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[138] The Future of Love – Shirley Abbott

“Why should everyone get hysterical? They were all alive. In the past nine months, the predicted squadrons of terrorists or bioterrorists had not smashed the city and broken their hearts. Gregory was dead–a reminder that life was too precious and too precarious to be wasted. Gather ye rosebuds!” (280)

“I’m sorry. I can never explain what I did, not really. It seemed the right thing at the time. She was so forlorn, and well, her threats were pretty terrible. I can only beg forgiveness. I know I fail as a lover sometimes, and as a friend most of the time, But I need you.” (282)

If we can always get in touch with our feelings, if we can always explain what we do, if we can always let go of our ego and admit our need for love, maybe this world would have less of the drama that fetters us. About Shirley Abbott wants us to know that drama is what makes us realize we need people in our lives. The Future of Love, beautifully written (and her first) in the perspectives of eight New Yorkers, delves into their lives and explores the difficult choices and the sacrifices they must make (and afraid to make) to find love. The one character that keeps everyone together, the central connection, is Antonia Blass. A grandmother, a mother, a mother-in-law, and a great friend, she is in her early sixties. She has been widowed for five years. Being a devoted and dutiful wife, she had attended to her demanding, angry husband whom diabetes, heart disease, and failing kidneys had reduced to a grumpy invalid. But Antonia has quibble criticizing her late husband, for she harbors a secret: an affair with her former boss Sam Mendel, the publisher who lends her support that far exceeds the obligation of a friend when Antonia’s husband laid dying in the hospital.

Sam is a typical alpha male who certainly has accomplished more than what most people couldn’t achieve in double his lifetime. He and his wife Edith are admired as a successful couple who has raised three children in a stupendous estate with cosseted lily pond and a forest. But Sam also has his regret: he is facing the end of his life with a woman he never loved, whom he married out of convenience, and with whom he hadn’t been intimate for years—and he hardly knows what love is, until he meets Antonia. Edith is not as clueless as he thinks she is, and her threats are so terrible that the divorce paper could crumble his publishing empire. The grown-up children are also on the prowl for the estate, which they chiefly prevent their siblings from possessing it.

Surrounding Antonia and Sam are good people who face tough decision in their life. Antonia’s daughter Maggie struggles to save a sour marriage with her husband Mark, who was laid off from his mutual fund job that he thought was a huge mistake in his life. Sam’s grand-daughter Alison has decided to strike a blow for gay rights by having an extravagant wedding at the grand estate. Her bride is a black lawyer, Candace, whose marriage to a white girl her mother deems as being the end of the black race. Five floors down from Antonia live Arty and Greg, who have been partners for 40 years. Cancer has declared biochemical warfare on the once muscular, resilient body of a choreographer, who on his death bed suffers the scruple of cheating on his partner.

On September 11, 2001 when the first hijacked plane hit the tower, and as it boiled with flames and smoke, let go its moorings and collapsed, the life of every American changed. Along with bits of bodies that were discovered in the hole and rubble, the pulverized concrete and plastic, and the tattered office paper, also emitted from Ground Zero were pulverized ideas, ideas about making things better through goodwill. But the attack has breathed a sense of awakening in these eight people, arouses in them a shred of integrity. What gender difference, sexual orientation, ego, and past failed relationship, do they really matter? Life is too precious and precarious to be wasted. Each of the characters comes to realize, through self-examination, reflection and the horrible tragedy, that one does not have to live in the shadow of their mistake and foibles. So The Future of Love, as its title implies, bespeaks a hope for happiness, as everyone finally understands the need for commitment from friends, lovers, and family.