Readers Report Back From… Impossible Love

By

***

Out of the blue she said sweet things to me. The same ripe things she said to me ten years earlier. Her words, spread out on that white sheet of light, called out for me. I read them. I closed them. I opened them again, reading each line, trying to soak in every ounce of their meaning. I let a “thank you” escape out into the room, scaring myself. Worried that the one I was supposed to love, asleep in the next room, could hear.

Her words grabbed and pulled at me. I never resisted. I followed desire straight to the corner cushion of her crimson velveteen couch. We confessed sins. I chose mine carefully. We revealed scars. I kept most hidden. We complained of lonely hearts, and lovers that failed to deliver what we thought we required and deserved. We talked about trust and truth. And I made sure to say the right things and forget how wrong I was.

We touched each other with starts and stops. We read the definition of the word adore, from a coverless pocket dictionary, out loud, afraid to turn the page to love. The familiar had faded. The strange had filled the cracks.

She stood before me, between my legs, and lifted her shirt. Scars not mentioned before, revealed. Under each breast was the fossil of a surgeon’s cut. She took my hand and pulled it to her chest. I traced my finger over each hard purple line, back and forth, as if it was Braille, trying to understand.

She told me about the implants, and the boyfriend that paid for them. She told me how they had made her feel less than herself. She told me about the day she had them removed. She told me about the pain.

Years have passed. I wonder sometimes about her life and those scars. The ones I left.

— Robert John Stuart

***

Richard doesn’t care if he lives or dies. He still wants to see things, though. He wants to see Texas and maybe India. He has been saving for India. He has a girlfriend who helps him travel, who lets him touch her when they are on a walking tour. But he doesn’t know if she would go with him anywhere so far away. He doesn’t think she’d like the spicy food.

He wants to hold his grandchildren on his lap. That’s where Texas fits in. He has no interest in keeping things from himself, and this is evident on the plane. He eats the entire meal, the plastic-wrapped brownie and everything. Richard doesn’t understand the science. He thinks doctors are out to get him, unless he is too weak to talk. Then he is only less suspicious because the fear is more immediate.

When I was six I made a mask out of a paper bag. I cut into the folds to make the eyes. I didn’t feel the scissors, only saw the bone. Richard said, “Alright” and took me in. He doesn’t like to see the insides of things. The stitches were tight and didn’t leave a scar. Richard says a butterfly bandage would have done the trick.

After the trip to Texas his girlfriend goes back to her own life for awhile. She’s the one who finds him on the floor. She says she didn’t want to go all the way back out there. She says he often didn’t answer his phone, says it took her hours to convince herself to go. She says his face was bruised, as if he had fallen from some great height.

Richard doesn’t know that he no longer makes sense. He gives me an address over the telephone. I send him socks, crackers, peanut butter, sugar-free candy, a Chinese finger trap, and a bell to ring for help. The package is returned to me. I call his girlfriend and get the right address.

Richard thinks India would be beautiful. He says when he leaves this place that’s where he’ll go. He wants to eat everything. I hear him say this before his speech slurs beyond comprehension. I laugh and try to make him believe that he is funny. I am thinking of a website that sells foreign postcards. Maybe I could send it to him blank and he will think he’s been.

— Cassie McDaniel

***

I love someone who is dead.

At various times I have failed in various roles—lover, friend, daughter, student, employee—but I was always a good sister. Even when the world around me was exploding, part of me would always be unqualified, unquestioned and complete as a result of the simple burden of sisterhood. No demon-slaying, straightjacketing, white lies required, just the fact of being me was enough. Our love was magic—invincibility was mine and life could go on, never really alone as long as I was me and he was him.

My little brother died seven years ago and, for a part of me, time stopped. I hate that frozen, broken part. It sends out I love yous, I miss yous, when will you be backs with the same doggedly assured voice it always has. It sends my body the message that nothing has changed, (how could it?), and surely, something is merely wrong with the equipment, for how else are the answers not heard? It is never at peace, always shouting out the obvious and true, always waiting for the perfect twin response, the whole-making, impossible sound of I love you too, I miss you too, I am right here, right here and will always be.

Quiet, sister.

