What We Talk About When We Talk About Love

by

Raymond Carver

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Laura is Nick’s wife and Mel and Terri’s friend. She’s a 35-year-old legal secretary who met Nick through work. Laura, like Mel and Terri, believes that she knows what love is, though none of them are able to arrive at a clear definition. As the two couples discuss love, Nick and Laura never say “I love you,” preferring to communicate their affection for one another nonverbally through facial expressions, body language, and physical touch. Their relationship is portrayed as more stable and affectionate than Mel and Terri’s, perhaps because they place greater emphasis on the emotional and bodily experiences of love. Nick and Laura’s unspoken yet deep bond points to the insufficiency of language to describe love and the impossibility of ever knowing its exact nature.

Laura Quotes in What We Talk About When We Talk About Love

The What We Talk About When We Talk About Love quotes below are all either spoken by Laura or refer to Laura. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
The Nature of Love Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Library of America edition of What We Talk About When We Talk About Love published in 2009.
What We Talk About When We Talk About Love Quotes

“He was dangerous,” Mel said. “If you call that love, you can have it.”

“It was love,” Terri said. “Sure, it’s abnormal in most people’s eyes. But he was willing to die for it. He did die for it.”

“I sure as hell wouldn’t call it love,” Mel said. “I mean, no one knows what he did it for. I’ve seen a lot of suicides, and I couldn’t say anyone ever knew what they did it for.”

Mel put his hands behind his neck and tilted his chair back. “I’m not interested in that kind of love,” he said. “If that’s love, you can have it.”

Related Characters: Mel McGinnis (speaker), Terri, Ed (Terri’s ex-boyfriend), Nick, Laura
Page Number: 313
Explanation and Analysis:

“Well, Nick and I know what love is,” Laura said. “For us, I mean,” Laura said. She bumped my knee with her knee. “You’re supposed to say something now,” Laura said, and turned her smile on me.

For an answer, I took Laura’s hand and raised it to my lips. I made a big production out of kissing her hand. Everyone was amused.

“We’re lucky,” I said.

Related Characters: Laura (speaker), Nick (speaker), Mel McGinnis, Terri, Ed (Terri’s ex-boyfriend)
Page Number: 314
Explanation and Analysis:

“I’ll tell you what real love is,” Mel said. “I mean, I’ll give you a good example. And then you can draw your own conclusions.” He poured more gin into his glass. He added an ice cube and a sliver of lime. We waited and sipped our drinks. Laura and I touched knees again. I put a hand on her warm thigh and left it there.

Related Characters: Mel McGinnis (speaker), Laura, Nick, Terri
Page Number: 314
Explanation and Analysis:

“But sometimes I have a hard time accounting for the fact that I must have loved my first wife too. But I did, I know I did. So I suppose I am like Terri in that regard. Terri and Ed.” He thought about it and then he went on. “There was a time when I thought I loved my first wife more than life itself. But now I hate her guts. I do. How do you explain that? What happened to that love? What happened to it, is what I’d like to know. I wish someone could tell me. Then there’s Ed. Okay, we’re back to Ed. He loves Terri so much he tries to kill her and he winds up killing himself.”

Page Number: 315
Explanation and Analysis:

“Am I wrong? Am I way off base? Because I want you to set me straight if you think I’m wrong. I want to know. I mean, I don’t know anything, and I’m the first one to admit it.”

“Mel, for God’s sake,” Terri said. She reached out and took hold of his wrist. “Are you getting drunk? Honey? Are you drunk?”

“Honey, I’m just talking,” Mel said. “All right? I don’t have to be drunk to say what I think. I mean, we’re all just talking, right?” Mel said. He fixed his eyes on her.

“Sweetie, I’m not criticizing,” Terri said.

She picked up her glass.

“I’m not on call today,” Mel said. “Let me remind you of that. I am not on call,” he said.

Related Characters: Mel McGinnis (speaker), Terri (speaker), Nick, Laura
Page Number: 315-316
Explanation and Analysis:

“If I could come back again in a different life, a different time and all, you know what? I’d like to come back as a knight. You were pretty safe wearing all that armor. It was all right being a knight until gunpowder and muskets and pistols came along.”

“Mel would like to ride a horse and carry a lance,” Terri said.

“Carry a woman’s scarf with you everywhere,” Laura said.

“Or just a woman,” Mel said.

“Shame on you,” Laura said.

Related Characters: Mel McGinnis (speaker), Terri (speaker), Laura (speaker)
Page Number: 318
Explanation and Analysis:

“Vassals,” Terri said.

“What?” Mel said.

“Vassals,” Terri said. “They were called vassals, not vessels.”

“Vassals, vessels,” Mel said, “what the fuck’s the difference? You knew what I meant anyway. All right,” Mel said. “So I’m not educated. I learned my stuff. I’m a heart surgeon, sure, but I’m just a mechanic. I go in and I fuck around and I fix things. Shit,” Mel said.

Related Characters: Terri (speaker), Mel McGinnis (speaker), Nick, Laura
Page Number: 318
Explanation and Analysis:

“Well, the husband was very depressed for the longest while. Even after he found out that his wife was going to pull through, he was still very depressed. Not about the accident, though. I mean, the accident was one thing, but it wasn’t everything. I’d get up to his mouth-hole, you know, and he’d say no, it wasn’t the accident exactly but it was because he couldn’t see her through his eye-holes. He said that was what was making him feel so bad. Can you imagine? I’m telling you, the man’s heart was breaking because he couldn’t turn his goddamn head and see his goddamn wife.”

Mel looked around the table and shook his head at what he was going to say.

