Readers Report Back From… Impossible Love

By

***

I loved my gay, married psychologist. I wanted him like a dog joneses for bacon in a frying pan. I needed him with the fervor of a gambler watching the ponies run. I loved him like Opus Dei frothing in the presence of a relic of the One True Cross.

For this kind of love, you speak in tongues. Roll around in the floor in ecstasy. Garrote your thighs with barbed wire.

In 1925, the mathematician David Hilbert gave a lecture entitled Sonsuz Uzerine (On the Infinite). In the lecture Hilbert talks about a finite, elliptical universe. He explains in detail about the concept of ideal numbers. About three-quarters of the way through his presentation he says, “In a certain sense, mathematical analysis is a symphony of the infinite.”

Like mathematical analysis, psychoanalysis is also a symphony of the infinite. It is like trying to figure out Skinner’s Box, or trying to calculate pi to the last digit. Loving your therapist is like trying to figure out why rhyming couplets sound so ecstatically wonderful to our ears and why symmetry pleases the human eye.

I needed to learn to love and depend on my psychologist, but to be truly mature and self-sufficient, I needed to realize that love and dependency are pathological and I must use my love and dependency on my therapist to learn to love myself and be free of my dependency on my therapist. I loved the whole time I knew I was going to lose my love. I attached to learn to let go. I connected to learn to detach. Maybe symphony of paradox might be kinder to me than symphony of the infinite.  Maybe “therapy is a totally fucked-up process” is even more precise.

My desire for my psychologist epitomized love. Contained within the span of four years, it tested the intricacies of personal history, present circumstances, the mythology of relationships, physical attraction, how men and women communicate, and the nuances and gray areas of homosexuality and heterosexuality.

I was just a person in love. But maybe that qualified me to be a philosopher, a scientist, a mathematician, and a saint. Maybe it made me a prayer bead on a rosary worked and worried through millennia’s tired hands. Maybe it made me a speck of white sand in the freezing foam of Lake Michigan, hoping that each next wave might bring me home to shore.

— Telaina Eriksen

***

It isn’t hard to figure out why we did it. You and they were all drunk from the vodka while I sat on the floor of the basement drunk with contempt. You were sitting there and I was sitting there and they told us we should do it. They laughed, knowing you would never say no and I would never say yes. You grabbed the bottle beside you and we watched you smash it against the wall. The glass erupted into shards; shining splinters landing on the carpeted floor. Your audience screamed and laughed and my face flushed, revealing emotion I didn’t want you to witness. You took my hand and pulled me up; you weren’t going to do it alone, you insisted; “They were referring to ‘us,’ not me.” They smiled their horrible smiles and eagerly awaited the “no” that would surely escape my mouth, confirming the end of our bitter relationship. I wasn’t going to give them what they wanted. “Sure,” I stated nonchalantly, “Where you go, I go,” and I despised you. We took what was left of the bottle’s neck and we walked across the street in our bare feet and we scratched the fuck out of the neighbor’s car.  Even you didn’t smile. It wasn’t about fun. It was about pushing; and I wasn’t going to let you win.

Days later your pushing became shoving and shoving became punching and punching became knocking me out. I stayed. I refused to let you win. We would decide to have many, many threesomes, fucking whoever was willing to donate their time and their anatomy to a cause so despicable. We would smash things. We would smoke things. We would hate each other.

I would find out about the brain tumors in my pituitary gland. You would run away. For months I slept with whoever would sleep with a broken bald girl. I had brain surgery. I lived. You came back, only to take the last word; only to throw one last punch. And then I was in the hospital again, having my surgery wounds stitched one more time.

You called me last month to remind me of the good times. You couldn’t believe it had already been two years since my surgery. Wouldn’t it be great to see each other again?

Yes.

Yes, it would be great to see each other again . . . and this time I will win.

