Readers Report Back From… Impossible Love

By

As the snow falls around us, I wish he would take my hand.

But he is like a ghost, always skirting just out of reach. I am never quite sure whether the world is too little with him, or he is too little with the world. He is smoke. From a distance he takes the shape of a real, solid man—perhaps the most solid I’ve ever known. But if I stretch my hand too close, he scatters into mist.

Against my better judgment, I love this creature of smoke and contradiction. I love him even though I have nothing of him but words. The words have been life to me. They have been joy, laughter, sorrow. This world of words belongs only to the two of us. I love him even though words are all that will ever pass between us.

This love was no accident. I chose to love him even though I know the only possibility is pain. I chose to love him because I think perhaps this time what I have to give is more important than what won’t be received, what I have never received. I chose to love him because to love him is for the first time in my life to be true to myself.

I know words are all I can have, and not even the few I yearn to hear. I accept that he is a creature of smoke, uncapturable.

But in this moment, standing mere feet apart in the snow, I wish he would take my hand, just so I could know he is real.

He nods, smiles a half smile, and drifts away.

— Michelle Dupler

***

Remembering her voice as she says “It won’t work, you have a wife and child, and besides, I’m a lesbian.”

“I love you.”

“I’m quite fond of you.”

Trying to reconcile those words with the way it feels when you look into her eyes, see her smiling at you, your heart ready to explode, her warm body naked under the covers in the dead of winter.  When she tells you that dates with you are perfect, that they should all be like this.

Talking for hours and it seems like minutes.

Losing yourself completely in the spaces between you, the way they narrow to nothing and expand to encompass inches, miles, worlds.

Realizing you’d forgotten what it felt like to care, to want anything this much.

Listening to Dylan sing “Simple Twist of Fate,” on repeat, the impact a little different each time.

Sunlight hitting your faces at a festival, alone together in the crowd.

Always being two places at once, cognitive dissonance, airtight alibis, keeping the stories straight.

Saying I’ll leave if you want me, I’ll leave and never look back.

Understanding you’ll always need her more than she’ll ever need you.

Crying—when you happen to glance at a book she bought you, when you hear “I Will Always Love You,” in the background of a television program, when you allow your thoughts to drift to one of those moments you shared, encased in your mind’s eye and perfected by memory like a pearl formed inside an oyster.

Wanting to forget. Wanting to never forget.

Dying a little every time you check your e-mail and she hasn’t responded.

Texting, more texting, drunk texting, wondering if your wife knows. Not caring anymore if your wife knows.

Learning to stop worrying about forever and enjoy the time you have.

Telling yourself love is love, impossible love is still love.

Trying to move on. Failing to move on. Keep trying. It seems impossible.

But then you do.

— Anonymous

***

and then I will ask you if it is beautiful.

somewhere in this city
is a cathedral made of junk
in a backyard, rumored to be on the east side
people describe it as garbage—an eyesore; and
majestic—lovely as a Pollock

we could walk through those narrow paths swept clean
of leaves, the grass green and cut close,
marveling at the walls
made of detergent bottles, umbrella tines, elk antlers,
coffee cans blooming with oxide and grime—stacked tight like bricks
winding and curving the way
leading us through the architecture of a man’s obsession with
order from chaos

there—
next to the tower of old televisions
gray fish eyes bulging and expressionless,
an altar framed in bicycle wheels
that glint when the sun is high and bright—
I would like to stand with you
quietly and just
look
for a moment or two

at the colors and shapes of brokenness, rust, dirt, and decay;
at the folly of trying to hold on to things;
at the careful constructs, the propping one thing against the other
until pieces become archways, apses, naves;
at the awkwardness of seeing someone else’s love
gaping open like church doors

— Chelsea Biondolillo

***

Best time of year: early dark, nowhere to be.

Bringing my red notebooks and my postcards, my little camera.

Arrival into the rain and into the tumult of loving you.

In a black beret and a scarf printed with shibori, in a long narrow dark wool overcoat, the child in your arms wears red.

In terms of verbs, roam is the answer.

Paris upside-down in a heartbeat.

