipts, calendars, phone numbers, breakup letters, photographs, embarrassing diary entries and second-hand accounts from friends were entered into spreadsheets of unaffected columns and rows. The computer radiated electric warmth while it processed the information. I back sat in my chair and watched. Swallowing my histories like dry biscuits, the beast of a machine finally spit up a tiny piece of paper announcing that I am permitted to call it quits. This is what I did:


1. I laughed in relief and at the absurdity of it all,

2. I poured myself a drink,

3. I sent my assistant home.


I am awarded respite after years of coaxing tepid affairs out of boredom to pass the time. Still yet, no one trusts the emotional authority of the machine (but give it a little time) so allow me to raise a warm-blooded defense in my own words.


Here begins my permanent break to break easy the waves which slid across my sides and then back behind me out to sea. Let me be clear: I don’t think of myself as the centre of an amorous ocean, just a rock on a sandbar. I still go on uncertain dates (even old as I am, not good looking anymore but acceptable enough) and I make mistakes, but then it all rotates. I never get in too deep. I apologize to those whom I have hurt.


I did truly love one once; deeply, fondly melted-cream-beneath-the-tongue-the-drug-dealer-lived-upstairs-and-our-bedroom-ceiling-was-so-high-that-we-could-have-had-a-trampoline-for-a-bed-but-we-were-too-entwined-in-one-another-to-ever-even-look-up love. We met at the height of hurricane season and never stopped touching. Fingers, tongues, elbows. We had a piano tuned a half-step down and played it to one another in lieu of speaking out loud. Days would pass without notice. It ended, as these things do - in an airport with one flight headed to Italy and the other to the wild west. I grieved it all over several time zones.


What followed was a series of trysts that never lived up. As a result, I developed an easy way of slipping off shoes and brushing snow from my jacket before stepping into parties without fear of pair-bonding, rushes of serotonin confusing better judgement or darting, jealous looks in the kitchen. I never fell far enough to care how a lover flirts with others while holding my hand. I never wanted to be that woman, I never wanted to be that man.




The first in a series of variations on a theme.