01 October 2016

Engaged II.

As I mentioned in the introduction to "Engaged," its sequel was really meant to be kind of a talisman to ward off my fear of abandonment. So far, it's only exacerbated it: I can barely read this piece without having a full-blown panic attack.

I wrote it in September 2013. I was working at A Plus and I remember looking out the windows in our temporary office in Century City and imagining a life not my own. This is what I came up with. As it turns out, my life -- at least when it comes to relationships -- is kind of a intersection between this and its predecessor. An intersection where one's heart is run over by buses, trains, and the occasional tractor. Such is life.

That said, here it is. Enjoy.

Engaged II

She'll call you at work at 10am and tell you she has something to show you. The excitement in her voice is always contagious. There's something that still warms you deep and full when you know she's smiling wide enough to show her dimples. Check your email, she says. I just sent it. So you do.

It's a picture she's taken with her phone of a page from the newspaper's Weddings and Engagements section. You know she's cut it out already and carefully placed it next to the one she clipped from last month's Town and Country. Same picture: the two of you staring at each other, lost in each other. Her slender hand curled around your lapel, tugging you toward her. Her smile as she said you under her breath just as the shutter clicked.

Yes. You.

He and She of Here announce the engagement of their daughter, Her, to You, son of He and She of There. The bride-to-be is a graduate of...

And you stop.

Because you remember that once nothing seemed as easy as any of these words make it sound. She was another's and you wondered if you could ever be as much to her as he seemed to be. You wondered, sometimes, if it was him she thought about when she looked past you with faraway eyes and a sad smile after late quiet dinners. You wondered if you'd ever be standing in the picture you're staring at.

You wondered once if you could ever love anyone else. You looked at her once and you knew you couldn't. The first time you saw her, you just knew.

Knowing was the worst of it. That's not anywhere in the announcement.

You wondered if you ever really knew how to be loved.

Long before you could shape I love you anywhere but in the recesses of your heart, she was just a friend. Long before that picture, there were warm pastries and endless cups of coffee as you tried not to stare at her across the table at the coffee shop, burying your face in a book you never ended up reading. Sometimes there were drinks and she'd tell you about the guys who stumbled and fell for her and declared it and went away embarrassed and you promised yourself you would not, would never, could not...

But you knew you wouldn't be.

You walk to your window and look out over the city. From your office you can see the world that you feared would break your heart. But you survived that first long summer after you told her and she filled the aching silence and loved you too. She had Paris and another year of school, but somehow, despite the distance and longing and fear and new friends and old loves who'd call out of nowhere, out of the night and the miles that separated you, you held on to each other, remembering, knowing. Winter nights passed. Fall days went. Unshared. But always shared.

Long-distance bills and fuzzy Skype conversations. Your hearts lived in two different time zones. You remembered what it was like to hold each other, to fall asleep and wake next to each other, to fall in love again and again, every second of every hour.

You go downstairs and buy the paper, then carefully tear the picture out and put it on your desk. You know she's waiting for you to call her back and that tonight, you'll kiss her and tell her for the millionth time that you love her and she will smile just as widely as she did the first time you did.

She is more beautiful now than she was even then. She will be more beautiful still tomorrow. And in a year, there will be more things to clip from the paper. More kisses. Because she chose you. From among every option she had, she chose you.


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

Put them away, then, and tell the truth.

Originally written 9.8.13 3:52 pm EST. Hollywood, California.

Cover photo: Mahmood Salam/Flickr