— Danielle Monk

***

There are no impossible loves, only impossible situations. The emotion exists, does not ask for permission. Whether one acts on that emotion . . . well, that is a different story. Love requires courage. Courage to pursue what one’s heart desires, regardless of the fallout, regardless of reciprocation.

The impossibility of love exists only in time.

How many times have I cried and begged the heaven and stars to release me? I no longer want to feel this. I no longer have the courage to feel so deeply. So often. My body exhausted, my mind forever lost . . . and you still there. Within arms reach. . . only never that close.

— Anonymous

***

An apartment, a city that isn’t mine: everyone flits behind me, joking, drinking from tiny cocktail glasses (Marie Antoinette cups, someone says, molded after the perfect shape of her breasts). The music is louder where I stand, near the storm strong enough to blow glass panes out of skyscrapers. We used to listen to this together.

I saw a pigeon on the stoop earlier: huddled, staring back. Maybe flightless. Someone had put out a little rag for him to sit on, a glass of water, a piece of bread, now soggy. What does it mean to be a winged creature that can’t fly? Tethered to the earth when you weren’t meant to be, limited by tiny stick legs, unable to reach what you need. Fallen angels, I think. Except there’s no such thing as angels.

Eyes look through tears look through window at the rain. Someone tries to console me, maybe with wisdom, but I want nothing of what’s around me, no matter how grand. I want what was lost, what I haven’t had for years.

The coffin feels like a bed of nails, looks like bars on a door. When will it go into the ground? How long until I turn and go, walk across the lush, alive cemetery grass? When I leave, do I get to escape the sensation that something’s been buried alive?

Knowing how much it would hurt to lose you never stopped me. Is that naive or brave? The human spirit. We stick our hand in the fire and blunder in to explore the bear’s cave. We build rocket ships, make beautiful music.

I know my tears are tiny, but I can’t leave the storm. The flood is the stream.

——

The image of your aging face brings me joy and sadness. You walked down the platform stairs toward the opposite side, slowly disappearing—beautiful, tall, distinct, but I saw, too, how much you were just vanishing, like everyone, every day.

Is this what it means to grow up?—You can’t go home again. No matter how much you miss it, no matter what door you walk through. I might love again, but it can no longer be you. Not that you. Not that me.

I waited for you to emerge onto the other platform, but I couldn’t see you. And then my train came.

— Sarah Van Bonn

***

I guess I started it that day. I had come to Iowa. Uninvited, I drove all night, because I had an itch.

Sharing a sweating beer, and recounting the calendar of events of the years behind us, it was nice to be heard. My voice echoes off the walls day after day. Since he moved away, since I was married, I find my quiet obsessions have become an internal hum. We talk long hours as our breath hangs in the humid air, a flow chart of inequitable truths.

As we climb the narrow stairs to his apartment, he doesn’t ask about my husband, and I do ask about the girl he just left. There is love and regret. There are apologies formulating for events that are ten years past.  I want to explain the time I made him cry in junior high. I want to tell him I didn’t mean to dent his car in high school. I want to tell him I’m sorry he waited for me. I want to tell him I’m sorry that I didn’t.

Don’t be jealous, he says, and it stops me from saying anything at all. He put his arm back, resting now on the frame of the bed I recognized from his childhood room. I lay down next to him. Sun dress on. The very same sundress my mother wore when she was pregnant with me, I now wore it to lie beside a man; not my husband. Someone who has the power to tease my heart out a little at a time. Someone who has the power to bring me to my knees.

The fan blew the stifling summer air in through the open window rhythmically. I lay on my stomach searching through his mannerisms and features for some evidence that he’d have loved me if I’d waited for him, that we would have been happy. I look to see if he’s forgiven me; even if it’s just for today. I feel his heartbeat in his wrist when I hold his arm to me. Speeding.

Don’t be jealous. A smile and a cigarette crawled across his mouth. The smoke circled our heads, hanging in the overwhelming stillness. His intentions were so gentle. Saying nothing, he slid his palm on my back. I laid my head down. I just listen to him breathe in the air between us.

