“Who knows how to make love stay?”*

You’re tired. You want to go home and sleep off this week of relentless deadlines, but your friends insist that dancing will be much more effective. You go, you dance, you laugh, you still think about your pillows. There, across the room, their eyes catch yours and smiles slowly spread across your faces. You’ve never met before, but surely something so familiar couldn’t be imagined. You talk, you feel shy, you feel emboldened; you exchange phone numbers. You fall asleep before your head hits the pillow, but they left a smile on your lips.

Image
Gertard ter Borch the Younger, Dancing Couple, 1600.
Oil on canvas, 76 x 68 cm.
Polesden Lacey, Surrey.

You date. You have the important things in common, including the same sense of humour – you laugh until your sides hurt and your cheeks are sore from grinning. You mark the time between absences. You send silly in-joke text messages. You get on with each other’s friends and are rarely seen apart. You can hardly get through a conversation without bringing them up because you’re just so damned giddy all of the time.

You fall in love. You spend all of your free time together. You buy things together. You meet each other’s families. You don’t miss them anymore because you know you’ll see them soon. You don’t feel jealous anymore, either. Some of your mannerisms have changed, but you hardly notice. You travel together, but equally enjoy staying in together. There are very few I’s or me’s – you are half of a we rather quickly, but effortlessly, so surely nothing could go wrong.

Image
John William Waterhouse, La Belle Dame Sans Merci, 1893.
Oil on canvas, 112 x 81 cm.
Hessisches Landesmuseum, Darmstadt.

You want to watch a movie but they want to go for a swim. The walls start to crack, but you’re too close, too in love, to notice. The we’s are less. You spend more time with your books than with your lover. You’ve gained twelve pounds and just started to notice. Your work is starting to suffer; you can hardly get a good night’s sleep. You have to get out before the building caves in.

You’re broken. You miss them at random, inconvenient times and try to hate them but cannot drum up any good reason. You pick up the phone to dial a number that probably wouldn’t answer. You cry, a lot. You skip breakfast and drink your dinner. You lose fifteen pounds and chuckle at your ‘stroke of good fortune’. You question love and its lack of parameters and bounds. You read Tom Robbins’ Still Life with Woodpecker for the billionth time, and continue to wonder how to make love stay.

Image
Carl Spitzweg, The Farewell, 1855.
Oil on canvas, 54 x 32 cm.
Shack-Galerie, Munich.

Go through the ups and downs of a romantic relationship from hopeful beginning to bitter end at We used to talk about love, on for a few more days (21 April) at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney. Indulge in beautiful artistic representations of the subject in the comfort of your own home with Love by Jp. A. Calosse, or Kama Sutra by Klaus Carl.

-Le Lorrain Andrews

*The title is a quote from Still Life with Woodpecker.

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