HYSTERICAL LOVE… a novel by Lorraine Devon Wilke
Dan McDowell, a thirty-three-year-old portrait photographer happily set to marry his beloved Jane, is stunned when a slip of the tongue about an “ex-girlfriend overlap” of years earlier throws their pending marriage into doubt and him onto the street. Or at least into the second bedroom of their next-door neighbor, Bob, where Dan is sure it won’t be long. It’s long.
His sister, Lucy, further confuses matters with her “soul mate theory” and its suggestion that Jane might not be his… soul mate, that is. But the tipping point comes when his father is struck ill, sparking a chain of events in which Dan discovers a story written by this man he doesn’t readily understand, but who, it seems, has long harbored an unrequited love from decades earlier.
Incapable of fixing his own romantic dilemma, Dan becomes fixated on finding this woman of his father’s dreams and sets off for Oakland, California, on a mission fraught with detours and semi-hilarious peril. Along the way he meets the beautiful Fiona, herbalist and flower child, who assists in his quest while quietly and erotically shaking up his world. When, against all odds, he finds the elusive woman from the past, the ultimate discovery of how she truly fit into his father’s life leaves him staggered, as does the reality of what’s been stirred up with Fiona. But it’s when he returns home to yet another set of unexpected truths that he’s shaken to the core, ultimately forced to face who he is and just whom he might be able to love.
I AM FLUMMOXED by relationships.
That is not a glib statement; it’s the frank admission of a man who can’t seem to get it right, even under what would seem to be the very best of circumstances. Relationships bewilder me. They knock me to my knees, and leave me baffled as to why something as essential as love is so damn fraught with confusion. At least for me. Which is disappointing. I don’t think I’m an anomaly, but I did think I’d have it figured out by now.
It’s not that I don’t fully appreciate the value of a good relationship. I do. I’m the guy who wasn’t a player in school, high school or college. I always had a girlfriend and I was always loyal and faithful to that girlfriend. Not because I’m so good, but because I’m not good at chaos. I hate the complication of it, the balancing of opposing forces (i.e., more than one girlfriend), and I’m a horrible liar, all requisites of a successful player.
And, truth be told, I like being in a relationship: the comfort, the dependability, the shared meals and regular sex. These are all good things for a man who wants to avoid complication. So why, you may ask, am I flummoxed?
Because, despite my affinity for the state of being, relationships tend to explode on my watch. I’m not sure how or why, but it’s typically things like her deciding I’m not motivated enough, or me deciding she’s not fun enough (I had one who “hated the outdoors”… what do you do with that?), or both of us deciding the other is unexciting enough that moving on would be more exciting than staying put. But it’s always messy, it’s always painful, and it usually involves weeping, tossed closets, and new sets of keys. So as I’ve attempted to evolve in life, I’ve tried my best to choose better and do it right. More right. At least as right as I can.
Which I thought I’d done over these last three years. I thought I’d gotten it really right on both the choosing and the doing. But as I sit on the edge of a strange bed in a strange bedroom and reflect on the very strange night that has just ensued, it’s clear I miscalculated. Misjudged. Regardless of good intentions, I once again set the whole damn thing on fire. Or she did. I’m still not sure.
Even more disheartening, this relationship had gone much further than any previous. It lasted longer, had less drama, and we’d actually embarked upon those iconic discussions of the future, that gaping, wide-open, impossible to imagine place I’d been assured was both warm and welcoming. I thought, I think we both thought, we were out of the danger corridor, that weird zone after the early hot years where relationships wander to get battered by irritation and boredom. We were past that, we’d transcended, we were golden.
We were fucked. By love-smugness. It gets you every time.
In retrospect, I should have caught it. That smugness should have been fair warning. But while I was off reveling in our relationship excellence, our learned skills at the craft of compromise, our sense that we exemplified the very best of love in a modern world, I missed the fact that it had all been going too well. And we know what happens when that happens. You dare acknowledge the joy and happiness you’ve managed to gather around you like soft little bunnies of optimism and, somehow, despite amazingly good behavior on everyone’s parts, and often against the nature of all parties involved, someone in the room pulls the pin. I just didn’t figure it would be her (or was it me?), or on the night we finally set a date for our wedding.
