The waitress has deep set eyes and almost a sneer as she refills our coffee. Semis rumble by this 24-hour diner along I-57. The Golden Ticket Diner is the only place to go after seeing a show at a bar. “What makes people fall in love?” Monica gingerly stirs her coffee with a slightly bent spoon.
“Genetics.” I reply with little-to-no thought or reflection.
“Genetics!?! That’s romantic.” Obviously she was looking for a more sensual answer than a scientific one (not that I’m a scientist).
“Well, at least that’s what I saw somewhere. Has ta do with evolution.” I cram a big piece of French Toast in my mouth hoping there won’t be enough room for my foot.
So, yer sayin’ we only fall in love ‘cause of our genes?”
“I’m not. Scientists do.” It’s hard to blame someone not there. “Genes wanna survive. Ta survive, they need ta reproduce. So, natural selection manipulated us inta enjoyin’ companionship, sex, ‘nd stuff. DNA wants us ta make lotsa babies so they can continue inta da next generation. Part of that is ta trick us inta fallin’ in love.”
“’Trick us inta fallin’ in love’?” Monica’s confusion turns into irritation. This can be dangerous. “What makes ya think I hafta be tricked inta love?”
“I was just repeatin’ what I saw onna science show. Talkin’ ‘bout shows, yer friend’s band was pretty good tanight.”
“No. I wanna hear whatcha think ‘bout love. Do ya believe genetics make ya love?” Me and my big mouth.
“Well… What do ya think makes ya love?”
“Fer me, it’s emotional. I mean, I’ll see a guy ‘nd think ‘he’s cute’. I’ll make eye contact ‘nd smile. If we end up talkin’, I’ll twirl my hair. I’ll ask lotsa questions ‘bout him ‘nd laugh at his jokes. If I’m really inta him, I’ll find a way ta touch his shoulder or arm, which leads ta a compliment ‘bout how strong he is or somethin’. If he seems inta me, I’ll give him my number ‘nd take off before he gets bored.”
“But that’s not love. Ya just told me how ya flirt.” She has tricks, but doesn’t believe genes do? “Tell me ‘bout when yer in love.”
“What do ya mean?” Monica takes a sip of coffee and crosses her arms.
“Okay… Say ya’ve been seein’ someone fer a while ‘nd realize ya more than like ‘em. Ya love ‘em. Can’t imagine life without ‘em. Think ‘bout havin’ babies ‘nd all. What makes ya love ‘em?”
“I dunno.” She puts her elbow on the table and presses her cheek into her fist. “Maybe it’s bein’ passionate ‘nd stuff. Ya know, tellin’ someone all da details of yer life ‘nd they still accept ya ‘nd wanna be with ya. Wanna be with ya so much that they don’t plan on leavin’ ya.” She rips open another packet of fake sugar and pours it into her half empty mug of joe. “Does that answer yer questions?”
“It was yer questions.” I reply trying not to sound too defensive, but still cautious. “But, not really.”
“What do ya mean ‘not really’? What’s wrong with my answer?”
“Well, ya told me what makes ya fall in love, but not why. Why do ya seek affection?”
“Why do ya hafta turn a simple question inta an interrogation?” The sarcasm is getting thick. “We’ll keep playin’ yer game. I guess love is like hunger. My body needs food fer energy, so my stomach growls ta let me know. I need love ta fulfill some urge. Don’t know what that urge is. Might be ta feel safe. May be dif’rent fer everyone. Who knows? Is that a better answer?”
“Will I get in trouble if I say ‘no’ again?” Why am I pushing this? I should just say “yes” so we can banter about other meaningless garbage.
“Yer in trouble already, so ya got nothin’ ta lose.” Her left eyebrow rises to a concerning level. “Okay professor, what’s wrong now.”
“Let’s say yer right. Love is like hunger. What makes yer stomach know ta tell ya yer hungry?”
“If ya say ‘genetics’, I’ll kill ya.” A fork and butter knife are dangerously close to her hands.
“What’s wrong with genetic love? DNA is da most basic element of who we are. They make our eyes blue ‘nd tell our bodies ta have two arms. So, if every cell in our body is programmed ta love, is that so bad?” There’s quiet as we bashfully look at each other and the twinkling lights of the interstate speed by our window.
“There’s somethin’ almost enchantin’ ‘bout our whole bodies bein’ designed ta love.”
“See, I can be romantic.”
“Shut up. Yer just lucky ya were able ta pull that outta yer ass.”