catching the plague
What is love? You meet someone, you dream someone, you sleep someone and then your heart is in your mouth, full of the burgeoning dawn. Your doom is already muscle-thighed and moving: she loves me, she loves me not, will she or won’t she? You can no longer sleep at night, your pulse is racing with the rush of the new. You get a kick out of her; does she get a kick out of you?
Being in love is a recognised human condition, a measure of the state we’re in. It involves a lot of hugging and wave after wave of adrenaline. It rages like a fever. When Olivia, in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, realises that she is falling in love, she exclaims, ‘How now! Even so, can one so quickly catch the plague?’ And when Dr Faustus, in Marlowe’s play of the same name, kisses Helen of Troy, he immediately realises that he is lost: ‘Ah, her lips suck forth my soul: see where it flies!’
There is no surviving an outbreak of love. Once infected, you’re gone.
But where is love? The poet Roger McGough wrote that ‘the act of love lies somewhere between the belly and the mind’. Most would probably place it in the heart, but I think it’s more a sparkle in the eyes, or the surprise of a smile, or the warm, moist, open-mouthed invitation of a kiss. Faces spark the whole thing off. At least they do for me. Some men are butt-men or leg-men or breast-men. Some others drink so much that they settle for whoever they can get. But me, I check faces, peer through the trapdoors of the soul.
I dream dreams; I see visions. But there’s a difference between dreaming a dream and dating one. Being in love is living on the edge, balancing on the very brink of chaos: does she love me? Of course she does.
Whoosh! There’s a flow and a flux, an energy rush. Love is coming: get on the runaway train; board the bus; fly the plane. Romance is always just around the corner. There’s always a heart looking for you. Life is a dating agency.
When I was just a young boy, I didn’t understand this love thing. If I saw a couple kissing it was more a 'Look mummy, they’re eating each other.’ But when I became a man I put away my childish things, sighed moodily and gave myself up to passion.
In our modern age, phone numbers are the digits of love. You’ve got it bad girl—that’s the fifth call you’ve made today...
But that’s the whole point of love: communication. No man is an island. We’re people people. We need each other. Loneliness burns down the wires and drives people into Internet chat rooms or onto porn sites. Loneliness opens the dark dungeons of the human psyche.
There is no antidote for love, and only the dangerously depressed will ever look for a vaccine to prevent it. No, love’s a hot-wiring of the spirit, an intoxicating home run, a favourite shirt in the wardrobe of our days.
© Kenneth Rowley, 2003-2012