I could not be forgiven.

— Rianne Delgadillo

***

Apathy creates the deepest fissure, and now the gap between us is caused by me.

The opposite of love isn’t hate after all.

Spark inside me some discourse. We need to have a conversation anyway. Make it hurt or heal or hex . . . just make it happen.

The all-consuming heat of anger beats numbness. At least I know I’m alive when I’m devastated.

But you aren’t a catalyst anymore. You don’t cause anything. And it’s only when I feel nothing that your emotions return. The bitterest irony.

With the season’s early darkening of the sky, I find my detachment strengthen.

If I could overlook our mistakes, I’d gladly reclaim my spot beside you in the bed I pretended was ours. But you taught me that this was only a dream, dreamed by the naivety of a girl whose love was fruitless. A whisper so faint, gently massaged my heart, spoken only when I was unprepared. Timing is a bitch.

Your time was gone before mine became a reality. And thereafter, my rose-tinted vision created tear-stained pillows.

So I wait for the rain showers of early Spring to arrive and pray the storms wash away mistakes of our past. I’d purge the guilt I felt for loving you so freely  by standing unprotected from the rain.

It doesn’t matter anymore. I don’t feel anything for you.

But when you realize this I’m certain you’ll return. This time, you’ll feel the apathy-caused suffering. This is what you’ve created. That’s life, baby. You had your chance. It’s a shame you didn’t take it.

What will hurt most is knowing that the change of season renewed my romanticism. A seedling protected by new, fresh chances waits for warmer temperatures. And when safety arrives, I’ll nurture the new life inside me to seek what we were missing. Timing.

— Sarafina

***

It’s still the early dial-up internet days. Everyone has already figured out that everyone else lies. Except me. I lurk in chat rooms waiting for the little windows to pop up. No one believes me when I tell them about myself. They think I’m kidding: 25 yrs old. 5 ft 9,  128 lbs, red hair. I swear I’m for real, but they swear they are too. I meet one guy who corners me against a pool table in a dirty bar, another one who tells me he’s a millionaire, but won’t call me long distance.

One night, another private message window pops up asking A/S/L???  This one lives an hour from me. He’s articulate, literate, and witty.  He knows things about sex that I’ve never even heard of. I’m smitten. I chain smoke in the dark night after night while the scene unfolds line after line. Since he won’t tell me his age, I assume he’s years older. He won’t talk on the phone or send me a picture. Maybe he’s married or really old, like forty. Frustrated and angry after weeks of lingering suspense, I type: “What are you, 15 or something??!” The blinking cursor hangs an eternity . . .

I can’t forgive him, I’m heartsick. I blow off a real date with a schoolteacher to meet him at the mall. His mom chaperones. She sits by the fountain in the food court and watches us hug. She tells him later I ooze sex, I’m dangerous. This is the only time we will ever meet in person.

Now it’s thirteen years later. We email each other all the time. I tell him I’m going to start writing some of my crazy life down. Should I tell this story?  “Nah,” he writes back. “We never even had sex.”

— Daisy Danger

***

It’s easy to apply labels. The man down the street was bipolar, schizophrenic, psychotic! He visited his girlfriend late one night, probably past midnight. She let him in, because they were in love. They had an argument a week ago, though. He needed money for the ring, although he only told her he needed money. She said she wouldn’t give him any of his money because she needed it for the children, and he’d drink it away. After the argument, he left and didn’t call her or see her, not until late that night when he came for a visit.

She let him in because the moment he knocked on her door money didn’t matter to her. He was the boyfriend. Her two youngest children were fast asleep. One was about thirteen, and the other could be ten. Her oldest child, her son, had returned from a long day and had been sitting in the living room watching television since. Her teenage daughter had left the house that evening wearing just a t-shirt, tight pants, and pointed heels. This girlfriend never had a husband, or if she did, they were divorced. I don’t know specifics.

