Love/In Love

Written by James McCann


Pat's engine idled. He knew what he was going to do was going to be tough, but there was no way he was going to rush it, no way he was going to put it off, either. He looked at himself in the rear-view mirror, his eyes momentarily resting on the crucifix hanging on the Rosary beads. Rachel had got that for him, as a gag-gift. Pat was an atheist, Rachel was agnostic, but in their respective childhoods both had thought they looked cool. Obviously in both cases that had been before they knew what the beads represented.

Rachel was amazing, and Pat loved her, but he wasn't in love with her. There were times when he thought that she'd probably be the best friend he ever had (the closeness and the affection and the sex were always welcome), but he never felt a pang when she was gone, he never found himself watching the clock for the moment of her return. There was no jealousy, no addiction. In his quieter times, Pat believed that was really all love came down to, a finely tuned combination of jealousy and addiction to a person.

He hated thinking that way, but it was more accurate than most gushing, stupid love songs. You became addicted to that person, and you became insanely jealous when they were spending time with other people. That wasn't good, it wasn't a bright, happy outlook on life (it certainly wasn't going to sell many pop records), but Pat's poetry had always been about the darker side of reality; death, anorexia, addiction. On some horrible, guilt-leaden level Pat thought he could get quite a lot of creativity out of this whole sorry affair, but wasn't sure that he was going to be strong enough to mine this particular shaft. It was hurtful just thinking about it, about what was going to occur once he started speaking to Rachel, he didn't think he was ever going to want to revisit this scene and these feelings again.

He gave the steering wheel one quick squeeze, then got out of the car. As he walked onto the driveway, Rachel came out of the bungalow to meet him. She looked amazing, she was a vision, pure beauty in a summer dress that swayed hypnotically. She was every woman any man could ever want, and yet...Pat felt nothing sexually. Not at all. There was no burst of excitement in his belly, no stirring lower than that, either.

Rachel's smile was beaming, she was bright and wonderful and a brilliant person. But that wasn't enough for Pat.

She greeted him with a hug that was more than platonic and a gentle kiss on his mouth. She pushed her breasts up against him, hoping to excite him, to illicit a reaction of wanting. It was all for naught. He placed his hands on her shoulders and gently pushed her away. It was barely enough to squeeze another person between them, but sometimes that was all it took.

Rachel looked at him, her eyes searching him for some sense. For some truth. Pat didn't need to say anything, she could see it all over his face that this was not going to be a pleasant visit, that this was not going to be a day to reflect upon merrily. Rather this was going to be one of those painful things that was always going to be there but you did your best to ignore, to pretend it didn't exist, that it never happened.

Pat took Rachel's hands in his, met her gaze (both of his eyes were beginning to blur with tears), and took a long, deep breath. He tried to ready himself for what had to be done, to crush this brilliant woman who he loved but was not in love with, and began to speak.

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