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Possibility Over Prose

How do you successfully depict the idea of love at first sight?

Well, what does “love at first sight” mean?

I have had an experience that is somewhat analogous – both with my beloved and, in other contexts, with other people – and that is: the experience of two minds spontaneously interpenetrating, two people understanding each other without needing to fully verbalize their thoughts. When there’s an erotic dimension to the relationship, that feels like love. Like in “Broadcast News” when, in a breaking-news crisis, Holly Hunt dictates to William Hurt through his earpiece what he should say in real time as he’s broadcasting, and afterward he comes up to her surging with energy and says, “that was like great sex!”

Or like when Romeo and Juliet first meet, first speak, and they say this:


If I profane with my unworthiest hand
This holy shrine, the gentle fine is this:

My lips, two blushing pilgrims, ready stand
To smooth that rough touch with a tender kiss.


Good pilgrim, you do wrong your hand too much,
Which mannerly devotion shows in this;

For saints have hands that pilgrims’ hands do touch,

And palm to palm is holy palmers’ kiss.


Have not saints lips, and holy palmers too?


Ay, pilgrim, lips that they must use in prayer.


O, then, dear saint, let lips do what hands do;
They pray, grant thou, lest faith turn to despair.


Saints do not move, though grant for prayers’ sake.


Then move not, while my prayer’s effect I take.

Here’s how it should be played: he’s going to try to impress her with a rhyming pickup line – she floors him, and herself, by successfully and spontaneously responding in kind, stealing his second rhyme – he throws her a line, she answers, and he he takes those lines and rhymes them both – she throws him one last line, wondering if he can – finish the sonnet. Wow.

They don’t know they are characters in a play written by Shakespeare, where everybody speaks verse at least off and on. But at this moment, in this scene, they know they are writing a sonnet. Spontaneously. Two people who have never spoken before.

And that’s like great sex.

about the author

Noah Millman, senior editor, is an opinion journalist, critic, screenwriter, and filmmaker who joined The American Conservative in 2012. Prior to joining TAC, he was a regular blogger at The American Scene. Millman’s work has also appeared in The New York Times Book Review, The Week, Politico, First Things, Commentary, and on The Economist’s online blogs. He lives in Brooklyn.

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