“I mean, it was killing the old fart just because he couldn’t look at the fucking woman.”

We all looked at Mel.

“Do you see what I’m saying?” he said.

Related Characters: Mel McGinnis (speaker), Terri, Nick, Laura
Page Number: 320
Explanation and Analysis:

“There isn’t a day goes by that Mel doesn’t say he wishes she’d get married again. Or else die,” Terri said. “For one thing,” Terri said, “she’s bankrupting us. Mel says it’s just to spite him that she won’t get married again. She has a boyfriend who lives with her and the kids, so Mel is supporting the boyfriend too.”

“She’s allergic to bees,” Mel said. “If I’m not praying she’ll get married again, I’m praying she’ll get herself stung to death by a swarm of Ricking bees.”

“Shame on you,” Laura said.

“Bzzzzzzz,” Mel said, turning his fingers into bees and buzzing them at Terri’s throat. Then he let his hands drop all the way to his sides.

Related Characters: Terri (speaker), Mel McGinnis (speaker), Laura (speaker), Marjorie (Mel’s ex-wife), Nick
Page Number: 321
Explanation and Analysis:

“I’ll put out some cheese and crackers,” Terri said.

But Terri just sat there. She did not get up to get anything. Mel turned his glass over. He spilled it out on the table. “Gin’s gone,” Mel said.

Terri said, “Now what?”

I could hear my heart beating. I could hear everyone’s heart. I could hear the human noise we sat there making, not one of us moving, not even when the room went dark.

Related Characters: Terri (speaker), Mel McGinnis (speaker), Nick, Laura
Related Symbols: Sunlight
Page Number: 321-322
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire What We Talk About When We Talk About Love LitChart as a printable PDF.
What We Talk About When We Talk About Love PDF

Laura Character Timeline in What We Talk About When We Talk About Love

The timeline below shows where the character Laura appears in What We Talk About When We Talk About Love. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
What We Talk About When We Talk About Love
The Nature of Love Theme Icon
...Terri, in Albuquerque. They’re sitting around the kitchen table with Nick and his own wife, Laura, drinking gin and tonics and discussing of love. Mel is adamant that real love is... (full context)
The Nature of Love Theme Icon
Love and Violence Theme Icon
The Failure of Language Theme Icon
Mel tells Nick and Laura that Terri’s ex-boyfriend threatened to kill him. Finishing his drink, Mel reaches for the bottle... (full context)
The Nature of Love Theme Icon
Love and Violence Theme Icon
The Failure of Language Theme Icon
Mel asks Nick and Laura what they think, and Nick replies that he wouldn’t know—he never met Ed. He says... (full context)
The Nature of Love Theme Icon
Love and Violence Theme Icon
...admit that Ed loved her. Nick interjects to ask how, exactly, Ed botched his suicide. Laura looks at Mel and Terri with a bemused expression, as though she’s shocked that people... (full context)
Love and Violence Theme Icon
Mel tells Nick and Laura that Ed had used a .22 caliber pistol to shoot himself—the same one he’d used... (full context)
The Nature of Love Theme Icon
Laura urges Mel to get back to the topic of the botched suicide. At this point,... (full context)
The Nature of Love Theme Icon
Love and Violence Theme Icon
The Failure of Language Theme Icon
Laura asks who won the fight, and Terri answers that she was in the room with... (full context)
The Nature of Love Theme Icon
The Failure of Language Theme Icon
Laura says that she and Nick know what love is—for them, at least. Smiling, she bumps... (full context)
The Nature of Love Theme Icon
The Failure of Language Theme Icon
...sip their drinks as they wait for him to speak. Nick rests his hand on Laura’s thigh. (full context)
The Nature of Love Theme Icon
The Failure of Language Theme Icon
...on a long diatribe about love. He says that he loves Terri, and Nick loves Laura, both sexually and emotionally. But he struggles with how to reconcile the love he had... (full context)
Love and Violence Theme Icon
The Failure of Language Theme Icon
...sips her drink. Mel fires back that he’s not on call at the hospital today. Laura chimes in that they all love Mel, and for a moment, Mel looks at her... (full context)
The Nature of Love Theme Icon
Love and Violence Theme Icon
The Failure of Language Theme Icon
...injured in a terrible car accident on the highway. Terri looks anxiously at Nick and Laura, and then back at Mel. Mel passes the gin around the table. (full context)
Love and Violence Theme Icon
...shares that if he could live in a different time, he’d be a medieval knight. Laura jokes that he could carry a woman’s scarf with him, along with a lance. Mel... (full context)
Love and Violence Theme Icon
The Failure of Language Theme Icon
...come along and spear the dying knight “in the name of love,” and Terri and Laura observe that nothing has changed—people still fight over the same things today. Mel pours himself... (full context)
The Nature of Love Theme Icon
Love and Violence Theme Icon
The sunlight in the room has grown dimmer. Laura and Nick urge Mel to continue his story, and Terri jokes that the old couple... (full context)
Love and Violence Theme Icon
...allergic to bee stings, and he wishes she’d get stung to death. (“Shame on you,” Laura says again.) Mel makes buzzing sounds and moves his hands toward Terri’s throat, pretending his... (full context)
The Nature of Love Theme Icon
The Failure of Language Theme Icon
...either way. “I could head right on out into the sunset,” he says, which prompts Laura to ask what he means. Nick says that he just means he could keep going. (full context)
The Nature of Love Theme Icon
The Failure of Language Theme Icon
Laura says that she’s starving. Terri offers to put out some cheese and crackers, although she... (full context)