— Carrie Jones

***

Sometimes, I wake up in the middle of the night or I stop in the middle of the day and I feel your hands roaming my body. I can feel your mouth on my neck, kisses marking out the ridge of my collarbone and wandering down my spine while phantom fingers drag a lazy line from my sternum to my hip. My memory, my imagination pulls me down into this daydream of desire and heat and for a few seconds, and I forget that last time was the very last time and you’re with someone else and you’ve broken my heart out of hand more than once. Instead, I remember waking up in the middle of the night with you wrapped around me and feeling like things were right. And I want so, so desperately in that moment to be back there again, where despite the risk, in spite of the difference between what I know now and what I knew then, I felt happy and cared for.

I sometimes pretend that these reveries are a kind of visitation from you, that the heat that ambushes me in the middle of the day is some physical manifestation of a daydream that you are having, of a memory of me that plagues you, that takes you until you remember that you love another, that we are trying now to be friends and not lovers. And I selfishly hope that you feel the same yearning that I feel, the same pang that I get when I turn and you aren’t there. I hope you have the same sneaking premonition that you made a mistake giving me up.

Other times, when the light is just right, I imagine it refracting though your glasses while you fidget with your coffee cup, forming little pools on the table between us. And I wonder if you ever knew what my heart was doing then or if it would have changed anything if you had. And then I remember how hot and cold you ran and how I could never pin you down. How being with you was like quicksand and the gulf there always seemed to be between us and I think maybe there weren’t any mistakes, just insurmountable distances with too many echoes.

— Paige Greco

***

You know a girl who is more withholding than your own mother, and you have both decided that what you want is irrelevant. You smoke a lot of weed together. More than smoke it, you search it out. Brave soldiers of ganja, patriots of pot. Undercover rovers, hours of driving and phoning and texting, of covert waiting in parking lots with the radio on low, talking. Nights of failure petering out in slow, sobering defeat.

You have a habit of turning the lights out when waiting for a tip. Because waiting is always truer in the dark. She is always willing to go as far as you. Far into the giddiness, far into the dark. She once said she preferred being on drugs, getting lost in herself. This scared you, already so lost and trying to find a way out, beginning to suspect drugs of not being the fastest bus out of town.  This is right before everyone starts drinking, and a strong whiskey tide whips that thought right out from under you.
You are always at each other’s side. No longer alone, but not really together. Not making anything, just a companionable loneliness.

Sometimes when you think about love you get mad because it never seems to work with reality. Then you think, reality isn’t everything. But you know that you and this girl, what you have isn’t love, because nothing has been created, you just stand together, side by side in a blankness. Trying to still yourselves, still the heart. Volupt, volupt. Hush, hush.
The nights are blue. Blue smoke as you exhale worried silence. Blue panic as you run across the blue fields away from imaginary forest rangers. Reality isn’t everything. Her hair is blueblack the color that’s made to ache.

One of those particularly still nights, sober and far away, you both begin to spin in the dark blue of her room. You spin instead of waiting, or maybe because of waiting. As if to say “This is what it feels like to wait, this is what it feels like to be stuck.” Joni was playing and you spin as if to wrap her words around each other. As if what she had to say to us is more real than this darkness, this stillness. As if by spinning into that song you could have left the room.

What if you had been more daring? Less blue, more red.  Themes the colors of muscles and veins, you need both to make a creation run. For your spinning to become wheels, cogs. To move. A great giant shaking lovesmash of being. Monsterlove. Such a beautiful unnature. What if you decided to inhabit your giant lovesmash monstermobile and travel the heartland in it.. What if your lovesmash monsterbot had become realer than doubt, realer than fear. You’ll never know why all that spinning never lifted you off the ground.

— Ella Boureau

***

In the manic halls of the ninth floor of Bridgeport Hospital, a lady in only a cirrus-colored gown glares at my father’s candy bar. Her straw hair hangs as long as she stands in the doorframe. Dad throws her a Hershey’s. “Dad, what are you doing?” “I’d do anything to get her away.” He points his index finger to his ear, making tiny circles around it. Yup, she’s the crazy one, my brother thinks. “Is this leftover from Halloween?” dad asks. “Yeah, so what?” I say. Only he would complain about fun-size candy.

