Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea. —Henry Fielding

30 June 2011

The Future of Love

One of the great lines in Sarah Kane's Crave – a play about need, obviously, but also a play about wanting hunger that powerful to go away – is the following non sequitur:

Because love by its nature desires a future.

Like many of Crave's lines, I am not sure what this means or what the speaker's point of view is about the sentence. But what the line suggests to me is a struggle to which I relate.

I have this ability to leap down mental rabbit holes and start to imagine futures that exist only in my mind, possibilities that exist for which I fill in all the details, creating an imaginative universe where these possibilities come to fruition. I mean something like this: I know I want to get a good assistant professor job out of graduate school, so when a possibility opens up, I begin to imagine where it will be, who I will meet, what kinds of classes I can teach, where my research will move after the dissertation is over... you get the idea. But this isn't real, of course. It's a fantasy, a lovely one, and one that is certainly possible, but that is what my imaginative fantasy is, a series of possibilities that feel extremely real because I've made them real in my mind.

I blame this struggle on being a Pisces, usually – mostly because I have Piscean friends with similar abilities. And most of the time, this is a very good trait to have. It allows me to be very intuitive with students and their capabilities, to know how to help them through difficult things. I also feel like this trait is part of the reason why I understand dreams so well.

But when it comes to matters of the heart, this trait has gotten me into trouble once or twice. Probably more times than that, if I am honest with myself. What I mean is this: it's really easy for me to imagine entire futures for relationships even when they are still in their most nascent states. We probably all do this, right? (I always think it's funny when people run home after a date to check their astrological compatibilities. As though my horoscope can answer the questions What will our kids look like? and Am I still going to love him when I'm fifty?)

But this is just not the right way of going about things. And the reason for this is that each tiny, almost imperceptible stage of a relationship, of getting to know someone, of learning to trust someone, of synching up with his or her rhythms is its own space of beauty.

Part of enjoying the time that we're in is about avoiding the future, allowing ourselves to worry less about where we're headed, and to pay more attention to the moment in which we are living now. The future is great, of course; it's a fantastic place to live, really. In fact, my heart cries out for the future, begging the future for its secrets. But the moment I want to live in is my own moment.

To talk about the piece I'm working on and not question whether I'll be able to come back next year. To dance with a girlfriend and not wonder when I will next see her. To play Risk with my friends and not worry about whether or not this will ever happen again. To sit and have a sandwich and a beer with my best friend in a random coffee shop in Lynchburg VA without wondering when we'll be able to gossip like this again. To kiss the man whose hand I'm holding and not scare myself by asking whether or not he's going to want to kiss me tomorrow. To hug my mother and be in that moment without the shadow of doubt about her health.

How, in other words, can I ask love to avoid desiring its own future?