Love Sentence

By Lynne Tillman

O, know, sweet love, I always write of you, / And you and love are still my argument; / So all my best is dressing old words new, / Spending again what is already spent; / For as the sun is daily new and old, / So is my love still telling what is told.
–William Shakespeare, Sonnet 76

Evelina lowered her lids while he read. It was a very beautiful evening, and Ann Eliza thought afterward how different life might have been with a companion who read poetry like Mr. Ramy.
—Edith Wharton, Bunner Sisters

It’s strange . . . it’s strange! / His words are carved in my heart. / Would real love be a misfortune for me?
—Verdi, La Traviata

I wrote and told you everything, Felice, that came into my mind at the time of writing. It is not everything, yet with some perception one can sense almost everything . . . I don’t doubt that you believe me, for if I did you would not be the one I love, and nothing would be free of doubt.
—Franz Kafka, to Felice Bauer, July 13, 1913

Everything Paige thought about love, anything she felt about love, was inadequate and wrong. It didn’t matter to her that in some way, from some point of view, someone couldn’t actually be wrong about an inchoate thing like love. “An inchoate thing like love” is feeble language. If my language is feeble, Paige thought, isn’t my love?

Love, are you feeble?

It was spring, and in the spring a young man’s, a young woman’s, heart turned heedlessly, helplessly, heartlessly, to love. Were those hearts skipping beats? Were eager suitors walking along broad avenues hoping beyond hope that at the next turn the love they had waited for all their lives would notice them and halt midstep or midsentence, dumbstruck, love struck? Were women and men, women and women, men and men, late at night, sitting in dark bars, surrounded by smoky glass mirrors, pledging their minds and bodies?

In her mind’s eye, Paige could see the lovers in a bar, where plaintive Chet Baker was singing, “They’re writing songs of love, but not for me,” and Etta James wailing, “You smiled and then the spell was cast . . . For you are mine at last.” And what did the lovers sing to each other? Did they, would they, utter the words I love you? On the computer screen, “I love you” winked impishly at Paige.

I love you.

Paige wondered whether words of love, love talk, would survive, whether that courtly diction would rest easy on the computer screen, where words appeared easily, complacent and indifferent, and disappeared more casually, deleted or scrolled into nothing or into the memory of a machine, and so wouldn’t the form dictate the terms, ultimately? Wouldn’t love simply vanish?

Even so, I love you.

Once upon a time the impassioned word was scratched into dirt, smeared and slapped onto rough walls, carved into trees, chiseled into stone, impressed onto paper, then printed into books. On paper, in books, the words waited patiently and were handy, always visible, evidence of love. In that vague, formative past, love was written with a flourish, and it flourished.

Is the computer screen an illuminated manuscript, evanescent, impermanent, but with a memory that is no longer mine or yours. Is love a memory that is never mine, never yours?

Remember I love you.

Paige thought, I give my memory to this machine. I want ecstasy, not evidence. Can a machine’s remembering prove anything about love? If she points to its glowing face, could Paige attest, as one might of a poem written on the finest ivory linen paper: Here, this is evidence of my love.

“For you are so entirely fair, / To love a part, injustice were/ . . . But I love all, and every part, and nothing less can ease my heart.” (Sir Charles Sedley)

Paige glanced at the little marks, letters in regular patterns making words and paragraphs, covering sheets of paper that were spread haphazardly around her on the desk and on the floor, and she gazed at the computer’s face, as comforting and imperturbable as a TV screen.

Love, my enemy, even now I love you.

Romantic love arrived with the singer, the minstrel, who traveled from court to court, from castle to castle, relaying messages of love, concocting notions of love, torrents of poetic emotion, and in the courts men and women listened to these plaints and added more, their own. The singer heard new woes and put them into song, fostering a way to woo, but why did the minstrel sing in the first place, and what did traveling from one place to another do to produce songs of love? And later, did the printing press change love? Did the novel, offspring of Gutenberg’s invention, transform love? Did love become an extended narrative with greater expectations, not a song but an opera?

“When people used to learn about sex and die at thirty-five, they were obviously going to have fewer problems than people today who learn about sex at eight or so, I guess, and live to be eighty. That’s a long time to play around with the same concept. The same boring concept.”  (Andy Warhol)

Dearest,

            I don’t think I’ve ever felt this way before, not exactly. Not like this. Is it possible? I thought about you all day, and then in the night too, and I felt I was going to die, because my heart was beating so fast, as if it were a wild bird caged in my chest, flapping its wings madly, trying to escape. Even if my heart were a wild bird, it would fly to you.

