It was a conversation over coffee at a shop near campus. School was out for the summer so the place had been reclaimed by adults who tried to avoid it during the school year since it was almost always jammed by college students wearing shirts plastered with either the school’s logo or their greek organizations. They tended to hog tables and spend hours sucking up the free wi fi.
Summer was definitely the best time of year on that side of town. Once again there was plenty of on street parking available. That was a big plus in itself. Still it was nice to have the neighborhood populated by a younger crowd even if every third kid had their face buried in a phone.
He started by making a general observation about something he had noticed. It was a subtle thing to be sure but a for some reason it seemed to stick in his mind and demanded more attention.
He said, ” I inherited some house plants about ten years ago and while I have managed to keep them alive and thriving a few are starting to fade and I think are getting to the end of their life cycles.”
“In the past I’ve had plants kick the bucket because I either overwatered them, under watered them, put them in the wrong window sunlight wise or went away for a couple of weeks and the person I left in charge of them just dropped the ball and the plants died from neglect.”
“I began thinking about how maybe nothing lasts forever, how everything and everyone has a shelf life. I know that my career such as it was and now is has twists and turns but eventually the road ends. Someone once told me to plan a graceful exit before they ask you to leave but that’s another story.
She nodded, thought about getting another cup of coffee but he was on a roll and she didn’t want to interrupt his train of thought.
Continuing he said, ” Do you think that love has a shelf life?”
She wasn’t quite ready for something this intense but they were friends who had shared much in the past. There wasn’t much they didn’t know about each other.
” Shelf life – You mean like a bottle of ketchup or a jar of mayonnaise?”
” No really, I mean it. Does love have a shelf life?”
” I think” she said pausing to take a sip of less than hot coffee, ” That it does and it doesn’t.” I’ll explain.
” Love itself does not. It is real, powerful and a magical thing that I really don’t understand. Clearly, looking at my life I don’t understand it. Love between two people, now that does I think. It changes, gets stronger, gets weaker or maybe goes away. But love as a stand alone item does not. ”
The coffee shop was emptying out and they were left alone at a corner table in bright sunlight.
“You know” he said, that’s kind of what I was thinking too. You got all kinds of love – your spouse, your kids, the cat, your dog, your job, yourself and it’s always changing hopefully for the better and that’s good but sometimes… ” He trailed off.
” One day you wake up and it’s gone. It just left during the night. In the morning you look for it everywhere but it’s gone. No goodbye note and you did nothing, I don’t think to get it to leave. You could ask the cats if they saw love leave but they were probably sleeping.”
“So you think that you only misplaced it and you turn the house upside down only to eventually realize that it’s no longer around.”
” I know that one” she said remembering that first loveless morning several years ago waking up alone even though there was another person living in the same house. ” So where does it go, why did it go? How do you get it back to stay?”
He said, ” Here’s story about one of my favorite songs that I think is true and even if it’s not I want to believe it.”
You know the song ” Love is Here to Stay and he sang the first few words of the verse It’s very clear, our love is here to stay.”
” It’s a Gershwin tune, music by George and lyrics by his brother Ira. Supposedly it was the last piece of music left on George’s piano when he passed away. It was unfinished but to what extent I can’t tell you.”
” Ira was devastated by George’s passing. He eventually finished the song with the help of a friend. I always thought that the song was about two lovers but in the context of George’s death and Ira’s pain it takes on a new meaning. It opens like this:
” The more I read the papers, the less I comprehend
The world and all it’s capers and how it all will end
Nothing seems to be lasting but that isn’t our affair
We’ve got something permanent, I mean in the way we care…”
It’s all about the impermanence of things, if impermanence is a word and also the very permanence of love. Then it goes into the …It’s very clear part, with the Rockies will crumble, Gibraltar may tumble they’re only made of clay but our love is here to stay.
” I like that, Our love is here to stay.”
No, the title is ” Love is Here to stay, not our love, just love.”
“That’s even better – only you could find a relationship between love, houseplants, and a song written in 1937.”
He began to hum the melody as they left and headed out into the warm summer afternoon.