Did Romeo love his Juliet? I have come to doubt it: he hardly knew her. Much more likely is that he loved Aphrodite.
I am not a religious sort of person. And so I do not actually believe that Aphrodite was a real God, any more than the hundreds of other Gods that have been invented by people all around the world for a very long time. But Aphrodite is quite a good proxy for something. And that something is the elusive Aphrodite (or if you prefer, alter tu) that so many of us crave, indeed live for: it is the imaginary being that we love. Most of us, I suspect, fall in love with our own alter tu quite young. I was about 10, I think. She arrived, in my imagination, by seaplane on a beach near Littlestone, in Kent, where my family sometimes holidayed with my grandmother. She stepped out of the small plane on the beach, wearing nothing but her swimming costume. She was beautiful, clever and funny, and we were friends for ever. At the time, I could have described her every feature. I adored her.
If we are really, really lucky, a passing flesh-and-blood approximation for our alter tu will turn up in our lives, and stay with us until we die. But for many, that approximation (if indeed there is such a person) is a pretty lumpen stand-in for the real thing. Which is odd. Because what people really want is a product of their imagination. My old friend the singer Bob Tear used to say that we are really all alone. He said that despite having a lovely wife, to whom he was devoted. But he was right.
There are others who do not even have such a stand-in. By and large, having no-one is even worse than having someone who is not truly one’s real alter tu. There are all sorts of things that the lonely might do.
Lots of people turn to pornography. Surely there is solace out there somewhere out there on the net? I have looked over the fence, and it is not my thing.
Nor prostitutes. I have never been to a brothel. I doubt that I would find my alter tu there.
Nor religion. I do not believe it. Anyway (and by-the-by) the prisons are starting to fill with those lost souls who mistakenly felt that they could fill the void of a genuine relationship with some sort of religious purity, and ended up getting their loose ends mixed up with the children in their charge.
Music is good. There are moments when I am alone listening to Bach or Dowland or the chamber music of Shostakovich when I almost feel her in the room.
It is a holy grail thing. Like learning how to levitate. You need to blur out the line between what you want and what you have, and sharpen up an image of something that does not really exist, except by exertion of one’s own will.
And nobody else is likely to give a monkey’s fuck about that.