Love at first…
A Saint Valentine’s recollection of romanticized moments that involves (almost) no partner
Words by Raquel Fernández Sobrín
Love at first hearing
I don’t remember exactly how old I was. Using two such disparate references as what science has established as the onset of precarious consciousness and a move that was recorded on the calendar, I can say between three and six. Nor do I manage to get most of the details of this story straight. In fact, as with childhood memories, it is possible that some of what I remember is pure invention articulated by the fractions of the brain involved in memory. The thing is that at some point, when I was between three and six years old, I had to make a decision. Life suddenly confronted me with what in economics is called opportunity cost, to opt for one thing and sacrifice the enjoyment of the other.
The first option had everything an infant could ask for. Compartments and different pieces, multiple colors and musical notes. Accessories to put on and take off. The second was made up of a single block and made two simple sounds. Needless to say, I chose the latter in what might have been an incipient sign of my future determination to do as I please (the obvious choice is the first, so I opt for the second) or the original clue to what would become my vocation and my doom, the most important commitment of my life. The first was a market cash register. The second a typewriter.
Love at first smell
It might happen to you too, because the feeling of affection that the smell of bookshops arouses is part of many people’s inner world. Like the best smells, it takes you elsewhere. To your childhood, to the anticipated excitement of picking up the latest book by your favorite author or the one recommended to you by someone you either trust or need to know if you can trust. There are people who adore the smell of bookshops because of the markers, but I don’t want to go there. There’s nothing like experience to deepen your philias. You let yourself go, explore them and almost without wanting to, perfect them. For me, with secondhand bookshops was the same that when I discovered I could find Nora Ephron not only in her films, but also in her articles, her essays and her novels. I like the smell of books, but I’m hopelessly devoted to the smell of used books. The ones that have lived, travelled. The ones that have been treated with love and the ones that have not. The ones that have been abandoned despite having dedications and make me wonder if they are there because Mark, Charlotte or Esperanza don’t (didn’t?) like to read, or if they needed the person who brought the books to them out of their life or if maybe the same book was given to them twice. A little hope, precisely, is what used books smell like. And of vanilla and brandy, of dried white flowers between sheets of paper. Of old wood. Of leather and ink, of course. Also of dust and closed attic, there is no need to idealize everything.
Love at first touch
Of all the things my myopia stole from me, bathing for hours in seas and pools was the worst. As two are needed to tango, I have to admit that perhaps adolescence, that period of time when you’re more interested in what’s out of the water than what’s in the water, may also have had something to do with it. Still, if you wear or have ever worn contact lenses you know as well as I do that you can’t bathe the same way because the water gets in your eyes even if they are closed. This may seem unheard of to anyone who hasn’t worn contact lenses and hasn’t come out of a swimming pool with their left contact doing a tour around their eyeball. To those people I will simply say that after my eye surgery I had to wait two weeks before I could wash my face like a normal person because of the risk of infection the tiniest drop of water might have caused. To you, who think you can’t possibly get water in your eyes with them closed, I will tell you that you can get water in your eyes even if they are closed.
When something we love is taken away, we tend to look for a substitute. We manage to find a band-aid. If they take away your beer, you switch to alcohol-free, and if you liked your ex, you look for someone who at least is fun. I found an alternative to soaking in water in silk, the most liquid of fabrics. The sensation of wearing something made of silk is similar to being in water. Similar but not the same, sometimes I’ve thought it’s even better. Just sometimes, because when you have idealized something that belongs to the past it is never fair to what you have in the present.
Love at first taste
I’m a healthy eater. I eat healthy because my moods and temper are closely related to the food I eat. What I mean here is that I eat healthy both for myself and for society, because I have a difficult character when I am in a bad mood and I don’t think it’s fair for anyone to have to deal with my miseries. I don’t take things to the extreme either, so let’s understand by “healthy” that I like to know ingredients and by “difficult character” that I can be unbearable. Of course, I eat healthy until the day I don’t feel like eating healthy. We all have those days, just as we all have stories with people who at the beginning have nothing to do with us and at the end have nothing to do with us but along the way we find various things between each other. On those days I find it hard to decide what I want, and the times when I have left the decision in the hands of someone else the failure has been resounding because if you are a person with healthy eating habits people understand that what you are craving is 70% chocolate. Some people don’t understand a thing but remember: it’s not their fault.