Paige wondered if love disinvented, too, undid her and him. She moved from the computer, which seemed now to glower, into the kitchen and walked to the sink and turned on the cold water. She watched the water flow into the teakettle, and then she put the kettle on the stove.

Dearest,

            I love you especially when you’re far away. I can feel you most when I don’t see you. I carry you with me because your words carry, they fly, and yet they stay with me, stay close to me, the way you do even when you’re not beside me. To be honest, love, sometimes words are all I need, words satisfy, your words, your words.

“Does that goddess know the words/ that satisfy burning desire?” (Puccini, Madama Butterfly)

“I can love the other only in the passion of this aphorism.” (Jacques Derrida)

Paige thought writing might be an act of love, a kind of love affair, or a way of loving. She hoped it was a possibility, because even more, more horribly and wretchedly, she knew that it was also an incessant demand for love, enfeebling and humiliating. Always wanting, writing exposed its own neediness, like unrequited love, which might be the same thing, she wasn’t sure. Except that when her own worthless desires rebuked her, her writing turned derisory, dissolved into worthlessness, and then became transparent.

“My Love is of a birth as rare / As ’tis, for object, strange and high; / it was begotten by Despair / Upon Impossibility.” (Andrew Marvell)

Dearest,

            Maybe I’m always writing love, to you. That’s the only way I can love you. What if love, like writing, was a rite enacted and re-enacted, or a habit, or a disguise to cloak a vacant lot near the streetcar named desire. Sometimes I think it would be better to remain silent, to let emptiness, vacancy, and loss have its full, dead weight, and that it would be better to let love and writing go, but, love, I don’t want to stop writing or loving you.

It was nearly night. Paige visited old haunts without going anywhere, and she wallowed in dead loves and called upon memory, which competed with history, dividing her attention. Paige indulged herself, as if eating rich chocolates filled with her romantic past, and looked at pictures of former lovers stuck between pages in journals and albums. She mused and cut hearts out of paper towels, she held up one, then another, to the light. The hearts were large and ungainly, imperfect shapes meant to represent a romance or two or four. What would she write on a cheap paper heart?

“I wrote you in a cave, the cave had no light, I wrote on pale blue paper, the words had no weight, they drifted and danced away before my eyes. I couldn’t give them substance. I could not make them bear down. I keep failing at this poetry, this game of love.”

“O love is the crooked thing/ There is nobody wise enough/ To find out all that is in it…” (W. B. Yeats)

Dearest,

            I know you think I have no perspective, and I know without perspective, everything is flat. Our love exists on available surfaces, beds, floors, on tabletops, on roofs. Tell me to stop. I can’t help it, I want more, I want everything now. I love you, silently and stealthily. I love you as you have never been loved. I love you because I cannot love you.

“True hearts have ears and eyes, no tongues to speak; / They hear and see, and sigh, and then they break.” (Sir Edward Dyer)

I love you.

It was just a sentence. Paige was struck by it and, she thought, stuck with it. Three ordinary, extraordinary, diminutive words, I love you, and just eight sweet letters. “O” repeats, oh yes. So little does so much, three little words, three little piggies make a sentence: I love you. The love sentence, arret d’amour.

Dearest,

            What if I were sent to love you? What if I were the sentence “I love you”? Do you or I ever think of love as a sentence? I don’t think so, you and I can’t stop to do that, we don’t bother with its syntax, or who is sentenced, and for how long. I think you and I can’t think love at all. I can’t now.

“What voice descends from heaven/to speak to me of love?”

(Verdi, Don Carlos)

“Wild thing, you make my heart sing./ You make everything, groovy./Wild thing, I think I love you./ But I want to know for sure. Come on and hold me tight. I love you.” (The Troggs)

Feeling stupid, Paige tore up one of the hearts. She crumpled the others and looked at the mess. With hardly a second thought, she took each newly crumpled heart and straightened it out, then patted down all of the hearts until they were more or less flat and unwrinkled, and lined them up on the table in front of her like a place mat. Paige smiled at the hearts, paltry emblems of couplings gone. She even liked the hearts better with creases, because she liked her lovers to have lines around their mouths and eyes. So strange to concoct emblems, to want signifiers of old loves, but it was, she thought, stranger not to keep faith with memory and to desire, as obsessively, to forget.