“I watched Forrest Gump in the common room. They have videos and books, but you have to share the TV and sometimes the other people won’t share. I got in a fight with this guy Vinny today because he had these chips—ya know that everyone could eat and when I tried to reach in the bag, he snapped and said you got a skin disease, and I said you wait till we’re out on the streets, and I’ll settle this like a man. I’m just itchy. I can’t wear these socks you bought me. And, the shoes are too tight.” “They’re a half size too big.” “Too tight,” he stammers.

A guy with tattoos strolls through the hallway, as my brother and I pass. “These are my kids,” dad says. “They look nothing like you. How’d you get such good looking kids?” tattoo guy says. “Their mother,” dad exclaims while walking closer to his room. “How’s Mommy?” he asks. “She’s alright  . . . busy, working.” A split second of silence before he goes off on the guy whose car window he smashed. How if he doesn’t get his license back, he’s gonna put sugar in his tank. “Dad, no. You can’t do that kind of stuff. That’s not like you.” “Nobody will see.” “How did they see last time?” “That was at night. I’ma do it in the day. Nobody will know. What papers was that in?” “Don’t worry about it,” I say.

The Super Stop & Shop bathroom remembers my father’s hands well. Counting pennies on the floor from parked cars broken into. The doors were unlocked. They were just asking for me to take it. Like taking candy from a baby. That damn box of chocolates. That VISITOR sticker. My jacket’s indefinite rectangle of pills. At least you can’t tell when it keeps getting replaced.

— Kara Imre

***

I didn’t have a bi-polar, depressive man in my life twelve months ago—who has such intense episodes that I am driven to tears at the severity and forlorn misdirection—but I do now. And the longer I stay, the more I love him. We’re a plant that keeps getting revived within an inch of its life; always on the brink of being destroyed, but flourishing just the same.

He’s intelligent, honest, plagued by his romantic past. Bottled anger, pain, irresistible sweetness seeping out occasionally. Has a laugh that elates me every time it rings through my ears, but is countered by a terror in his eyes he slips into his depression. Sideswiping handsome and alarming unstable. Never before has existing been so effortless with someone; we just do it. But sometimes I don’t know what version of him I will get. Sometimes his episodes are short, sometimes lengthy.

The agoraphobia can set in strong, and the depression so severe, it’s frightening. That’s the thing about depression. No amount of rationalizing, encouraging, or even lecturing helps. You feel like Jonah being swallowed whole, alive, now. All you—I—feel you can do is just tough it out. Lead some cradling. Say it’s gonna be OK. So I do. Because I love him.

I feel resentful that he can’t take care of me. My anger occasionally consumes my being, rendering speech useless to attempt resolution. “Fuck this,” I silently mouth with a violent kick while biting back tears on BART. “I want more. I deserve more.” I’ll never know if it’s that he can’t commit to me, or won’t. I don’t know if he will ever love me, or if he will always love her more. All I know is that we need each other. Want one another. My draw to him is uncontrollable. When things are good, things are amazing; and when things are bad, shit goes down. When there’s physical distance at stake, it’s the harshest, and when we’re finally together, it’s still the hardest. I wonder sometimes how much more I can take. When I will stop loving him enough, it will be easier to leave. But I don’t know when that will be.

Knowing odds are stacked against me, I still love him. Because there is still a small, gleaming part of my core that believes we belong together.

What an impossible love.

— Jenn Hernandez

***

All week long they ran riot.

He got fired from his sales job. She dropped out of university the same day. With little money saved and no immediate prospects for employment, they had to scramble to pay the rent that month.

He went into the convenience stores and gas stations.  She waited outside in the car.

Each time he used a different tool.

First it was a can of spray paint. Next it was a used hypo. The time after that it was a child’s water pistol.

Once inside, the script was always the same.

“Give me the fucking money in the fucking cash register.”

It was never any trouble. No clerk working alone on the night shift was going to try being a hero.

He’d jump in the car, pull off the balaclava and she’d tear ass out of the parking lot across the bridge to their tiny apartment on the North Side.

After five robberies they had enough to keep the apartment for another month. They had some breathing room.

It was a chance to figure out what to do.

She wanted to leave town and start a new life. She’d been online and ordered catalogues from universities and community colleges all over the country. She wanted to finish her psychology degree and maybe become a clinical psychiatrist.