Some things I always crave. Chips, Takis (if you don’t know what they are just let it go, you’ll probably find them disgusting but it’s not worth to take the risk of liking them), ice cream with lots of stuff or anything with something you can call chocolate but my best wishes for your quest to trace the cocoa on it. Not knowing what you want can be as frustrating as knowing what you want when you also know you’re not going to get it. Luckily there are times when life works itself out. You just must have a little patience and wait for the equivalent of Reese’s to cross your path: everything I never knew I wanted in a format that adapts to any circumstance and is there whenever you need it.
Love at first sight
New York is a city where things happen to you, where life happens to you. Not always for the best (when is it always for the best?), but things simply happen. On that visit what happened to me was that I had the constant impression of being where I shouldn’t be. I’m not just talking about New York, I’m talking about being out of place in the broadest sense, like when you don’t fancy a plan or you’d rather go home but you stay because, how knows, you want to please someone or you think the plan and being there should be pleasing you. There is one factor that can turn that uncomfortable feeling into unbearable agony: jet lag. If being where you don’t want to be is annoying, doing it in a time zone that is alien to your circadian rhythms is plain torture. I would say I couldn’t fall asleep because I was in a theatre. The reality is that I was asleep with my eyes open. To win the battle I was fighting against my own body, I decided to take a walk to the bathroom. I went down the stairs punishing me in silence, because no one who knows me would ever say that tiresomeness is among my traits, but that’s only because I reserve all my annoying capacity for myself. As anyone who fears an accident would do, I ventured down the stairs staring at the ground until I looked up and met two blue eyes that wouldn’t let me reach the top step. I feel I must explain at this point that I have never been particularly impressed by looks coming from light colored eyes because I look in the mirror at myself every day with my own. So in this case the color of the iris is as anecdotal as the story. That gaze, which lingered for the eternal seconds that passed until I managed to regain my step, didn’t went through me. It did not enter my body through my pupils to continue observing what seemed to me to be the edge of the world. It went through my pupils and stayed there to force me to stop. That’s why I couldn’t move. I think he saw everything. Not only what I was in pain, I’m positive he also knew that in the end I would put things into place. Even more dizzy than before, I put my eyes down again and made it to the women’s toiler, where I could ponder what had just happened without the fear of being scrutinized. And then I came out hoping I would find that look again. The least I could do was saying goodbye. It was my lucky day: Ethan Hawke, the leading actor of a film saga I have seen dozens of times but was unable to recognize until a door separated us, said goodbye with a smile.
Love at first hunch
The story about me admitting the existence of my sixth sense is tricky. It is a bit of a trap because that morning wasn’t the first time I felt I did. It was just the first time I listened to it. Since then, I don’t lose track of it, I don’t ignore it, I don’t question it.
Because of my extremely rational mind, because of the fact I like to find a logical explanation for even the most illogical of situations, it took me longer than I like to admit that not all the information I need to be safe in life is processed through my brain. It took me a long time to reconcile myself to the reality that the best decisions are not always made in your head, sometimes your body makes them for you when you didn’t even know you had to choose. To stop feeling bad when I am introduced to someone and I feel the impulse of taking a step back, to stop mentally fighting myself when I have no other proof that I am being lied to than the funny feeling in my stomach, and to stop thinking “How stupid” when instead of taking this taxi I would rather wait for the next one.
Saying no without a perfectly constructed argument was the hardest thing of all. That morning, which wasn’t the first time I felt a hunch but the first time I allowed myself to listen to it, I finally managed to say no. Now I need to achieve saying yes again. Fortunately, instinct plays on my team.