What We Talk About When We Talk About Love
by Raymond Carver
What We Talk About When We Talk About Love Summary
How It All Goes Down
Welcome to Albuquerque New, Mexico, and the home of heart doctor Mel McGinnis and his wife Terri. Their friends, newlyweds Nick and Laura, are with them, and the two couples are drinking gin and tonics and talking about love.
The first bottle of gin is devoted to a discussion of Terri's ex, Ed, the guy she was with before Mel. It is not a happy bottle of gin. She says that, the night Ed beat her, he told her, "I love you, I love you, you bitch" (4) while he pulled her around the room. Terri thinks that what Ed felt for her was love. Mel thinks that's a load of codswallop, and he wants Nick and Laura to weigh in. They're all, um, guys, this is really uncomfortable, and Terri continues with her story.
See, Ed tried to kill himself—once with rat poison, which didn't work so well, and then again by shooting himself in the mouth. That did the trick. It turns out that before he did the deed, he had been stalking Mel and Terri, who were living together while Mel was divorcing his ex wife. Have you ever seen a more tangled web?
Here's the kicker: although Terri totally gets that the whole stalking fiasco was scary, she still thinks he loved her. But Mel just ain't having that. Terri says Ed even died for love. Mel says that love has absolutely nothing to do with why Ed killed himself. In fact, it's just plain hard to know why anybody kills himself.
As the story of Ed ends, right on cue, so does the bottle of gin. Don't worry, though, the gin never runs out at Mel and Terri's.
Laura says she and Nick "know what love is" (42). Terri tells them to cut it out with their sappy newlywed love because the honeymoon will be over soon enough. Just kidding! Mel opens the second bottle and they all toast to love. Whatever that means.
Then Mel tells them a story that he thinks shows what true love means. A few months back, at the hospital where he works, an old couple came in. They had been in a car accident. While they survived (which wasn't a sure thing), the man got really down in the dumps afterwards. When Mel asked him why he was so mopey, the old man told him it's because the car accident left him unable to turn his head, which means he could never look at his wife again, lying next to him. As he tells this story, Mel and Terri bicker back and forth.
And that bickering keeps right on going when the story's done. Terri says Mel is depressed and asks if he wants a pill. Mel's all, those things don't work. He just wants to call his kiddos. But Terri nixes that idea because his ex-wife Marjorie might pick up the phone. Apparently this Marjorie is a real piece of work.
Mel says that Marjorie is "vicious" (133), and agrees with Terri that calling his youngsters is not the best idea in the world. Maybe it's time for dinner instead. So do they all get up and head to the table? Nope, they just stay put drinking gin, until the bottle is empty and all Nick can do is just sit there, listening to the sounds of their heartbeats.