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  • Love Hurts
  • Nava Renek (bio)
No one told me I was going to disappear. J. A. Tyler & John Dermot Woods. Jaded Ibis Productions. 124 pages; paper, $30.00.

Are all love stories sad stories? When put under a microscope, can we see the osmosis and diffusion of a closeness we both crave and grow weary of. The cleaving: to cling and to separate.

These questions and so many others are mulled over, tossed around, dissected and inspected by J. A. Tyler and John Dermot Woods in their short poetic novel No one told me I was going to disappear. Tyler's relentless bearing down on metaphors and raw emotion, accompanied by Woods's vivid and sometimes grotesque coloring book-like illustrations of boys, girls, men, and women, holding bleeding hearts, entering scarlet wombs, sporting bloody mouths and blindfolded eyes, mull over the dynamic of love and the question of why we hold fast to an ideal that when achieved, often destroys us by inherently diluting our individuality and rocking our emotional core.

"We are so close that we are no longer two people.... We can breathe one into the other's mouth and that will keep us safe," boasts the male narrator in the beginning of the story when there is still light, unity, insularity, and hope for a bright future. "I think about the sound of horse hooves on dirt and you are smelling the dust churned by its shoes, the flowers on the side and the freedom of bobbing up and down."

But soon, as with many things that must conform to a constraint, claustrophobia and paralysis sets in. In this case, the couple is captive inside a Kafkaesque cage as part of a seaside freak show. Although the pair is fed and cared for, they do not thrive. "We do not bloom, you and I, us, and we want to more than anything." As days continue, the relationship dissolves:

"I cannot move and you cannot move because the two the us of we are stuck to this floor.... In the mouth of us are the words that we want to say but when I go to say them you have heard and when you go to respond I have already heard that too so there is no reason for us to open our mouths...when I say fish and you hear nothing is it because we have an impossible task, to exist together."

Many people write about love or lust. Some capture the crazy pheromone-laced ride to the apex, while others rehash the denouement, but what Tyler and Woods depict so eloquently are the lowlands, the [End Page 30] plains, after the passion is gone and the wide-open stink of intimacy prevails, and there is nothing left of the union that once existed. "There is still a body here but it is changed and maybe now for me I am seeing you and that is something that us and we can't handle."

Then comes the hard part—what to do with the mucked up masterpiece? No one wants to be responsible for the sorrow, pain and incredible loss that usually accompanies the difficult decision to separate, so the couple is left in limbo, nebulously waiting for things to get better or worse, wondering who will make the first move.

Hand grenades in our hands and holding them inside her ovaries, pressing down the levers, the pins pulled, grinning our stupid grin at each other, the faces of our faces over the fence or the wall we have built, watching each other and counting out loud and at the same time one, two, three, ready to let go and hear right again.

"Love conquers all" is a most unwitting turn of phrase. Love does conquer all in the most brutal of ways. At its most clichéd, it can destroy two people as individuals, and its failure can emotionally cripple the lovers for years. As Tyler's narrator laments at the end of the novel: "we wanted to be separated, but no one said that you would get the mind and I would be left with the one...