Summer romance

I tried to understand the thinking of those five or six housewives, coming in every week like that. I was working a summer job in a public library on the south side of town near all the factories, back when the manufacturing economy still existed there.

A lady would walk in hugging a full brown paper grocery bag to her chest, and she'd set the bag on the book checkout counter. She'd reach in and take out a few books at a time until there were between 20 and 30 books returned.

All the books were old paperback Harlequin romances. All about 150 to 200 pages, usually with cover art in soft pastel colors. The cover illustrations were painted in the late 1960s to early 1970s and showed a close-up of a woman's face, looking thoughtful, as behind her stood a square-jawed, broad-shouldered man looking in her direction.

Those few women who borrowed sackfuls of romances each week were responsible for a large share of our library's circulation, and we employees recognized that, but what was so attractive about those little novels? I tried to find out by flipping through the pages looking for the good parts and the endings. There were a lot of references to tingling, special feelings, and a lifetime of security ahead for the lead female character.

I never did understand the women's need for repetition and predictability all summer long, but it was easy to imagine a lack of romance for those families bound to the factory life, blah blah blah. I could be wrong.

Twentysome years later I rented the movie Before Sunset with Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke. It was the sequel to Before Sunrise, which was good. During Before Sunset, I inched closer to the TV until I was within arms' reach by the end. I watched the whole thing a second time 24 hours later. On the third day I watched a key scene, set in a taxi, for the third time. On the fourth day I located the screenplay online, just in case I wanted to read it sometime. On the fifth day I found the soundtrack CD in a local store and bought it.

Yes, Before Sunset is a romance, but I'm not the same as those housewives back in my hometown. This is different. It just is. Shut up.