Dearest,

            I love you trembles inside me. It trembles and I can feel it just the way I can feel you. You can’t think love, I know you can’t, not when you think about me. I’m the one who loves you, no matter what, and I love you, no matter that I want to take apart “I love you.”

“But, untranslatable,/ Love remains/ A future in brains.” (Laura Riding)

I love you.

What or who is the subject of this sentence, the object or the subject? Love confuses by constructing a subject/object relation that forgets what or why it is—who subject, who object. “You” never refuse “I,” my love.

To Paige, a torn-up heart, its pieces scattered on the table top, represented all the broken hearts, not just hers. There were too many to name and count, countless numbers.

“My first broken heart wasn’t a romance. My heart broke before I even thought about love. It broke when I wanted something and couldn’t have it, and I don’t even remember when or what that was.”

“…When the original object of an instinctual desire becomes lost in consequence of repression, it is often replaced by an endless series of substitute objects, none of which ever give full satisfaction.”  (Freud)

Paige worried that memory, like love, was something she couldn’t make decisions about, even when she made sense of the past, or it made some sense to her. Unlike love, memory was constant, and she was never without it. It was holding her hand as she tailored hearts.

Dearest,

            I can’t think straight, I can’t do what I’m supposed to do. I can’t eat or write or wash or cry or scream or die or decide, since loving you. Now “I love you” becomes a suffocated gasp, an involuntary gush. When you touch me, I can’t swallow, when you touch me, everything’s a movie, and everything in me moves over to sigh. I gasp, I suffocate, I gush for you. If “I love you” becomes a lament, then I will gag on love and die.

“Know you not the goddess of love/ and the power of her magic?” (Wagner, Tristan and Isolde)

“ ‘Cause love comes in spurts/In dangerous flirts/and it murders your heart/They didn’t tell you that part/Love comes in spurts/Sometimes it hurts/Love comes in spurts/oh no, it hurts.” (Richard Hell)

I love you is the structure through which I love you. “I” is such a lonely, defiant letter. In this fatal and fateful sentence it’s the first word — in the beginning, there was I — a pronoun, the nominal subject. In the love sentence, “I” submits to “you.” That I is mine. That I is yours. That I is for you.

Dearest,

            I’m the one who loves you better, longer, stronger, whose passion robs you of passion, whose daring steals your courage, whose boldness provokes your fear, whose gentleness savages you, whose absence electrifies you.

Paige waved a paper heart in the air and pretended to enact an ancient, time-honored ritual. She considered burning the heart in a funeral pyre and laughed out loud, a hollow sound with reverberations only for her. You never see yourself laughing, Paige realized. Once upon a time a man she loved caught her looking at herself in a mirror and noticed something she didn’t want him to see.

“I’ll be your mirror/ I’ll be your mirror/ Reflect what you are/ In case you don’t know.”  (Lou Reed)

“The woman who sang those lines died in a bicycle accident on an island. When she first sang the song, she was beautiful and somber and lonely, but not alone. She died in what’s called a freak accident, and, at the time of her death, her body was swollen from years of shooting heroin, so she was no longer beautiful, but she was always, or still, lonely. It was spring when she died, it may have been summer.”

I love you.

Love, the second word in the sentence, is the verb and acts by joining the two pronouns, pro-lovers, you and I. Love melts “you” into “I” or is it just grammar that bends “I” into “you,” just that old subject to object-of-the-verb magic? Love dissolves disbelief, since it defies credulity. Love establishes an impossible, enduring, tender, spidery bridge between us, two poor pronouns.You and I are simple, one-syllable words, you and I need love.

“We do not see what we love, but we love in the hope of confirming the illusion that we are indeed seeing anything at all.” (Paul de Man)

“Stereotype/Monotype/Blood type/Are you my type?” (Vernon Reid)

Paige shuffled the hearts and named each of them, and while she did, forced herself to remember him and herself with as much detail and vividness as she could bear. It’s often hard to bear your own history. A languid heaviness coursed through her and then settled like a stone in her stomach.