As soon as the girlfriend undid the sliding chain lock, the boyfriend headed straight into the kitchen. He opened a drawer and pulled out a butcher knife—no, two, one in each hand. He turned and looked at his girlfriend as if she were dead meat, but she was standing by the sofa right next to her son with wide-opened eyes, very much alive. So, he charged at her and took hard chops. You get the idea.

In case you were concerned, she didn’t die. The son also survived the two chops he got at his thighs for getting in the way. The cops came and took the boyfriend to jail. She was the victim. He was the perpetrator, charged with an attempt at murder, and an inmate for life.

— Lillian

***

We’re wrapped in morning sunlight and bed sheets when I tell her that I’m afraid to die. It’s Monday and I’m meant to be at work in less than thirty minutes, but I’m made of a kind of exhausted concrete and I can’t move. She has a flexible schedule today and a gift for procrastination, which she is aware of and exercising. I’m mostly useless and random.

“I think you should know, I don’t ever want to go rock climbing,” I offer.

“That’s fine, I don’t want to either,” she says.

“What? Why would you completely close yourself off to something like that?” I say. “That’s sad.”

“You brought it up.”

“You could at least try the boulder hugging or whatever that one is where you climb on the small rocks. That looks pretty safe.”

“Why are you so afraid to die?” she whispers.

“I’m not afraid to die,” I lie.

“Mmm hmm. Your house needs Q-Tips and conditioner,” she says, rolling over to face me. “And a hairbrush.”

She’s right about the hairbrush, because her hair gets worked into a thick, swirling dreadlock when she tosses at night. I start to tell her about how I read that Q-Tips were once called “Baby Gays” and she interrupts me to ask about something unrelated and equally trivial. She likes to interrupt, says that conversation doesn’t need to be so linear, so neatly defined. I interrupt to tell her that’s because she’s the youngest child of a large family, that it’s a survival response for her. She interrupts to say that oldest children, like me, are bullies that feel entitled to control. She says we’re too wrapped up in waiting for our turn, that there shouldn’t be turns, that it should all tumble and flow together, random, like scrabble letters left in your pockets and sent through the wash. And that relationships with oldest and youngest children never work, for this very reason. She says these things and I am interrupting again when the radio alarm clicks on. She runs her finger along the bridge of my nose and closes her eyes while a voice on the radio talks about an astronaut named Steven, who is at this very moment floating tethered and terrified in space, repairing some kind of damaged thermal protection thing.

— Sloan Schang

***

A missed connections post on craigslist reads, I miss you ursa. I miss you’re smile. oh god I am so alone and in the bad writing you recognize your husband.

A bird and a fish can fall in love, but how will they fuck?

You believe in romantic love. You do. And you want to have a family someday, but you were molested as a kid and now you cry whenever men touch you. Always it is this way, and what a turn off.

She can’t leave her boyfriend because they’ve been through so much and he might kill himself, but she wonders if the two of you can continue to love each other and to keep writing like you have been anyway. She tells you that you are her rock.

That time you got drunk before your first date and invited your friend and kept grabbing her breasts at the table because you didn’t want to let anybody get close to you. Which time was that? You do that every time.

Other men or women. Moving. He’s gay. There’s a war on. Summer camp is over. He’s black. Her family hates you. You met on the Internet. She’s a horse. You’re ugly. Drugs. Disease. There’s not enough money. And on and on and on.

— Molly Laich

***

i picture you with a star at your foot
making me cornell boxes with colored
string, paper lace, discarded rosaries and
black pearls, a visual poem written for one

i’d give you an Italian vase if I thought it’d
help, but I’ve discarded your spell for prayer

long ago I figured out that you were my twin
but we shuttle back and forth like the ferryman’s
children, across four states of non-being, across
our river of tears, telling our stories like Wendy

entertaining the lost children of Neverland
and baby, you know what? it’s not us.

— Gary Percesepe