Raymond Carver: What We Talk About When We Talk About Love In Raymond Carver’s short story “What we talk about when we talk about love” we learn the story of four individuals who have met to enjoy an afternoon of light drinks and easy conversation. Mel, Terri, Nick and Laura are married couples who enjoy each other’s company and start talking about trivial matters before opening the first bottle of gin. As the drinking begins, we start to see that the pouring, stirring and sipping of the gin punctuate their conversation. The main topic of discussion turns into what true love means. We quickly realize that the story centers primarily on the drunken discussion between married couple Mel and Terri who bicker about their contrasting views of love and their inability to be defining it. The story begins with Nick acting as the narrator who describes his friend Mel; “a cardiologist and sometimes that gives him the right.” It’s significant that Mel is a heart surgeon and knows the ways of the heart that “give him the right” in which establishes his social status and dominates the conversation at times throughout the story. Mel is forty-five years old, educated and when he was sober, “his gestures, all his movements, were precise, very careful.” He is self-assured with strong opinions and whose insight is respected among other folks. As the couples get into the subject of love, Mel mentions how he spent five years in a seminary when he was younger and how he thought “spiritual love” was the meaning of true love. He also mentions that those were his best years and this seems to reflect on his own desire to find stability and peace in a world saturated with change and greediness. His wife Terri seems to be very certain about the meaning of love and claims her ex-boyfriend Ed truly loved her despite his crazy ways of showing it.” People are different, Mel. Sure, sometimes he might have acted crazy. Okay. But he loved me. In his own way maybe, but he loved me. There was love there” The examples she provides of this love- beating, threatening and stalking-are disturbing but serve as proof in her mind. . Ed’s love for Terri was passionate and intense. He couldn’t find life worth living without her and he tried to kill himself by drinking rat poison. His life becomes even more miserable since Terri had moved on to Mel. Ed finally shoots himself in the mouth and as he is dying Terri spends his last moments with him out of guilt for knowing she was the cause of those intense feelings and the conviction that Ed had truly loved her.
Terri keeps emphasizing how “Ed really loved her” very distinctively to show Mel how strongly she feels about it. “He did love me though, Mel. Grant me that.” It appears that Terri became used to this type of relationship, unconsciously she expects dysfunctional behaviors with any partner. The way that Terri holds on to the way Ed loved her, seems to draw out resentment from Mel who replies” I am not interested in that kind of love, if you call that love, you can have it.” In an effort to prove Terri how nonsensical this idea of love is, Mel turns to the other couple, Laura and Nick for their opinion but these two play it safe by saying that they “don’t know anything about Ed, or anything about the situation and who can judge anyone else’s situation?” This couple, Nick and Laura, have only been married for a year and a half and seem to think they know what true love is even though they don’t provide and explanation for their statement but merely look at each other’s eyes and touch their knees. They obviously display physical attraction and affection that fails to convince the reader they have true love. According to Nick they met in a professional capacity and “in addition to being in love, we like each other and enjoy one another’s company.” What would happen if they were to suffer crises such as death in the family or a miscarriage? Nick also states” she’s