Amor by Robert Boucheron

Amor is the city of love in all its manifestations, an earthly paradise of fellow feeling and genuine attachment between persons. As nearly as possible, given human frailty, Amor is the heavenly city promised by religion. Not a nest of saints by any means, but ordinary folks on their best behaviour. You don’t have to die to get there, or even call ahead.

Set in a country of green pastures and gardens that produce all manner of unblemished fruits and vegetables, Amor is small enough to comprehend. You can see the whole city from the hills to the west and all the important sights in a day: the nondenominational House of Worship; the Museum of Idle Hours, for painting, sculpture, costume, and video; the Municipal Park, with lanes to stroll and blossoms to admire; the Zoological Garden, with exhibits of species that mate for life and groom each other in a natural habitat; the Civic Square, a harmonious ensemble of architecture and greenery; and the Palace of Pleasure, where people unite in pursuit of the common good.

Amor is large enough, however, to provide all the basics and a few of the extras. You can satisfy your personal needs, as well as indulge a discriminating taste for food and wine, a hankering for sweets, a passion for music, or a yen for sport and physical exertion.

Lovely as a song or a cherry tree in flower, the city inspires lonely persons to fall in love, consoles those who have lost a loved one, and welcomes lovers with open arms. Young couples go there to marry and spend their honeymoon. Older persons choose Amor as a place to meet up, to carry on affairs with other singles of a certain age, and perhaps to escape for a brief moment from the tedium of too many years of sameness. Morose looks are forbidden, and solitude is impossible. The streets teem with musicians, jugglers, fortune tellers, and vendors of treats. Strangers strike up a conversation with ease. Casual visitors make new friends to last a lifetime.

Amor prohibits the darker forms of love—jealousy, stalking, lust, and obsession. Children are protected from sinister adults. Weak members of society are shielded from strong and aggressive types, who ought to embrace each other. While allowing that sex is a necessary thing, and that carnal embraces can be uplifting in the right circumstances, the Love Police with their heart-shaped badges enforce a unique municipal code that bans lurid displays of affection, unwanted advances of an amorous tinge, inappropriate comments on a person’s appearance, workplace sex, couples that embody a power imbalance, and so-called crimes of passion. Gender combinations of any kind are exempt from regulation, as well as the number of persons in a relationship. You are free to love whomever you like, so long as no one gets hurt.

The sister city of Amor and its near namesake is Roma. Like the Eternal City of world empire and the universal church, the city that spawned the concept of romance and gave it a handle, Amor is a now a lesser hub, a center for legal and financial entanglements, and above all a haven for tourists. It is a resort for the well-to-do and the bohemian alike, a place to get lost in, and a place to find your one true love. You can shop for luxuries in the fashion district, or lounge in the sun and listen to some attractive stranger strum a guitar. Every city block has a sidewalk café. They spill into the cobblestone streets and take over the squares. Industry and commerce yield to small-scale handicrafts, smart boutiques, intimate restaurants, and charming hotels. Pollution is absent, traffic is light, and days and nights are clear as crystal. You can count on the weather to favor a rendezvous.

What you cannot do is expect brisk service, an unambiguous answer to a question, or a totally candid smile. The teller at the bank is apt to be distracted by a current flame, the waiter at the restaurant will flirt and forget to bring the check, and the clerk in the shop who looks like an angel and smells divine, wrapped in remembrance of the night before, may simply fail to notice you. Take no offense—they are all besotted. Nor will you be tempted, once you have fallen head over heels in love with the city, to say an unkind word.

Just as no one can foresee the course of a love affair, there is no reliable map of Amor, no faithful guide like the Carte de Tendre by Madeline de Scudéry. Find your way by intuition through quiet streets, secluded alleys, echoing arcades, quays along the river, and pedestrian bridges. Keep the spire of a landmark in view. Steer by the angle of the golden sun or the silvery sheen of moonlight. Follow your heart, the Amorians say, or the scent of roses, or the flight of a pair of cooing doves, and sooner or later you will attain your desire.

Robert Boucheron grew up in Syracuse and Schenectady, NY. He has worked as an architect in New York City and Charlottesville, VA. His short stories and essays appear in Bangalore Review, Coldnoon, Fiction International, Litro, London Journal of Fiction, New Haven Review, Poydras Review, Short Fiction, and other magazines.

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