This time of year always reminds me of lust. Eight years ago, my friendly relationship with a coworker took a lascivious turn. It began with flirtation, moved to kissing, escalated to cohabitation, progressed to marriage, and is currently experiencing early parenthood. The parenthood part has greatly reduced the kissing part. Early summer of 2003, though, was the delightful kissing phase. I’ll never forget the first one. Odie turned to me, and said with great urgency, “I HAVE to kiss you.” And I dissolved into a puddle of clichéd romantic comedy heroine. Half an hour later, I was at Toxic Best Friend’s apartment, pacing and giggling, trying in vain to explain what I was feeling. She would have none of my excitement. Details she wanted, yes, but only to pick apart the experience and convince me that he was using me, exploiting me, and would ultimately break my heart. It was not love, she told me, rubbing the tiny pregnant belly of her most recent affair. Now THAT was the real thing, she assured me.
Spoiler alert: it wasn’t.
Do you remember that feeling of summer coming when you were still in high school? The end of every class period brought you closer to summer vacation. And if you could speed that class period to an end faster by sleeping, all the better. Well, if you’re one of my students, that seems to be your strategy. At my high school, the hallways are all outdoors, so when you step out of our classrooms that are stuffy with apathy and body odor, you catch an early May breeze blowing through the corridor. Even teachers are deeply affected by the pull of what that breeze promises.
Vacation. Vacation is coming.
At the end of every class period, there is a jarring bell sound through the P.A. system. It used to be a delightful chime. “Ding, dong, DING!” it murmured to us, “Class is over!” Now it blares this grating “EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE.” Eight years ago, at the end of class one day, instead of a jarring bell or a delightful chime, the opening riff of John Mayer’s “Your Body is a Wonderland,” the acoustic version, came over the speakers, and the powers that control bells let the whole song play through the passing period. I’ll never know why or how that happened, but I was overcome with feeling. I was deeply in the infatuation phase of love and it was everything I could do to keep my mind on my job. The ceiling of my classroom was the floor of his.
Recently, my students started reading a book that is about a “picture bride” who comes to America from Japan in the 20th century to marry a man she has never met. The students couldn’t fathom the idea of an “arranged marriage,” so I talked to them about how recent and “Western” the concept of “marrying for love” is. Then I actually said that thing adults said to me when I was a teenager, utterly depressing me. “That infatuation feeling doesn’t last. It’s not a good thing to base a marriage on.”
Because partly, it isn’t true. I mean, I must admit “infatuation” isn’t the word that jumps to mind when Odie is telling me about his terrible gas pains. But that fart cuts both ways. You don’t know how much wedding vows matter until you have to live with a seven months pregnant woman’s bodily complaints. And then with a postpartum depression woman. Nevertheless, when the weather turns from spring to summer (it DOES happen in Southern California, no matter what you’ve heard), when John Mayer’s music comes on the radio, when Odie stops me in the middle of the morning rush out the door and says, “Stop a minute. I have to kiss you,” the infatuation most assuredly lasts.