K.S. ANTHONY: Sweet Impossibilities: "Engaged"

20 May 2021

Sweet Impossibilities: "Engaged"

(Originally published 4/22/14 530AM)

"The best women," I once wrote, "leave at three in the morning." I didn't mean to sound crass, though I wouldn't blame anyone for reading arrogance into it. I wrote it just after 3am one morning; just after a woman left me alone with a half empty bottle of '98 Duval-Leroy half-afloat in a bucket of melted ice. I had waited for her that night, unsure if she'd come and see me. And she did. Out into the cold night, wearing jeans and a sweater.

She was wounded by a breakup. I was bruised by an embarrassing misreading of the pulse of a fling, the sharp sting of rejection. She made me promise that if I ever wrote about her, I would call her Ophelia.

We took refuge in a friendship that blossomed after summer. Eventually, it gave way to curiosity, affection, and the first glimpse of newness. Then 3am came and I knew she was still hurt; still thinking of someone else's touch. I realized that Ophelia could not kiss me, not then, and be lost in the same place I was. And so she left, leaving no trace, not even a taste left on a glass, a reminder of the bittersweet impossibility.

I was profoundly sad when I met her for coffee the next morning. I was in love and she was saying goodbye. Or perhaps I only thought I was in love. Perhaps I wanted to be in love with someone who could not possibly love me so as to not have to deal with the reality of having to love someone or something possible. 

It is easy to love the impossible because the impossible can never disappoint you...and you can never disappoint it.

That doesn't make it untrue. That doesn't make it not love.

I never went back to where we met. It will always be the city where she left me at 3 am, the city of a wobbly table and her hands and the end of fall. I leave it there, untouched, in an eternal November, an eternal impossibility. She left a few months later. I cannot imagine that there is anything there that would remind her of me.

We lived in the same city for a few years, but never spoke, never saw each other. We never met for drinks. We never texted. I never ran into her by chance coming out of the deli or buying a bottle of wine for an apartment warming party. I emailed an apology once, just in case I had done something wrong. Sometimes I think we apologize simply because silence becomes unbearable. Should I never have kissed her? Should I have asked her to stay? Should we have had another martini at dinner or not had martinis at dinner? She replied in the gentle, even, archaically agreeable way that she had always replied to my emails and she did her best to thin whatever residual shame I had in losing a friend in an attempt to find something more where nothing more could exist. It had nothing to do with me, she wrote. I wrote back, but after that, I never heard from her again.

I think of her now only because, in a way, I am where I am because of her. The day she said goodbye, I sat at a desk in the hotel and I wrote "Engaged," an essay that, to this day, people have told me is the best thing they have ever read; that people ask whether or not is true. 

In it, I ponder the impossibilities that we face and how time blurs things. Were her eyes blue or brown? Did she actually care for me? Who will she be with? Does she remember me? Will she? 

Those aren't just questions we ask in the past tense. They flood our minds in the present tense when things are new, when things are beginning...and when they are ending. What will happen? What is possible? Who is this person who feels so natural? Why can't I commit to this night, these kisses, drink this mouth like a Lethean well and forget?

The answers come weighted with the impossible. Those last kisses at 2:45 am murmur the end of everything possible and the beginning of everything that cannot be.

No one ever really leaves. They persist as sweet impossibilities: always there, always out of reach. They shine light on the things that are possible, the loves that we must suffer for, the hearts that we hope still beat for us and that call us into our eternal Novembers at three in the morning.

You know this because you hold her still, but mostly you know it because you cannot hold her and you will not hold her again.

But not yet, not yet. Those things will be, but not now.

Put them away, then, and feel her fingers circling yours.

And kiss her again. You have no time.

2021 Note: ironically, she did go to law school and get married. Although we live in the same city, we never spoke again.