Two Takes on May-December

By Susan Harris

In Cristina Peri Rossi's "Ne me quitte pas," a fortysomething psychiatrist finds a patient's romantic anguish reflects his own insecurity about his teenaged lover. As the patient describes the pain of leaving his wife, the psychiatrist broods: how can this gorgeous, indefatigable boy be content with someone his father's age? For a darker take on the May-December theme, see Andrés Barba's wrenching "Nocturne", from our December 2007 Partings issue. The middle-aged protagonist impulsively answers a personals ad and tumbles into an affair with the twenty-year-old Roberto. Like the psychiatrist, Barba's character doubts the fidelity of the younger man; but his festering anxiety spirals into suspicion and hostility. As the psychiatrist notes, people often end relationships to avoid being left themselves, or to be free of that fear. In his final confrontation with Roberto, Barba's protagonist confirms that diagnosis, ending up embracing only his solitude.

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