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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 799

Nick, who is Mel’s close friend, recounts a conversation that the two men and their wives had over gin and tonics in Mel and Terri’s kitchen. The remembered dialogue is dominated by Mel, who is determined to articulate a definition of real love. Nick occasionally departs from recounting the conversation to remark briefly on the room, or on the progress of their drunkenness, or to give background information about himself or whoever is speaking. The story begins with Nick’s suggestion that because Mel was a cardiologist, that sometimes “gave him the right.”

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Nick says, as background information, that Mel spent time in a seminary before going to medical school. Mel thinks that real love is nothing less than spiritual love. Terri recalls Ed, the man with whom she lived before she lived with Mel. Ed, she says, loved her so much he tried to kill her. She describes his brutal treatment of her, and she wonders what can be done about love like that.

Mel disagrees strongly with Terri’s contention that Ed’s feelings for her were love. As they argue about it, Mel accuses Terri of being a romantic. Nick and Laura are reluctant to judge, but when Terri says that when she left Ed, he drank rat poison, Laura is shocked. Mel tells them that Ed is dead and begins another story about Ed’s violence and his death, to which Mel was privy because he was on call in the emergency room. Mel emphasizes how Ed regularly threatened them. Laura in particular wants to know the end of the story of Ed. Terri and Mel disagree about whether it was right or not for Terri to sit with Ed when he died grotesquely as a cumulative result of his suicide attempts.

When Nick and Laura make physically romantic gestures toward each other, Terri cynically teases them, saying that only because they have been together for the short time of a year and a half do they still feel romantic. They break the tension by refilling their glasses and toasting to love.

At this stage in their drunkenness, Nick describes the yard outside as an enchanted place. Mel continues, wondering what anyone really knows about love, talking about how fleeting “carnal, sentimental” love is. Mel maintains that if any one of them died, that person’s partner would go off and find someone new. Mel is also bewildered at how he could once have loved his first wife and now so thoroughly hate her. Terri worries that he is getting drunk. The situation becomes tense for a moment, and Laura dissipates the tension by claiming they all love him. Mel does not seem to recognize her as the wife of his friend, but he says that he loves her too.

Getting increasingly drunk, Mel tries to illustrate the concept of real love by telling a gory story about a car accident in which a couple in their mid-seventies is critically injured. Terri interrupts him again, then tells him that she loves him, and he...

(The entire section contains 799 words.)

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