Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Calculations, Encounters

Her hair caught the light from the overhead lamp, reflecting on my eyes, my friend of a decade. Her gaiety, aided by red wine married to 7-up, was infectious. The world was swimming all throughout dinner, and over pasta and cheesecake we traded stories of the latest. She’ll be playing chaperone/tour guide to a bunch of students off to Spain this summer. She spoke of A., apparently her amigo con derecho a roce, whom she left in Valladolid a year and a half ago. The tone of her voice communicated regret and a longing she seemed to suppress. She recounted his calls, on her phone and on Skype, suggesting they go here and there, that they do this and that, once she lands on Spanish soil.

I don’t want to be anyone’s amiga con derecho a roce, she said, eyes wide as saucers. I told her to weigh the benefits of seeing him again, and all that this would entail, with the losses of the aftermath. Although she didn’t say it, I sensed the latter far outweighed the former, and after the sojourn, she would come back to the Philippines with a twice broken heart. Laughing she said she would attempt to control her compulsions and would refuse to see him at all cost. I tried to sound supportive of her decision, but I knew then as I know now, that she would probably succumb to her compulsions. The completely rational will dictate that the best sex of her life (so far) could not possibly compensate for the weeks-long recuperation of the mental and emotional investments women make when they decide to go en couple, even for so brief a period.

What follows then is a costly decision – one that goes against gains-losses calculations. She would lose more than she would gain, and all for a few weeks of an encounter. But then we all make decisions based on the utility of the things we do, and on what we ascribe value. The rational will lay out that the activity “romantic encounter” is not useful in the larger scheme of things. The rational will dictate that the condition “walking about with a hollowed-out chest cavity” for weeks on end is the exact opposite of useful. Well then, should she choose to go ahead with this encounter anyway, then it may reflect what she values, and the weight she ascribes on perceived gains and losses. If she sees A. again, then she values the time spent with him more than the world of hurt that would follow. It is not a rational decision, but it is, I suggest, a question of what one holds dear and what one deems important. It is a valuational decision. People should be, not mere means and ends, but experiences incarnées, embodied, to take with us on our life's journey.

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