Later that night, after a marathon of John Hughes movies, I kept Boomer, Sofia, Priya, Yohnny, and Dov in my mother’s living room and brought out a dry-erase board from her home office.
“Before you leave,” I told them, “I would like to conduct a brief symposium on love.”
I took out a red marker - I mean, why not? - and wrote the word love on the board.
“Here we have it,” I said. “Love.” For good measure, I drew a heart around it. Not the ventricled kind. The made-up kind.
“It exists in this pristine state, upholding its ideals. But then… along come words.”
I wrote words over and over again, all around the dry erase board, including over the word love.
I wrote feelings in the same way, crisscrossing it on top of everything I’d already written.
“And expectations. And history. And thoughts. Help me out here, Boomer.”
We wrote each of those three words at least twenty times each.
Pure illegibility. Not only was love gone, but you couldn’t make out anything else, either.
“This,” I said, holding up the board, “is what we’re up against.”
Priya looked disturbed - more by me than by what I was saying. Sofia still looked amused. Yohnny and Dov were curling closer together. Boomer, pen still in hand, was trying to work something out.
He raised his hand.
“Yes, Boomer?” I asked.
“You’re saying that either you’re in love or you’re not. And if you are, it becomes something like this.”
“Something to that effect.”
“But what if it’s not a yes-or-no question?”
“I don’t understand what you mean.”
“I mean, what if love isn’t a yes-or-no question? It’s not either you’re in love or you’re not. I mean, aren’t there different levels? And maybe these things, like words and expectations and whatever, don’t go on top of the love. Maybe it’s like a map, and they all have their own place, and then when you see it from the sky - whoa.”
I looked at the board. “I think your map is cleaner than mine,” I said. “But isn’t this what the collision of the right two people at the right time looks like? I mean, it’s a mess.”
“What?” I asked her.
“Right person, right time is the wrong concept, Dash,” she said.
“Totally,” Boomer agreed.
“What does she mean by that?” I asked him.
“What I mean,” Sofia said, “is that when people say right person, wrong time or wrong person, right time, it’s usually a cop-out. They think that fate is playing with them. That we’re all just participants in this romantic reality show that God gets a kick out of watching. But the universe doesn’t decide what’s right or not right. You do. Yes, you can theorize until you’re blue in the face whether something might have worked at another time, or with someone else. But you know what that leaves you?”
“Blue in the face?” I asked.