The prompt this time was a list prompt (For a detailed explanation of how a list prompt works, see Golden, a post from March 2011.) The titles of the two lists were”
“Things that are easily broken” and “Things that are durable.
I wrote about love, of course.
(No surprise to those of you who are regular readers.)
Here’ s what I wrote: __________________________________________________________
What lasts beyond love? Certainly not promises, easily broken, or beauty; a smooth young face will age into a web of broken blood vessels, eventually. There’s no stopping the breakdown of collagen and bone, the crumbling of cartilage. Even the will to live gives in eventually, like spring ice cracking, or an avalanche of heavy snow.
But love? Isn’t it always strong, like a leather leash, durable as an old Rubber Maid trashcan, or a heavy old push-button phone, squatting wide and beige on a desktop in 1982? Love is a marathon runner, or a prisoner, keeping up with the world outside, even in exile. Love decides that people ultimately don’t change what’s best about them, so it waits patiently.
I think of love when people die, how their voices come to visit in our heads, how our relationships with them continue. I’m talking to their young faces in a photograph. Everything else can shatter: trust, champagne flutes, icicles, eggs. Ceasefires and overcoats come apart at the seams; vases topple with one swish of the Labrador’s big, clumsy tail. Even windshields—though designed to safely crackle into a thousand uniformed pieces—break.
But somehow love endures. It’s the bedrock of all relationships, you say, waving it off like a fly, a tiny gnat, smoke from an extinguished candle, but it’s larger and more durable than that, and somewhere deep inside your cynical heart, you know it. Even when he ruined the dream you built together, even when his beautiful face appears out of the gray day, (swollen now, or lined) even though you never really forgave him, you still love him there, wordlessly, on aisle 5A at Walgreen’s, or inside the card you saved with his messy handwriting, the voice mail you never erased until it simply erased itself.
Like huge canvas sails stretched tight with the wind, like concrete freeways carrying 1,000,000 cars a day, like the pyramids in Tulum, love endures the worst humiliations, generations of loss, and histories of shame. There it is, just where you left it: at the bar with a gin martini, singing a Bessie Smith song , trying to harmonize with the piano player, an old durable thing himself. A toupee tilted slightly on his head, the two of them singing some show tune about love, how it never ends, but circles back around again and again, until it settles right down next to you. That faithful old companion.