His concerns were more immediate. Recently he’d begun injecting heroin. Although he claimed to have control over his habit, moving to another city required focus and determination on something other than chasing his high.

“I love you sweetie but I can’t go anywhere right now,” he said “not this week, not next month.”

“You’re such an asshole” she replied “I can’t go anywhere without you. You know that.”

Invariably he’d shrug, as if that somehow settled things.

He’d go into the bedroom and nod off. She’d pace the living room and make plans to leave.

It was easier said than done. They’d grown up together. Neither could remember a time when the other wasn’t close by.

One day the police came around.

They had a warrant for his arrest, but not hers. She went downtown with him anyway. He did most of the talking. She mostly kept quiet.

The police had an airtight case. After a few hours without his medicine the facts came out: Justin and Justine were the same person.

Their one-man crime wave was over.

— Matt Stranach

***

Few people are macabre enough to think of the end. They will protect their assets—and perhaps their secrets—should the union dissolve in acrid divorce. I know this all too well. I wanted to approach my second marriage in a new light. Love different. That said, we signed our names and became probationary members of Widowhood.

The usage of literature, with respect to my vows, was a deliberate choice. We are both writers, meaning—the lion’s share of our time is devoted to a search for the right word, the perfect texture, to appease invisible critics. We are both introverts, meaning—we build a happy life on the foundation of silence. When she speaks, I listen; when I sit quietly, she hears me. But we do not write poetry for each other, not anymore.

We made a pact to not read too much into the slowing of poems, so long as we understood each other, still. Is it awkward for writers to use their literary powers for anyone, everyone, except each other? It is the awkwardness of spouses: a husband rants in the presence of barflies, a wife hurls plates in the presence of sisters. Yet when husbands and wives sleep, their feet touch, groping for something amid the cacophonous silence.

Athena is the better poet; she can see the lean of a dilapidated library in Alliance, Ohio and say, “It is angled toward Mecca.” Literature allows for interpretation. The writer always has an out, an escape pod labeled “plausible deniability”—I didn’t mean it quite like how you read it, but thanks for trying. I will then interpret her tears as terror personified, more so than a zealot strapped to pipe bombs. She saw the nudity of my vows, the extension of a man, and wept as she thought, “I too see the dread.”

Divorce is the least of our future problems for, if we wish, we could try again with another lover; I know this all too well. I paused as I read the first portion of my vows; Athena heard me. I could’ve saved time and said—“I’ll spend every day waiting for the day you die”—then hand her my finger, waiting for my tungsten wedding band, heavy and spangled.

Boy, you’re gonna carry that weight . . . a long time.

— Thomas Demary

***

I’m one of those fatherless girls, the sort that Freud would have had a field day with and psychology-major boyfriends have. Webster defines “Father” as “a man in natural relation to his child or children.” There’s nothing natural in his lack of relation to my brother, Chris, and myself. I’ve never met the man, and he’s pretty set on believing that my Mom had a boyfriend in the closet who impregnated her with me. He threw lamps at her for this transgression. It seems like the natural reaction. He did a lot of natural things, except the heroin he shot and the crack he snorted and the possessions he pawned to get more of it all. He listened to the voices in his head, the ones whispering in his ear dirty little secrets of boyfriends hidden in the closet and medications he shouldn’t take.

My mom was always honest with my brother and me about our Father—mostly me, since Chris still trembled remembering climbing the tree outside our house in Hollywood, Florida and calling the police so Daddy couldn’t beat Mom to death. I was too young to remember, so she raised me with honesty but too much kindness for his likeness, telling me, “Your daddy was a good man, but he was sick.” She was kind to him, but she moved us illegally across state lines so he couldn’t find us and break the restraining order one more time. I knew well the fear in her eyes.

Her fear spawned mine. I had recurring nightmares in which I got off my school bus and saw him in a lawn chair in our front yard; he would chase me until I woke up screaming. I’m 25 now and stopped having those nightmares years ago. Now I have the ones in which I drive to Florida and see him sitting on a park bench, calm from the burn-out, but when I approach him he sees through me; I’m invisible.

In the day light, when my fatherlessness is no longer illuminated by the light of my unconscious, I remind myself he’s not mine, and I’m not his, but he is me, and I am him.

— Cyndi Waite

***