Now, there’s a word with some weighty baggage… wedding. Just saying it stirs a reflexive response that settles somewhere near the pit of my stomach, though not for the reasons you might expect. Not the cliché of commitment phobia or the panic that I’d wake up one morning and realize I had no idea why she was in my bed and what particular reason I had to marry her. No, I can honestly say I’m wild about this woman who would strap on a white gown to publicly declare she’d love me forever. The problem?
Thirty-three. That’s the problem. I am now thirty-three. And I have a theory about that number:
Something bizarre happens to a man at thirty-three, some particular strain of dread and confusion. Not the whininess of, say, twenty-four, or the doom and gloom of forty, but something completely endemic to thirty plus three years. I don’t know why that is. Maybe because Belushi, Alexander the Great, a few rock stars, even Jesus Christ himself succumbed at the age. But thirty-three is a mile-marker for those of us with plans to make it through.
My mother calls it “tweeniedom,” a land, according to her, that’s populated by overgrown teens who, kicking and screaming, are about to be forced into their deeply dreaded adulthoods. I think that’s a bit harsh, even a little unfair, because, I’m telling you, this thing is real. And it’s strange. You hit the year and it rolls over you like no year of life you’ve lived so far. My friend, Bob, who has a propensity for titling things, calls it Fate Turmoil Syndrome. He’s also referred to it as Advancing Age Agitation. I think it’s the Kingdom of Hell, where one minute everything is right in your world, the next… hissing madness in the blink of an unwary eye.
Bio: Author, photographer, singer/songwriter, Lorraine Devon Wilke, started early as a creative hyphenate. First, there was music and theater, next came rock & roll, then a leap into film when a feature she co-wrote (To Cross the Rubicon) was produced by a Seattle film company, opening doors in a variety of creative directions.
In the years following, she wrote for and performed on theater stages, developed her photography skills, and accrued a library of well-received feature screenplays (The Theory of Almost Everything was a top finalist in the 2012 Final Draft Big Break Screenwriting Contest; A Minor Rebellion a Quarter Finalist in that same event in 2014). She kept her hand in music throughout – songwriting, recording, performing – leading to the fruition of a longtime goal to record an original album (Somewhere On the Way). Accomplished in collaboration with songwriting/producing partner, Rick M. Hirsch, the album garnered stellar reviews and can be found at CDBaby and iTunes (one tune from the collection is even featured in the epilogue of After the Sucker Punch). She continues with music whenever she can (which, she maintains, is never, ever, enough!).
Devon Wilke’s current life is split between Playa del Rey and Ferndale, California, and is shared with her husband, Pete Wilke, an entertainment and securities attorney, her son, engineer and web designer, Dillon Wilke, and stepdaughter, educational administrator Jennie Wilke Willens and family. She curates and manages both her fine art photography site and personal blog (Rock+Paper+Music), is a regular contributor at The Huffington Post and writes a column for the award-winning newspaper, The Ferndale Enterprise.
Her acclaimed debut novel (a B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree), After the Sucker Punch, as well as her dramatic short story, “She Tumbled Down,” can both be accessed at her author page @ Amazon; After The Sucker Punch is also available at Smashwords.
She invites you to enjoy her essays and journalistic pieces @ Contently, and follow her “Adventures in Independent Publishing” at her blog, AfterTheSuckerPunch.com, and visit her website, www.lorrainedevonwilke.com, for links, updates and information.
For all publicity inquires contact: JKSCommunications
Book website: (this is titled “My Adventures in Independent Publishing”; a space to discuss all my books.
Other Items referenced in bio: To Cross the Rubicon
Somewhere on the Way (CD):
AFTER THE SUCKER PUNCH B.R.A.G. Medallion Page