Loving someone who doesn't love you back


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Anne Lamott
February 10, 1996 6:28pm (UTC)

There is Anne Lamott, the author of "Bird by Bird" and
"Operating Instructions." There was the idea that she write
a sort of diary for SALON. There was her reluctance to do
so. There was another idea, that she'd just sit down and
tell a story and we'd arrange it into paragraphs, trying to
keep it as true to her voice as possible. And since her
speaking voice resembles her writing voice, it would be
something like her real diary. We've never tried anything
like this before, but we've never eaten haggis either.
This is the Valentine's issue and so we asked her to tell us
a story about love.

This is a story about love and confusion and pain and
snack platters. It starts in Chicago, when I was on tour
promoting "Bird by Bird," every home should own one, and I
took my six-year-old son Sam along on the tour.

A woman came up to me at a bookstore reading with a
boy, her son, he was exactly Sam's age, the same
birthday
, and it turned out she'd made her own
Play-Doh for her son. From scratch. And she asked me, "Do
you make Sam's Play-Doh?"

And I said, "I don't make Sam's dinner."

I think she was taken aback just a little. She said:
"What does Sam eat?" And I said, "Snack platters," which is
true.

And it happened that this was the very day in October
when daylight savings ended, so we gained an hour the next

morning which made Sam and me very happy, but then we had to
fly to Indianapolis which is about 25 minutes away and we
lost the hour right away, like we never had it at all, and
that made us both deeply confused and depressed. And then we
spoke before about a million people at the Indianapolis
Public Library where I discussed my personal problems which
are legion, and then I signed books and by that time I was
channeling Tricia Nixon, I was Tricia Nixon, just smiling
and smiling no matter what. Then we went back to the hotel
and I did the only sane thing to do when you are very tired
and confused and you don't know what time it is and you
still have bits of Tricia Nixon on your shoes: I over-ordered room service.

This is how Sam gets his snack platters. I order two
entrees for myself and then I make up bits from both entrees
and that's Sam's meal. Club sandwiches are really good for
that. And I was so tired I could not brush my teeth or take
off my clothes, I just lay there boneless on the bed with
the entree crumbs desperate for sleep.

And Sam said, "Can I ask you something?"

And I said, "Honey, can this wait?"

And he said, "Have you ever loved anyone who didn't
love you back?"

Sam was undergoing a spiritual crisis because the girl
I like to call "the slut who broke my child's heart," who
was at that moment two or perhaps four time zones away, had
chosen someone else to be her boyfriend.

So I dragged my pathetic body up into a sitting
position and said yes, I had loved someone who hadn't loved
me back, and how it felt like a knife in my heart and I
never learned what to do about it, and I was hoping that my
willingness to tell the truth and say how messy and
inconvenient and confusing love is would somehow match this
Shakespearean level of despair he was feeling at whatever
time it was in Indianapolis.

So he said, "Can I ask you one more thing?"

With great dread I said, "Yes."

"Do you think you and me will die at the exact same
moment?"

And I thought that was the question that we always want
to ask but we never do because we know better, but it's the
question that really does paint a map of the human heart,
how terrifying and touching it is to love another person.

So I told him no, we wouldn't, and the next day we went
to the zoo, and it was the happiest day of the year.


Anne Lamott

Anne Lamott is the New York Times bestselling author of "Help, Thanks, Wow"; "Small Victories"; "Stitches"; "Some Assembly Required"; "Grace (Eventually)"; "Plan B"; "Traveling Mercies"; "Bird by Bird"; "Operating Instructions" and "Hallelujah Anyway," out April 4. She is also the author of several novels, including "Imperfect Birds" and "Rosie." A past recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and an inductee to the California Hall of Fame, she lives in Northern California.

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