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

Life and Style
love + sex
Life and Style
Tikka Masala has been overtaken by Jalfrezi as the nation's most popular curry
food + drink
News
people
Voices
A propaganda video shows Isis forces near Tikrit
voicesAdam Walker: The Koran has violent passages, but it also has others that explicitly tells us how to interpret them
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
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

    Recruitment Genius: ASP.NET Developer / Programmer - SQL, MVC, C#

    £35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This distributor and wholesaler...

    Recruitment Genius: 2nd Line IT Support Technician

    £26000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

    Recruitment Genius: Business Manager

    £25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This highly successful business...

    Ashdown Group: HR Advisor - Bedfordshire - £30,000 + Excellent package

    £28000 - £30000 per annum + Bonus, Pension, 25days hol, PHC +: Ashdown Group: ...

    Day In a Page

    Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

    Climate change key in Syrian conflict

    And it will trigger more war in future
    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
    Is this the way to get young people to vote?

    Getting young people to vote

    From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
    Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

    Poldark star Heida Reed

    'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
    Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

    Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

    Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
    Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
    With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

    Money, corruption and drugs

    The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
    America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

    150 years after it was outlawed...

    ... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
    Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

    You won't believe your eyes

    Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
    Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
    War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn