If you haven’t yet seen the excellent Before Trilogy by Richard Linklater for whatever reason I urge you not to read ahead. Also, mild spoilers for The Littoral Zone by Andrea Barrett. Spoilers ahead.
But both of them remember those days and nights as being almost purely happy. They swam in that odd, indefinite zone where they were more than friends, not yet lovers, still able to deny to themselves that they were headed where they were headed.
In the short story, The Littoral Zone, two married people with children fall for each other and leave their families behind so they could be together. Later they realize that so many things mean something (read everything) only in the moment. Their relationship was complete as it was in the moment but when it was stretched beyond it, the essence was lost. The attraction on the island couldn’t translate into an enduring relationship on the mainland. Initially I found their behaviour odd. But Jesse and Celine from the Before Trilogy also reunited at a huge personal cost but this was acceptable. Why? Because we are conditioned to believe and root for them because we are shown that they belong together. Does the audience ever think if they are even meant to be together? Imagine something other than what the narrative tells you to and one will see a different story emerge.
Ruby had talked about the littoral zone, that space between high and low watermarks were organisms struggled to adapt to the daily rhythm of immersion and exposure.
In Before Sunrise, the day they spent together in Vienna can never be replicated. It took so much from them. Celine and Jesse never truly recover from that. Their whole life is in the shadow of that perfect day; the way they responded to each other and the way they connected pales in comparison to the reality they are living now.
What if they had let it be and let each other remain only a fond memory and not continued to pursue each other over their lifetimes? We never learn that all good things come with a sell by date.
Humans are notorious for always wanting more; never satisfied with what is here now and fail to realize that dreams for the future is an illusion. What if they had left each other alone and never tried to meet again, and treated that one day as a blessing? Would they be so disillusioned? I don’t know but I wonder.
Is it a case of Law of diminishing returns or a case of exceeded expectations? Or a case of dreamy idealism replaced by cold hard reality? Facts can be pushed under the carpet but they can never cease not to be true. I think it was the balance between idealism and pragmatism which went awry in both their cases. All the disappointment their families had to face so they could unite perhaps played a role in them becoming bitter. One relationship that takes over everything else in life. When they are together they bicker, there are misunderstandings and disappointments. Was the companionship worth it? Better than facing the world alone? I can’t say but it makes for a compelling story. A happy ending would have robbed us of that. Roses and enduring romance don’t exist in the books and movies we love but the question is can we dream of it in real life?