The sunlight in the kitchen as Mel, Terri, Nick, and Laura talk about love represents the four friends’ gradually diminishing clarity during their conversation. At first, the sun fills the room “like a presence […] the spacious light of ease and generosity” while the friends sip gin and tonics. The bright, direct sunlight parallels the friends’ clarity and confidence as they begin discussing love—Laura believes that “Nick and I know what love is,” and Mel declares that “I’ll tell you what real love is.” But Mel proceeds to go on an incoherent ramble about what happens to love after a breakup or a death, which only leaves Terri, Nick, and Laura confused and worried about Mel. Accordingly, the sunlight begins to dissipate as the friends get drunker and lose track of the topic at hand, mirroring their diminishing certainty about what love is.
Mel goes on to tell a personal story that he hopes will prove his point about love, but the others still don’t understand what he’s trying to say. After this, Nick immediately notes that they’re drunk and that the light has almost entirely left the room. Importantly, though, “nobody made a move to get up from the table to turn on the overhead light,” suggesting that the friends have not only moved from confidence to confusion about what love is, but that they’ve lost any hope or will to find clarity again. The story ends with Mel, Terri, Nick, and Laura having run out of ideas of what to talk about or do next, “not one of us moving, not even when the room [goes] dark.” This final image of the four friends sitting in silence in a dark room symbolizes the idea that words often fail to articulate profound truths, like the definition of love. The friends’ conversation, rather than guiding them to a solid conclusion, leaves them both literally and figuratively in the dark.
Sunlight Quotes in What We Talk About When We Talk About Love
“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.