Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Love in the Time of Cholera

Right now, I'm reading a great book by Gabriel García Márquez called Love in the Time of Cholera. The book appealed to me because of its classical, dense, overly romantic title and its supporting role in the movie Serendipity.

So far it has not disappointed. The book is classical, dense and overly romantic. I read for what feels like hours and then I look back and find that I've only progressed a half-dozen pages. The floral descriptions of passion and love come off as alternately syrupy and bitter. It would be the stuff of soap-opera legend if it weren't so authentic.

There are a few parts in the book wherein each principal character so perfectly exemplifies what love feels like. In one, Dr. Juvenal Urbino's passion for Fermina Daza becomes manifest in his near-obsession with placing himself within ear- or eyeshot of her and behaving conspicuously in an attempt to sway her attractions his way.

In another, Fermina, out of anger and resentment for her feelings of love towards him, accepts Dr. Urbino's proposal of marriage curtly, caught off guard by her jealousy when he flirts with another woman.

In another, Florentino Ariza, forlorn over the loss of his true love Fermina, is stripped of his virginity by a fellow steam-ship traveller. In that moment, caught in the passion of not-entirely-contested rape by this woman, he comes to believe that he can fill the anguish of heartbreak with sex, that love can be replicated and attained through lust.

As I read, I identified with each character's actions.  I related with Dr. Urbino's cautious arrangement of his schedule to coincide with Fermina's. I laughed knowingly at Fermina's angry realization that she loved the man she despised. I hung my head shamefully as I recalled times I tried to recover from loneliness or heartbreak by using others.

I'm eager to see how it ends.  I want to know what advice Mr. Márquez has for me in my search for love.  I woke up today feeling bitterly lonely and feeling like time marched on past me while my feet, steeped in ignorant cement, stayed firmly in place.  I watched friends marry and have children, other friends come out of the closet and become voices of hope for the power of the Gospel to transform, and still others leave the church and find what seems to be genuine happiness is same-sex relationships. And then there's me, in the same rut I've been in for 7 years, caught in the conflict between my brain and my tail.

So instead of going to work or school, I called in sick, bought a Diet Coke, drove into the countryside and read Juvenal, Fermina and Florentino's tales of love and woe and moving on and it filled me with a small shred of hope combined with a small shred of depression. Just like love.


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