Friday, July 02, 2010

Love at First Sight

I went to the local bookstore today to see if I could find some classic lit in English. I found nothing but seriously abridged bilingual books (pamphlets, really). I did manage to score one book on my list in Chinese and for the bargain price of 9rmb ($1.35). I have included a photo. . . can you guess what it is?

I've been keeping quite busy reading the latest, which is beautifully written but easy to get lost in with all its description. I also blame the small type set. The main theme here is love, which shouldn't be surprising as it is mentioned right in the title, "Love in the Time of Cholera." Cholera is also running (pun intended) through the novel as well. I didn't really know much about cholera before reading this book, as I'm not well read on bacterial infections, even ones that caused devastating pandemics during the 19th century. Cholera, in case you are interested, causes severe diarrhea and vomiting which can lead to death without proper treatment. In the novel, it is also compared to love. I have never had such a reaction to love, however I have, on more than one occasion, have had such a reaction to Chinese food.

Now that you know more than you ever wanted to know about my gastrointestinal weaknesses, we can discuss the more pressing matter of love. Our novel's leading man, Florentino Ariza, suffers from it (love, that is) badly. At the end of the first chapter we find him attending the funeral of Fermina Daza's husband where he claims his undying devotion to her. Fermina promptly tells him to scram, saying, "Don't show your face again for the years of life that are left to you. . . and I hope there are very few of them." Talk about hostility. What could have happened between these two lovers to spark such a brutal rebuff? I don't know for sure, but I have a feeling that Florentino racking up more lovers then there are days in a year may have something to do with it.

Florentino's love began innocently enough while he was a virginal teenager delivering telegrams. One could say it was love at first sight, if you believe in that kind of thing. I'm not sure that I do. Fermina didn't seem too convinced of it either. After years of the two teens stealing glances of each other at Mass and in parks, after hundreds of letters secretly exchanged between the pair, after nearly two years engaged yet separated, the two lovers finally meet. Upon seeing Florentino, Fermina waves him away. "No, please. . . . Forget it," she tells him. "Today, when I saw you, I realized what is between us is nothing more than an illusion." An illusion, okay--I had it pegged as an obsession. I certainly wasn't convinced it was love. Although I'm not sure I'm ready to revisit that age-old question: What is love, anyway? I would like to know is this: Do you believe in love at first sight?

I believe people generally fall into two camps--Believers and Non-Believers. Generally, Believers claim to have experienced it. Ming falls into that category. He says he loved me since the first moment he laid eyes on my sweaty "monkey-butt-red-face" (his words) huffing it out on a grimy treadmill. I wasn't convinced of him so easily, but I'm not convinced of anyone too easily. I don't belly flop in when it comes to relationships, any relationships. I like to dip my big toe in when getting to know someone. Perhaps people like me can never experience Love at First Sight because we don't let ourselves. We need time to be convinced. I'm lucky Ming was persistent, not fifty-one years persistent like Florentino, but he did endure a couple weeks worth of near daily rejections before winning me over. Now that's Love.

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