“I walked across the Brooklyn Bridge with him. The cars and trucks rumbling and tearing beneath us were terrifying. He thought it was weird that I didn’t find any security in the fact that there was something solid under our feet. He held my hand, the way I hold this heart. Later, we went for Indian food. It was the first time I ever ate it. Then we went back to my place and made love for the first time, too. He stroked the insides of my thighs.”

“Love u more than I did when u were mine.” (Prince)

“The heart you betrayed,/ the heart you lost,/ see in this hour/ what a heart it was.” (Bellini, Norma)

Dearest,

            I’m afraid now too, though I’m not actually walking over a bridge. There isn’t anything beneath my feet. I can’t breathe or yawn or laugh or smile or cook or move or run or jump or stand or sit. I am restless. Bedeviled angel, sweet oxymoron, I ask questions you can’t possibly answer. I’m not reasonable, absolutely not, why should I be, why should you? Really, I only have questions and you are a question to me, you are the question. I ask myself — you — what is it you want and what is it I want. Our wanting isn’t going to enough, though it is for now, wanting you is enough now. I can’t live without you. See how you have destroyed me?

“For love — I would/ split open your head and put/ a candle in/ behind the eyes.”   (Robert Creeley)

Even so, or even more, I love you.

“You” is, you are, the last word, the last word and the first one too. In “you” there are two letters more than “I” — the difference is a diphthong, two vowels to create one sound — ooh, you-ooh. The vowels demand each other, they nestle together to make their sound.

Dearest,

            My love clings to you. It is silent and dark, hidden from everyone else but you. Love is silent, sex is noisy. To write love, that’s what I really want, and to write it to you must be finding silence also. Soundlessly, I’d put everything into words, and though the words are not actually love but how love would speak if it could — if my heart could talk — the words would make no sound. Yet, through my desire, with my will, they would strike a chord inside you. My words would creep and slither into you, if I had my way, and I want my way with you, and words once inert on paper would suddenly wing through the air like missiles. Silly or profound, they would fly into you, and you would embrace them or, more perfectly, they would embrace you. You would be entered, love, you would be my precious entrance to love and also my final destination, eternal enchantment.

“What is the use of speech? Silence were fitter:/ Lest we should still be wishing things unsaid./ Though all the words we ever spake were bitter,/ Shall I reproach you dead?”   (Paul Verlaine)

Paige drank green tea and wondered what had happened to him, the lanky, green-eyed young man who hated himself, who said, I don’t know why you like me. She hadn’t liked him but had loved something about him.

“He was living on West Fourth Street and had been suicidal for years. He told everybody his brother was a movie star, and that was true. His room was in the back of a store and on the floor was a single mattress. The mattress looked like an unopened envelope. He said he had not made love in three years, and after he came, he cried, and the next day he hovered in a doorway, there was a violet gash on his neck. Then he disappeared forever.”

Obliviously, I love you.

She was becoming stiff and rose from the table, and walked from room to room, imagining she was a ferocious animal. Paige paced back and forth, back and forth, not sleek as a tiger or cunning as a fox but on the prowl. She felt a little hungry.

“Even today love, too, is in essence as animal as it ever was.” (Freud)

Paige took up the scissors again. Love, she considered with affection, should be generous, at the very least it should appear to be. She smiled absentmindedly as she cut more hearts, attempting to keep them attached like a chain of paper dolls. Was she fashioning love? Wasn’t the memory better than the love? The shapes grew progressively more uneven and awkward.

“You planted yourself in my garden, taking up room, then, oh, you grew, you became a weed, you were so tall, with such nerve. Your satin trousers and you were much too sleek. I tried to escape, but you insisted. You kept on insisting, about what, toward what end, I can’t remember. I wish flowers had never been looked at before. When we stood up, I felt taller, as tall as you, no, taller. You were awkward, but I remember all your questions.”

Awkwardly, I love you.

Dearest,

            I can still say it, common as it is, common as mud and as thick and undecipherable. In my dreams I cleave to you, I hold you, your body bent to mine, your body reminding me of someone else who is no longer here to love me, but then that’s love, one body replaces another. I don’t mean that, not just any other,  yours, only you. And only you understand me, the me who loves you. You and I make meaning together, that’s how love is, what love is — meaning. Meaning I love you. Meaning, I love you. “I love you” means I won’t listen to reason.

