A few days later, Tomas is with a woman he frequently has sex with during the day. She reminds Tomas about the time they had sex on a rug during a thunderstorm. To her, it was “unforgettably beautiful.” Tomas remembers the sex, but not the storm, and he is disappointed that he failed to notice something so beautiful. The different ways in which Tomas and the woman remember the storm “sharply delimit love and nonlove.”
Tomas does not attach romantic sentiments, like “unforgettable beauty,” to any of the women he sleeps with because he excludes them from feelings of love, which he saves exclusively for Tereza. Here, the woman obviously does not separate love from sex, but Tomas does, so the beauty of the storm completely escaped his attention.
To say “nonlove” is not to say that Tomas was not fond of the woman, because he was. He simply did not love her. The brain has a certain “poetic memory,” such as that which remembers thunderstorms during love-making, and it is only Tereza who occupies Tomas’s poetic memory. “Love begins with a metaphor,” the narrator claims, at the very moment a woman’s words enter one’s poetic memory.
The narrator says that love begins with a metaphor earlier in the novel when Tomas first meets Tereza and says she is like a baby in a basket, and this implies that Tereza entered Tomas’s poetic memory—which is to say he fell in love with her—from the very moment he met her.