Whitley Sands.

Walking up the beach.

Are you worried you’ll be seen? I ask.

Maybe I’d like to be seen, Priya says. With my … young … lover.

What about your couple friends: what if they saw you? I ask.

Fuck my couple friends, Priya says. God, they’re to blame for a million dull evenings. I’ve done my time …


It’s like there’s some absolute divide between us and everyone else, Priya says. Because we’re in lurrve. We’re, like, a loving elite. Who feel their love more intensely than anyone else. Who live more intensely. I mean, love … makes you feel exalted, doesn’t it? It makes you high. You feel like some secret aristocrat. Who knows the secret of everything …

Lovers are always in love with themselves – that’s the thing, I say. With their love. With their being in love. It’s a recipe for smugness.

You always have to be a downer on everything, Priya says.

Nature’s thrown us a treat and we’re supposed to be grateful, I say. To moon over one another in gratitude. When really it’s part of the whole machine.

What machine? Priya asks.

The natural machine, I say. This is nature’s honey trap. That’s what it’s called isn’t it: when they lure you in via someone pretty? Some hottie specifically sent out to target you? … See, nature wants us trapped. Confined. Seeking all our salvation from romantic love …

So where should we seek it? Priya asks.

In being against nature, I say. In not just being grateful for what we’re given. I mean, we think romance is an exception. That we’ve been given all this as a special gift. All these feelings … This elation … This craving … It’s all it’s supposed to be. That’s the very sane madness of lovers. Our rational irrationality. Our law-abiding prohibition. To which we totally succumb …

But it is an exception, Priya says. It’s like a reprieve. It’s like we’ve been let off from ordinary life. The usual rules don’t apply, right? We’ve got an exemption. A pass …

Sure, it’s like a reprieve, I say. It’s like we’re exempt.

God, you’re so meta, Priya says. You can’t just experience stuff. You can’t just give yourself over to things.

Can you? I ask.

This is our … secret kingdom, Priya says. The secret just between the two of us. That no one will know but us. How we are together. How we talk to each other. Tease each other. Our … gestures, or whatever. The way we fuck, even … Something … new has come into the world. Don’t you feel that?

It doesn’t matter what we feel, I say.

Look around you, Priya says. The sky’s doing its sky thing, the sea’s doing its sea thing. And we’re supposed to be doing our lovers on the beach thing. Just being happy, or whatever. And instead, we have to be meta. Have to talk about life instead of living it. We have to ask our questions.

It just means we’re conscious, I say. We’re awake.

It means we’re detached and in denial, Priya says.

Look: this is how we talk, I say. This is what we have in common. We ask questions. We don’t just give into … feelings … We’re not animals, are we? We’re not plants …

You want us cut us off from everything, Priya says.

I want us not to subject to everything, I say. To, like, every passing feeling. Even love. Even infatuation. You know what lovers are like. Aren’t we lucky? they think to ourselves. Why can’t everyone be as lucky as us? And then they become, like, love-evangelists. Trying to pair up their friends, or whatever. Telling everyone the story of their romance. How they got together. About how the world relented. When the remorseless logic of it all pulled back for a few moments. When they were granted an apparent reprieve.

So what do you want to say: that love’s just hormones, or something? I say. That it’s nature’s way of making us reproduce. Of keeping us pair-bonded just long enough to gestate a baby and see it through the first year of life, or whatever.

I don’t want to say that either, Priya says. Or I want to say more than that. Maybe it’s natural for think we can be against nature. Maybe that’s human hubris. Come on, just feel things, philosopher. Let yourself go. Plunge into life.

Life isn’t some plunging in, I say. Life is being suspicious of all plunging in.

Don’t you want to burn with love? Priya says. Have your heart set aflame? Don’t you feel that’s possible?

— Lars Iyer, Void (novel in progress)

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