“Everybody has a different idea of love. One girl I knew said, ‘I knew he loved me when he didn’t come in my mouth.’” (Andy Warhol)

Paige thought about coloring the hearts and affixing titles to them. I’m glad no one can see me, she thought, and hummed aloud: I’m a little teapot, lift me up, pour me out. I’m a common heart, a commoner, a common metaphor, a cup of tea, a loaf of bread, a bouquet of posies. I am also beside myself. Hush, Paige admonished, be still, useless heart. Then she uncorked a bottle of red wine.

Commonly, I love you.

Since childhood, Paige had read poets and listened to the music of composers and songwriters who ordinarily took love as their subject. It made sense because love is mute, nearly unspeakable, so it needs a voice; still, it’s impossible to give it fully or sufficiently. So, no one can say enough about love or for it, and it cannot be encompassed or conquered, since it’s abstract, constantly inconsistent, outrageously ineffable, obdurate, and evasive. Therefore, Love endures as a subject worth taking up.

Paige allowed these sentiments and others entry, yet feared that whatever she had experienced and read, the cautionary tales she imbibed, couldn’t protect her. She hoped, desperately, to invest in knowledge and gain strength for the lovesick nights, for those raw, endless hours that robbed her blind and stole her reason.

“The night murmurs/Its thousand loves/ And false counsels/ To soften and seduce the heart.” (Puccini, Tosca)

“There was a time when I believed your love belonged to me/ Now I find that you’re shackled to a memory/… How can I free your doubtful mind?/ And melt your cold, cold heart.”  (Hank Williams)

Blindly, I love you.

Dearest,

            Even when my eyes hurt and everything’s blurred, I keep writing and reading. Weak eyes still love stories. Remember when you said I’m full of stories. You are too. Isn’t this how you seduced me? Wasn’t it your story, how you told it, how I sank into it, submitted, and collapsed into the superb rendition of your life — into you? I thought I saw you in your story. And isn’t this how I seduced you? It wasn’t my beauty, was it? It wasn’t my youth, was it? I think it was my story, one word after another after another, circling around you, gathering you to me. My lines roped you in, the way yours did me, our lines -– to continue this pathetic figure of speech — tangled, and we became one story. I have a French friend who always said about her love affairs, I’m having a little story with him. With words like sticky plums, I drew you close.

            My grip, on you, on my own tales, is sometimes tenuous. I might slip, but I always love you.

Paige drank the wine, but she barely tasted it, she was transfixed. In her red bathrobe she looked comical, like a giant valentine. From time to time she glanced at the clock on the wall, but she wasn’t sure what time it was. Every month the clock needed a new battery, but she forgot to change it. It was good that actual hearts didn’t have batteries to be changed or recharged. Except there were pacemakers. Maybe that’s why she felt run down, her heart was mimicking a machine. Paige stacked the paper hearts like honeyed pancakes.

Sweetly, I love you.

“She was so much in love, she wanted to make love all the time. He was away. She left their house and walked to a canal and saw a man standing on a bridge. She liked him, and it was easy to make love. Her exciting, grand passion threatened to make negligible any differences between one man and another. And, also, her love made her expansive, bigger than she was. She abandoned herself to the threat of self-annihilation — that’s what love is — and spent the afternoon with the stranger. There was no restraint, she gave him everything he wanted, without regret. He gave her his address, and she tore it up later.”

“Such wayward ways hath Love, that most part in discord/ Our wills do stand, whereby our hearts seldom do accord.” (Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey)

Discordantly, I love you.

You are everything. “You” is everything to the sentence, I love you, for without “you,” could “I” love?

Dearest,

            It‘s strange to write “I love you.” I don’t mean to you, what’s strange is to write it, to commit it to paper or the screen. I don’t mean that it could be anyone but you when I write, I love you. Only you could be the you that I love. That’s obvious. Isn’t it obvious that I love you, and that, without you, I cannot love. You alone will see where I’m leading, where my thought carries me, because my thought carries me to you.

“The air is fragrant and oddly pure this morning. It wafts into my room and reminds me of days when I played for hours in the forest down the road, our jungle, or maybe it was next to the house then, back then. I can’t remember. I remember how in the winter the pond would freeze over and all of us kids would ice skate, our hands tucked into our sleeves or sheltered safely in woolen mittens. Mittens are for little creatures who need shelter all the time. With mittens we are small animals with paws. The boys I played with — were you one of them? Even then? Steve, Ronnie, Jerry. They were always around the house. Jerry was dark and round. Ronnie, tall and blond, angular and angry, a bad boy. He became a lawyer. Steve stood apart and sulked. I wonder what happened to him.”

