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

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
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: Luxury Brand - Retail Sales Assistant - Part or Full Time

    £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Luxury Jeweller and Accessories - Retail Sale...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    £13676.46 - £15864.28 per annum + Uncapped Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Re...

    Recruitment Genius: Web Designer

    £22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Web Designer is required to j...

    Recruitment Genius: Motor Vehicle Technician

    £22000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Company is a well establish...

    Day In a Page

    John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

    Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

    'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
    Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

    Forget little green men

    Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
    Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

    Dying dream of Doctor Death

    Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy
    UK heatwave: Temperature reaches 39.8 degrees on Central Line - the sweatiest place in London

    39.8 degrees recorded on Tube

    There's hot (London) and too damn hot (the Underground). Simon Usborne braved the Central line to discover what its passengers suffer
    Kitchens go hi-tech: From robot chefs to recipe-shopping apps, computerised cooking is coming

    Computerised cooking is coming

    From apps that automatically make shopping lists from your recipe books to smart ovens and robot chefs, Kevin Maney rounds up innovations to make your mouth water
    Jessie Cave interview: The Harry Potter star has published a feminist collection of cartoons

    Jessie Cave's feminist cartoons

    The Harry Potter star tells Alice Jones how a one-night stand changed her life
    Football Beyond Borders: Even the most distruptive pupils score at homework club

    Education: Football Beyond Borders

    Add football to an after-school homework club, and even the naughtiest boys can score
    10 best barbecue books

    Fire up the barbie: 10 best barbecue books

    We've got Bibles to get you grilling and smoking like a true south American pro
    Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power

    Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

    Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power
    Ron Dennis exclusive: ‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

    ‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

    Ron Dennis shrugs off a poor start to the season in an exclusive interview, and says the glory days will come back
    Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

    Making of a killer

    What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
    UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

    Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

    Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
    Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
    Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

    Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

    Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most