PROMPT: He seems like a man who really likes to be in love.
What does that mean, to like to be in love? Seduced by infatuation, I think. The spark of sex before having sex, that moment when you look into the eyes of the person with whom you are imagining having sex and you see them looking at you in the way you wish to be seen.
To be seen.
Goddamn, humans are complicated creatures. Does a dog wonder if he’s handsome? Does a whale consider the long-term implications of impregnation? Do raccoons feel regret after stress-eating an entire ill-gotten bag of premium catfood?
I think about this man, the one who likes to be in love, and try to imagine what his life is like. I think many broken hearts must lie in his past, something like clearcuts in a virgin old-growth forest or fires leaving neighborhoods in ashes. Because if you are a girl and a man looks into your eyes in that way that suggests you are beautiful and amazing, and then, it turns out, he looks into everyone’s eyes that way, that might leave you demolished. And no one is locking arms in cement or complaining at city council meetings to prevent it from happening.
But what if we took a more sympathetic look. Perhaps this man, let’s call him J–, a sweet name, I’ve only ever known sweet men named J–, which is to say one very sweet man, a man loyal to his wife and daughters, a man who died stupidly young, I wish this part was fiction, but it’s true, goddamn it, anyway, J– was a man who loved people. Some of us, by which I mean me, assume the worst when we meet a new person; some of us, by which I mean J–, assume the new person they’re meeting is beautiful.
I digress. This story is neither about me nor my dear friend J–. It’s fiction. We are making this up as we go along. What would it be like, to be this fictional man who seems to want to be in love? Who gazes into his lover’s eyes with the same handing over of self the ocean demands, music inspires? Is what compels one to dance the same as the passion that asserts now, now, pull her onto your lap and as she looks at you unsure you reassure her she’s beautiful, amazing, the words women hear when men want them, yes, dancing is practically fucking, but are you ready to confess that?
You would be as happy pulling off your clothes and diving into the pool where the waterfall’s roars drown out your doubts about who you are.
You will always swim no matter how cold the water.
A literal – fictional – observation and yet. And yet. Witnesses smile sweetly recalling the time you emerged from the Pacific naked, hands bundling your – what do we say here? – your private parts? – we are 12 and you are adorable.
But we cannot take too literally this character’s declaration of love, a statement we may have imagined, what is a walk, after all? What is sunshine? What are smiles exchanged? Our young man, the one who likes to be in love, is tall, lean, grins easily. He seeks joy by nature and works at it, too. We shall introduce another character, the woman who is thinking about him. A smile softens her face, as she tucks the duvet tight around her. Or maybe she’s flung it off, too warm in the night as one gets. He loves to be in love. All it takes is the river, the forest, music, a gaze held a beat longer.
She is beautiful in that gaze, she thinks, pulling the pillow between her knees, enveloped in sweetness.
She, too, likes to be in love.