Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2002, 1:27 AM

No love lost -- a parable





No love lost -- a parable



      "Don't worry about it. It's okay. No love lost," said John, and he honestly believed that. He believed that no love was lost. But she didn't understand.
      "What do you mean?"
      "I mean, no love lost. Perhaps some bruised feelings, and some soon to be cold nights, but all in all there is no love lost."
      She shook her head. Julie had been right about John--he was a basket case. Julie told her just two nights ago that John did not have a firm grasp of reality. "Yeah, I mean the guy doesn't care if he never gets a raise," Julie said, taking a long draw on her cigarette and chasing it with a drink. "He just kind of," she turned her head slightly to one side and sent a cloud of white smoke careening into the non-smoking booths adjacent to their table, "I don't know. He's just not wound too tight, I guess."
      "C'mon Julie…"
      "Okay, Anne. I should have said that he lacks a self-preservation instinct necessary for survival in a Darwinian universe. Is that better?"
      "It's not like that. You just don't see that part of John that I see when we're together. He is so full of life and energy and dreams."
      "Dreams don't pay the bills, honey. If he won't accept that then you have to and find someone who will."
      "I don't care about the bills. I just want to be happy."
      "Yeah, try finding your happiness in the dark when they turn your power off."
      Anne wanted to argue. Anne wanted to stand on the table and yell that John's passion would be enough to save both of them. Enough to keep them warm. Enough to keep them from ever going hungry, or ever wanting or needing anything. But she couldn't argue with Julie's logic. The left side of her brain told her that the only reason for climbing onto the table was to try to avoid the sinking feeling that threatened to overcome her and drown the last veil of hope she had hung on her failing relationship.
      Julie stood up from the table. She shoved her left arm into the sleeve of her coat hard enough to expose her watch. She grimaced saying, "Listen. I have to go. I was supposed to pick Derrick up seven minutes ago, and I still have to drive halfway across town to get to his stupid house." Anne nodded but didn't look up from her cup of coffee. "You know I'd stay and finish this conversation if I had time, but if I don't pick him up soon then I have to listen to him bitch all evening before I can get a few minutes of pleasure out of him tonight. Besides, I can't make the decision for you, and I can't make you see something you don't want to see. I'll call you tomorrow," Julie said as she dropped two dollars on the table for her cappuccino.
      
      
      "I'm an artist," John said to the guy behind the counter who had a marijuana leaf tattooed on his forearm.
      "I've never seen any of your work. What have you done?"
      "Well, I'm working on an on-going project at the moment I like to call life, but I'm just not sure I have the tools necessary to complete it."
      "It's okay man, I understand. Just decide what you want and aim right for it. You can't let the system get you down. Don't let society impress its demands upon you. I know that Thomas Hobbes said that man is a product of his environment, but you shouldn't have to be. You know. You should be free from the constraints that society tries imposing upon you. You have to shake off the shackles and liberate that child they stole from you, man."
      John nodded but didn't look up from his cup of coffee. There didn't seem to be much point in trying to explain that "Life" was a series of copper pipes stuck into and joined with racquet balls that John would manipulate depending on his mood each day before taking a picture of it and leaving for work. It could grow or shrink one piece a day, or move only an appendage or two so that the flow of the photos when viewed consecutively would be a more fluid experience.
      
      "You really believe that, don't you?" she said pulling her shoes out from under the bed.
      "Yeah."
      "You're insane."
      "It's practically proven, Anne. You've heard about the law of the preservation of energy right?"
      "Give me a break, John. I don't want to listen to your weirdo logic any more. I'm leaving"
      "Anne, just let me explain. So energy can't be created or destroyed…"
      "Find someone else to pan this one off on."
      "That means that there is a finite amount of energy in the world…"
      "Look, I'm putting on my shoes."
      "Well, what if love was like that? What if there was only so much love to go around?"
      Anne stopped and appeared to consider this question seriously for a moment before saying, "Well then I guess I should run down to the pawn shop and trade this goddamn ring for a vile of the stuff." She waited for a reaction, but as usual john just sat on the edge of the bed regarding her with his muddy green eyes. This was infuriating. Why did she put up with this shit? He's the janitor at a goddamn art college for Christ's sake. She was certain she could do better.
      "It makes perfect sense. I mean how else can you explain the sudden change in our relationship?" John scratched absentmindedly at the stubble on his chin and lay back onto the bed to stare at the ceiling. "I don't know. I mean, why is it such a crazy idea? You and I have talked about crazier stuff, like me getting a grant for my artwork, or you going back to school to finish your stupid Econ degree."
      "And why is that so stupid," asked Anne who crossed her arms and leaned against a rack full of rolls of canvas waiting to be prepared.
      "It's stupid because you don't believe any of it. You don't feel it, you know. If you really did then you'd understand what I am talking about. How about the economics of love--like the give and take, supply and demand, bounty and recession and all that crap? Why is it such a hard thing to understand? I mean, shit honey, love is a commodity as it is. It's sold on television, on rubber ads on the radio, for money on street corners…"
      "You asshole, you think that's love? That's not love. The saying is 'sex sells', dumbass. Don't pull this pseudo philosophical bullshit on me," Anne yelled. And then she was gone, just like the love he had for her.
      
      John noticed the large piece of gauze wrapped around his forearm when he refilled John's cup with coffee. John said, "Did you burn your arm or something?"
      "Nah, the boss was pissed off about my tattoo. He said that if I wanted to wear something with short sleeves I had to cover the thing up, and it's so fucking hot out what else am I gonna do?" John's waiter put down the pot of coffee, pulled out a rag and began to wipe down the counter. "So how's life, man?"
      "I destroyed it," John said hanging his head and gently stirring sugar into his coffee. It was true. After Anne left there was the same emptiness in the apartment that John felt so keenly inside himself. He didn't have the same drive or desire. After a few weeks the apathy was so great that one day he was lying on the bed and couldn't decide whether he should get up to go to the bathroom or just let go right there in the bed. And that was it. He got up, went to the bathroom, disgusted with the reflection in the medicine cabinet mirror, and grabbed the plunger. It was a short trek down the hall to the studio where he had worked on Life for the nine months previous to Anne's departure. Life loomed large over his head-a full twelve feet high, framed by the ladders he used to make his minute adjustments. John smiled just before he struck the first pipe in the exquisite network, causing it to fly across the room and ricochet down the hall. What better way to get rid of shit than with a plunger? Swish, bang, swish, bang, swish, bang boom. And then in one swift moment Life came crashing down around John and it was all over. He chucked the plunger onto the pile, unzipped his jeans and relieved himself on the remains of his fallen creation.
      "Yeah," John sighed, "I totally destroyed it"
      "Hey it happens to all of us. You just got to keep on trucking. You just got to go out and get your groove back, like Stella. You just keep working at it and you'll get where you need to be, man.
      John tossed a couple dollars on the counter, stood up, stretched, and then turned to leave. "Hey," John called back to the waiter who had set about pairing up salt and pepper shakers like a Jewish matchmaker, "Do you believe in love?"
      "Sure, love is everywhere. Love is like this gigantic reservoir--you just have to learn to let go and tap into it. It's like the energy that binds the whole world. It's incredible and powerful and indestructible, you know?"
      His hand resting on the door handle john said, "Yeah, unfortunately I do," and then pushed.