Abruptly Paige jumped up from the table. At the sink she poured out the dregs of the tea. It was late, and the city was quiet, sleeping. Does a city sleep when it can’t close its eyes? Isn’t everyone wrong about something like love?

Above her, in the upstairs apartment, a man strode heavily across the floor, from the refrigerator to the toilet, to the bed or in a different order. He stomped around like an enraged elephant, like a lover floundering from betrayal.

Love is not silent, love is loud and violent and vicious with a lovely, unsatisfactory language entangled on a wet tongue that entices. Paige danced around the kitchen, one hand gently patting her stomach.

“I danced on ‘Shop Around’/ but never the flip side/ ‘Who’s Lovin’ You’/ boppin’ was safer than grindin’/ (which is why you should not come around)” (Thulani Davis)

The language of and for love explains and isn’t explanatory enough. If it’s not learned well or early, but if one is a quick study, one could, with diligence, pick it up later. Paige wondered: Is psychoanalysis the way to learn to love later?

“The analyst’s couch is the only place where the social contract explicitly authorizes a search for love — albeit a private one.”  (Julia Kristeva)

Childishly, I love you.

Dearest,

            I don’t want to love you badly.  It’s intangible, I suppose, how to love, but since it resides in language and the language of the body — can touch be taught? — it has a presence and effects, and it also exists with words. Love is a grammar, a style, replete with physical gestures and utterances and yellow marks flashing on gray-green computer screens. What if my hard drive crashes? What if you stop loving me? What if I stop loving you? What then? What words would ever be enough?

“…Once you see emotions from a certain angle, you can never think of them as real again. That’s what more or less has happened to me. I don’t really know if I was ever capable of love, but after the 60s, I never thought in terms of ‘love’ again.”  (Andy Warhol)

Dearest,

            I hate this something you and I didn’t name. It’s gone out of control. With time, with time weighing us down, with no time to think about the future, with every fear about time passing — when will love come? — we grab love and hold it tight. Now we have it, now we have it, here it is, do you see it? I give it to you. I will forget everything else to love you.

“Let us forget the whole world!/ For you alone, dearest, I long!/ I have a past no more,/ I do not think of the future.” (Verdi, Don Carlos)

“Love is begot by fancy, bred by ignorance, by expectation fed, Destroyed by knowledge, and, at best,/Lost in the moment ’tis possessed.” (George Granville, Baron Lansdowne)

Impossibly, I love you.

“Love incapacitates me, my language is never enough. The language is the matter, language is matter, it matters, it doesn’t matter, we matter, we are matter, you and I are the matter, the matter of love, the stuff of it, you and I. We are not enough, neither is love, there’s no sense to it, it doesn’t make sense to you or me that this is what we are in, love, a state of temporary grace with each other. It doesn’t make sense, it’s not sound. It is a sound. It’s your voice.”

Dearest,

            You wanted to know, when you phoned (I love the sound of your voice) what was on my mind. Just as you called I was thinking (I had pushed you out of my mind in order to think), Some days it doesn’t pay to get out of bed. Then the telephone rang. Anyway it’s Sunday, and I was thinking of Lewis Carroll and Edith Wharton, who wrote in bed, enviable position, with a board on her lap, traveling or at home, every morning. As she finished a page, she let it drop to the floor, to be scooped up later by her secretary who typed it. Lewis Carroll (I don’t know where he wrote) and Wharton, it was something about her love letters to Morton Fullerton, and Carroll’s love of Alice, his desire for young girls. Was his sense of the absurd best exemplified by the ludicrous position he fell into, his love for such a small being. How crazy it must have felt to him, spending Sundays with Alice, bending down to hear her speak all day long, looming over the tiny object of his illicit affections. Even stranger to him must have been his wild, prohibited longing, if he actually felt it, to insert his penis into that girl’s vagina. He must have felt so small and so big, and there it was, the topsy-turviness of his intimate world which he then concocted into words, and with words published (in the old sense), though no one knew, or wrote his body, I think, and its occupying desires. Alice had to become small to become big. Carroll had no sense of scale, did he, no proportion? Did he ever tell Alice, I love you? Did Lewis Carroll love Alice the way I love you or very differently? Is love the same for everyone, from its beginning to its end? If I wrote to you the way Wharton wrote her lover, would you like it? Please tell me, I want to give you what you want, I want to be everything you want me to be.

