Proof of Love – by Merrill Cole

(c) Merrill Cole, 2014

At the climactic scene of James Joyce’s “The Dead,” Gretta tells her husband, Gabriel, the story of Michael Furey, the young man who died for her love.

“I implored of him to go home at once and told him he would get his death in the rain. But he said he did not want to live. I can see his eyes as well! He was standing at the end of the wall where there was a tree.”

One day in 1988, Joe told me we could no longer be friends.

“The Dead” reaffirms the truism that has been in place since the Troubadours, borrowed from the Christian crucifixion, that self-sacrifice is the ultimate proof of love. Furey’s example chastises and belittles Gabriel, who knows he cannot match it.

“Generous tears filled Gabriel’s eyes. He had never felt like that himself towards any woman, but he knew that such a feeling must be love. The tears gathered more thickly in his eyes and in the partial darkness he imagined he saw the form of a young man standing under a dripping tree.”

Unlike Michael Furey, I did not stand outside the beloved’s window, making myself deathly sick, singing in the snow.

Of course, no snow was falling in south Florida.

What I did lacked the poetic resonance. In six weeks, I let forty—maybe fifty—men fuck me, with and without protection. Mostly without. I did not make demands. I was trying to prove that I was desirable. Gin and fucking were the only things I could think of that could help put Joe out of mind.

Only the gin and the fucking didn’t really work.


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