"Yes!" he said, his calm, equanimous smile cracking into a childlike grin. "That's what makes the stock market go up and down. The stock market, like the market of love, is driven by an illusion."
I was only 20, still believing that money, symbolic as it may be, was inextricably attached to the real—labor, sweat, goods. I said something embarrassingly naive like "Aren't stock market figures due to how a company is doing? Quarterly reports and such?"
"No," said Bellagio. "Not really. The stock market is more about what's in our minds, what we think. Like the market of love, it's driven by our beliefs."
Another day, not long before the end of the quarter, sitting in Bellagio's office, I found I had lost my concentration. We were talking about supply and demand, but I stopped and looked pensively out the window at the wisteria. Eventually I said, "You know, I can't help thinking that desire has something to do with how we feel about ourselves. Have you ever heard the saying, 'I love you not for who you are but for who I am when I am with you'? Doesn't desire have something to do with wanting to be acknowledged?"
"Then you're saying that desire is a form of self-love?" He nodded, intrigued. "But, tell me, why not look in the mirror to find it?"
"We're all vampires?" I ventured.
Perhaps I was thinking about Daniel and me. We had finally broken up two days before that meeting with Bellagio. Daniel had come to my dorm and wanted to spend the night. Some people came by with blankets, flashlights, and guitars, on their way to the old caves in the mountains. I wanted to go; he wanted to stay back, together. We fought. In the end, we agreed it would be best to break up.
Outside Bellagio's office that day, the surf was choppy and white-capped. The clouds were closing in. I worried about my own failure—failure to make someone happy, to make things right, to attach. I asked Bellagio if the dynamics of scarcity and value still worked when you were older, married. He suddenly looked preoccupied and admitted that something unexpected happens when you get old: "You begin to desire desire itself." I looked at him for a long time. Then he opened his arms, and I moved toward him. It was the kind of act that, today, might invite censure, but I took it for what it was—a moment of tenderness from a man lamenting. There was something protective about his gesture, as if he wanted to keep me safe from all that might be lost to time.
The course ended. Bellagio asked me to write a paper on any aspect of desire. I chose the idea that in desiring we are in some ways loving ourselves, trying to find ourselves. What I discovered is that this idea—that self-awareness comes into being when we see ourselves reflected in another person's eyes—is a fundamental idea in much of Western philosophy. We are born, in a sense, in a process that involves other people's awareness of us.