Now I’m crimson. I don’t want to feel like this, but I can’t help it, my words stall on my tongue, they won’t come, and then they can’t stop coming.

“I’m so afraid that the treasures I long to unpack for you, that have come to me in magic ships from enchanted islands, are only, to you, the old familiar red calico & beads of the clever trader….Well! and if you do? It’s your loss, after all!”  (Edith Wharton, to Morton Fullerton)

Alone with longing, Paige verged toward alienation, like a spectator in her own amorous theater, where she could no longer play the ingenue. Now the paper hearts were actors, and some had important roles and others minor parts, just a line or two appended to a sexy action. Some characters were walk-ons, others appeared as comic relief.

Still, Paige fell in love, and, when she fell, plummeted into a lavish set of conventions. The modes were intractable and not her own, yet sensation maintained that her love was unique. Paige was capable of holding contradictory ideas and emotions, and, as ridiculous as it all was, she bore the irony. People bore it all the time, and some were so experienced in love’s disappointments, they had discarded or discredited it. But Paige couldn’t let it go, and, for its part, love wouldn’t leave her alone.

Mother, I cannot mind my wheel;/My fingers ache, my lips are dry;/Oh! if you felt the pain I feel!/But oh, who ever felt as I!”   (Sappho)

Ironically, I love you.

Dearest,

            Your love proposes and then marries me to a different idea of me, a new identity with its own poetic license, so now I’m different from myself but joined with your self, and you are different from yourself, at least from the way you have been, and the way your life has gone, and our love is the best difference that you and I will ever experience. Isn’t it? Won’t our love  mark, cloud, inflect, protect, deform, consume, and subsume us? Won’t it cast shadow or sunlight over all other experience? Isn’t love the limit? Or, more gravely, like death, an inconsiderate end parenthesis.

“Do you not hear a voice in your heart/ which promises eternal happiness?” (Bellini, Norma)

“Who needs a heart when a heart can be broken?” (Terry Britten/Graham Lyle)

Paige knocked her leg hard against the table. It hurt. Then a voice whispered: I don’t want to die. Paige swung around in her chair, her solitude broken by a strange visitor, the voice an interruption or maybe a discovery, a sensation inside her. But nothing shakes or reaches the vicissitudes of the imaginary inside. I don’t want to die, it repeated. She wasn’t sure if it actually spoke, it was barely a voice, but she believed she’d heard it before.

Immortally, I love you.

“She wanted to be saved. She wanted to tear his eyes out. She wanted to eat his flesh. She wanted to carve her name on his forehead. She wanted him dead. She wanted him around. She wanted him to stand like a statue. She wanted him never to be sad. She wanted him to do what she wanted. She wanted him invulnerable and invincible. She wanted to look at him. She wanted him to get lost. She wanted to find him. She wanted him to do everything to her. She wanted to look at him.

“She had no idea who he was or what he was thinking. She only pretended that she knew him. He was an enigma of the present, the palpable unknown. He was the loved one, and he wasn’t listening to reason. He would save her, and she would never die.

“She didn’t want to die. She wanted to be saved.”

Irrationally, I love you

Paige turned off the computer. “She wanted to be saved” winked one last time. She tore up all the hearts and threw them in the garbage and, days later, wondered if they should have been recycled with the newspapers. She liked recycling.

“…For the transaction between a writer and the spirit of the age is one of infinite delicacy, and upon a nice arrangement between the two the whole fortune of his works depend. Orlando had so ordered it that she was in an extremely happy position; she need neither fight her age, nor submit to it; she was of it, yet remained herself. Now, therefore, she could write, and write she did.”  (Virginia Woolf)

She sorted through some papers, closed her books, drew the covers off her bed, and undressed. She laid her head on a pillow and shut her eyes. Paige dismissed the present, and then the dead sat on chair and talked, and love and hate gamboled, trading blows and kisses. Friends and enemies mingling, and her neck out of joint, Paige awoke just before the sun did. She rubbed sleep from her eyes and turned on the computer.

“Love is a necklace around the throat, it needs a durable clasp, so it can be put on and taken off again and again. Some necklaces you never want to take off, though.”

Paige Turner is writing to you.

I love you.