Through everything, the one quick look reigns supreme

You fall in love 20 times before you get to work. Walking down the street, on the bus, crushed on the dank, sweaty Tube, you fall. Fall for faces that you'll never glimpse again, for names you don't know and will never know, fall for men who probably fall those 20 times as regularly and as redundantly as you, every day, every week, every month of the year, and who will have forgotten that falling in love before their first cup of coffee, if they have not forgotten well before. And all because of just one look.

The look. Tricky. How to explain how necessary it feels, even though the word redundant has already been precisely employed, how this falling into love has nothing to do with happiness, the "authentic" sort that seldom grows outside the privacy of a home, how to pin it down for sober dissection when the temptation is to blow it up, to perversely beat the drum for that split (yet stretched, almost leisurely) second of ...

Let the tale tell itself. You raise your eyes from the crossword, the TV page, the headline about threatened famine in the Third World and his eyes are apparently waiting for yours - that's how it falsely seems - and, as glances lock, you burn through: (picture me squirm) a potential lifetime together plus.

And you remember the very first time this happened. Remember the sudden, almost sick excitement of it, when you were - let's estimate 14 - and that young man drove by the school gates in his cool canary yellow sports car. It was irresistible (as it always will be) and fleeting, him behind glass, you caught in a crowd, the look delivered, and him gone, leaving you to pretend for dumb friends, stunned because you are stunned, and stunned again because they have not noticed.

To you the look was as crude as a blow - you are destined to be permanently punch-drunk - and yet even as you reel you realise they have registered nothing of what you take to be mutual recognition, your mutual need (which is the right diagnosis and the wrong diagnosis). Even so, they and everyone else will fail to notice the look even when it has become a hopeless habit, a fix you either give yourself or allow to be administered, yes, 20 or more times a dull working day.

Which, you're thinking, sounds like a mere (yawn) curtain-raiser to cruising when thoughts of love, and the falling into of, have been floated. But the pursuit of sex has but one blunt aim while the look is - who can say how or why or what something else again: the potent illusion of limitless possibility - a macro-moment when a multitude of alternative futures can be contained, entertained and simultaneously dispersed. Dreams rather than desire. Great escapes.

No. Clear game and try again. Still not quite there. Still too sweeping for what is, on reflection (and the practice has everything to do with reflection), a self-inflating twitch.

OK. Citizen Kane. Joseph Cotton - or is it Orson Welles or Everett Sloane? (memory ill serves) - is telling a story to that hack reporter, and it's about a girl he once saw and who once saw him on a train or trolley car or tramp steamer, again I forget. But Cotton/ Welles/Sloane hasn't forgotten. The look - as quick as a flash and quite as blinding - has branded the vision of her so deeply into his retinas that she has come to represent everything lost by the experience of living and, exquisitely, cruelly, everything that could have been gained; the elusive might-have-been.

No wonder Cotton/Welles/Sloane fixates on every small detail. He can describe clothes, skin, colour of hair, and how he fell in love - see, love, not libido - and never fell out; how this old man has worshipped her (the flesh, the fantasy, the fetish of her) from that day to this. She has everything except identity - that would, we comprehend, be ruinous - and that makes her, not that anyone should care, the picture's real Rosebud, the mystery that explains everything about wanting and never quite getting. The greedy sensation that no matter one's portion there ought to have been more.

Almost there. Except ... Anonymous though she is, our Lady-in-waiting is still the ideal. This may be a boy-girl matter. I certainly couldn't say for sure. Not my territory, guv'ner, despite being raised, like a spy in a foreign land, to know the ways of the Other Side. In the circles (round and round and round) I move, anonymity itself is rather considered the ideal: all those individually hard (won) bodies that are actually a mass one-size-fits-all-form; all those records with various "featured" voices that inevitably sing the same old euphoric song of - here we go- go again - heartbreak conquered and passion renewed; all those oh so "original" clothes that are actually your uniform, making, as uniforms do, the wearer invisible - an obscure object.

Which is why the look itself reigns paramount, regardless of those casting it. That is why 20 different faces can sustain it, and why 20 different faces are required to sustain it, to keep it alive until the 21st look. Round and round and round. Which isn't to deny that we're still talking love. It's love. Tough love. Cold love. Projected love. In its fashion, perfect love - the imagination of romance finally refined to a reflex action and an indulgent regret for absolutely nothing. You couldn't even call it ironicn

News
Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.
peopleThe idea has been greeted enthusiastically by the party's MPs
News
Michael Buerk in the I'm A Celebrity jungle 2014
people
Voices
File: David Cameron offers a toast during a State Dinner in his honour March 14, 2012
voicesAnd nobody from Ukip said babies born to migrants should be classed as migrants, says Nigel Farage
Arts and Entertainment
Avatar grossed $2.8bn at the box office after its release in 2009
filmJames Cameron is excited
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Arts and Entertainment
Stik on the crane as he completed the mural
art
News
Happy in his hat: Pharrell Williams
people
Arts and Entertainment
Stella Gibson is getting closer to catching her killer
tvReview: It's gripping edge-of-the-seat drama, so a curveball can be forgiven at such a late stage
News
Brazilian football legend Pele pictured in 2011
peopleFans had feared the worst when it was announced the Brazil legand was in a 'special care' unit
News
i100(More than you think)
Sport
Brendan Rodgers seems more stressed than ever before as Liverpool manager
FOOTBALLI like Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
News
The Magna Carta
archaeologyContemporary account of historic signing discovered
News
Phyllis Dorothy James on stage during a reading of her book 'Death Comes to Pemberley' last year
peopleJohn Walsh pays tribute to PD James, who died today
Sport
Benjamin Stambouli celebrates his goal for Tottenham last night
FOOTBALL
Life and Style
Dishing it out: the head chef in ‘Ratatouille’
food + drinkShould UK restaurants follow suit?
News
peopleExclusive: Maryum and Hana Ali share their stories of the family man behind the boxing gloves
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer - OOP, Javascript, HTML, CSS, SQL

    £39000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer - OOP, Javascript, HTML,...

    Austen Lloyd: Commercial / Residential Property - Surrey

    Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: SURREY MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

    Recruitment Genius: Graduate Programme - Online Location Services Business

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: What do you want to do with your career? Do yo...

    Recruitment Genius: Senior QC Scientist

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This company is a leading expert in immunoassa...

    Day In a Page

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

    Christmas Appeal

    Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
    Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

    Is it always right to try to prolong life?

    Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
    Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

    What does it take for women to get to the top?

    Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
    Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

    Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

    Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
    French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

    French chefs campaign against bullying

    A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
    Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

    Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

    Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
    Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

    Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

    Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
    Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

    Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

    Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
    Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

    Paul Scholes column

    I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
    Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

    Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

    So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
    Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

    Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

    The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
    Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

    Sarkozy returns

    The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
    Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

    Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

    Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
    Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

    Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

    Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game