“Are you the type of person who always needs to be in love with someone?” When Ron posed the question to Elinor, she was met with a surprising blow. It never occurred to her after so long being in a relationship that one could be alone. The extreme contrast of isolation, the lack of a counterpart to confide in made such an existence abhorrent to her. Thus, she couldn’t seem to trust in what her heart was telling her of late, which was that she was in love again. But was the love real, or based entirely on the necessity for survival? In case you didn’t know, a broken heart renders millions of souls bereft every year. Sure, a person can still function, act like they fit in–but behind those eyes is someone screaming, “I’m dying.” The agony is excruciating and doesn’t necessarily become manageable, so much as, like the Depeche Mode song, a pain that you’re used to.
Ron snapped his fingers in front of Elinor’s face. “El, you there? It’s not a hard question.” Ron was a fellow professor at The Graduate Center at CUNY, and was one of the few people Elinor was able to relate to beyond a professional level. He was thirteen years older than her, and specialized in teaching Psychology, which is perhaps why he could see through her veneer all the time.
“I don’t think I am,” Elinor finally said.
“Well, maybe you need to further contemplate that answer… This new person you’re seeing, what’s his name?”
“Mm, bit feminine, isn’t it?”
“No. And things aren’t masculine or feminine anymore. They just are.”
“All right. You’re the younger one. You must know about these things. But in any case, I feel you should really examine your feelings toward this person. Their veracity. The body of your last relationship–a six-year one, I might add–is not even cold. Ask yourself if your mind isn’t helping the heart to deceive you.”
“Ron, I appreciate your concern, truly. My mind is not doing anything to me. I’m falling in love with Jamie, and it’s as simple as that. Sometimes, love finds you at the unlikeliest of times.”
And in Elinor’s case, it was the unlikeliest of places: her philosophy class. Jamie was, at thirty-four years old, finally deciding to take the plunge with grad school, now that he could afford to. He had made his fortune, like so many males of New York, on the successful design of an app, a simple one that kept all forms of your ID on file in case you lost them and needed to get into a bar. Elinor immediately took notice of his good looks, and then tried to ignore them. She had maintained her unblemished track record of not sleeping with students for this long, so why start now?
Luckily, Jamie had merely been auditing the class, approaching Elinor afterward to tell her that, while he found it fascinating, such matters were way over his head. It was thus that his good looks and dullard nature reeled her in, making her susceptible when he suggested getting coffee so that perhaps she could give him advice on what classes might be best for him. This was two months ago. Elinor had since done extensive research on how long it takes one to fall in love, and, according to psychology, it’s all open to interpretation (again, proving the field utterly useless in terms of scientific reliability). But, as far as she could tell, not only was love at first sight real, but if people could develop love obsessions with film and rock stars, then why couldn’t she with Jamie? So what if he was maybe serving as the methadone to make her come down from the extreme highs and lows of being with Brian?–a doughy white guy whose name emulated his look. But in spite of his genericism, she loved him with the intensity of Elizabeth Taylor loving, and then hating, Richard Burton.
Unfortunately, as Ron had pointed out to her when the relationship blew up in flames, children of divorce can never love, or at least, they can never fully believe in it. Which is, hence, why so few people love one another with the conviction it takes to be together for thirty-plus years (the way the baby boomers could) anymore. This factoid Ron had elucidated made Jamie all the more appealing, as his parents were still, in fact, together, and had been for thirty-three years, which surpassed even the length of time Elinor’s own parents were married (twenty-nine). In any case, Jamie was all the more alluring for his familial background, which makes more difference than we care to admit in, oy, “finding a mate.”
That night, Jamie took her out to dinner for no apparent reason. This was also something that made him leaps and bounds ahead of Brian, whose romantic inclinations were on par with a cold fish’s. And yes, while the mussels, white wine and free-flowing bread made for an exhilarating experience of starry-eyed delight, still, in the back of her mind, was Brian. Fucking Brian. That doughy douché. Was her current k-hole of love for Jamie merely a residual k-hole of love from Brian? If only Ron hadn’t gotten inside of her head with that uncomfortable question, “Are you the type of person who always needs to be in love with someone?” Well, are you? Nothing feels quite as good. How could you not be? That is, until nothing feels quite as bad.