You walk through the turnstile. Now, on the other side, you go places I can’t see.

Migration after death of the body, known or unknown?

Your letters arrive without the requirement of light or sound. Scratchings on a glass negative.

What would it mean never seeing the white dog next door lift its leg again?

Wool coat overheating.

The confines of this country, its double coast, its non-island status.

In two hours the lamps and lights in the trees are on.

Go and sit in a café again and think about what you saw.

In the distance, your window.

There is warmth about all this that has nothing to do with climate.

I can’t put my finger on it.

Despite my pedestrian features, I go and walk in the Marais.

Someone follows along and picks up every scrap of paper. A lesson in cataloging.

[Here she has written seven bars of an unrecognizable song.]

In line for the Eiffel Tower I think I see someone I know.

A man in a star mask intervenes: dangerous to look. Dangerous to think you know.

The Musée du Quai Branly nods agreement.

I head out, but does that mean another day in places I don’t know?

A shrug into the dark coat.

The thing I like is that even though I’m not beautiful no one protests if I sit outside Cluny.

All these years I’ve trusted in the postal system to carry messages.

I’ve been waiting for someone with a scarf like that to come over here and say, oh yes, it’s you.

Only a collection of copper plates for intaglio.

What part of the body does the hand belong to? Heart? Brain?

I’m making invisible lines on parts of the city I see. The parts I don’t see are lined with footsteps of people I’ve never met.

A red carp kite flutters from an upstairs window.

Let me know what you think, I write. Are you coming to Paris?

Éireann Lorsung

***

I saw her picture in a LIFE magazine from 1980 when I was in high school.  I’d bought the magazine at a yard sale, part of a bundle, in 1985. Eventually I lost the others. It wasn’t even a big picture, but I liked her smile. I liked how comfortable she looked in her uniform, the way she draped her fingers over an art book. I figured the smile had something to do with how incongruous the art book was on a dormitory cot at West Point.

In 1992 I fell for a woman at the bookstore where I worked. She was new and I would go stand by the training room’s fishbowl window and watch her. She had creases ironed in her jeans, and a lot of neatly pressed shirts. I left notes in her mailbox. She wrote back. We talked about our lives, and she mentioned West Point, and I mentioned the magazine, which I was still carrying around. It was her, in that picture: the first woman to graduate from West Point. I spent an evening steaming up her car windows, trying to get her to make that smile. She told me I was too young and anyway, she was with someone else.

I met a different girl in a dyke bar parking lot, and we moved to Chicago, then Portland, and found suburban lesbian paradise with dog, yard, babies. The West Point girl stayed in Colorado and had suburban lesbian paradise, mountain ski lodge edition. She was a terrible correspondent, but I was only a degree or two better. I sent her postcards and, later, emails. I avoided visiting because I knew the pining would show.

In 2004 I stopped avoiding her. The collision turned everything around us into Dresden, all destroyed and burnt down.  She said Come here. I said Yes. We made plans. She changed her mind. There are spots all over Portland where I parked with my cell phone, weeping, beseeching. She changed her mind five times, but I won her.

We moved to New York, and then Baltimore. I told her I had to transition from woman to man. She said she would be “consummately okay” with that. Now I am a gay man, and she is a queer woman. We have known each other for almost 20 years. I still have my magazine, and she has not changed her mind.

— Rafe Posey

***

So here’s what you do. If you like authors, pick someone impossibly smart and famous with as many published books as possible. Read these. Look at the dust-jacket pictures and decide that s/he are hot as can be. For a higher likelihood of success, pick a live person. The dead ones will let you down, though are equally if not more impossible to acquire. Still, you like hope. Keep some hope. Begin a flirtatious correspondence as some kind of entity who deserves good attention, kind feelings, reciprocity. A struggling student with a missing leg, for example. A working class mother whose life view has been informed and broadened by said author’s genius, for another.

Determine that the flesh is meaningless, but talk about it all the time anyway. To the impossibly smart and famous person. Like you want it all the time. From them. Hell, they’re not real. The more they half-assedly respond, amp it up. Why not? Even if they are real, it’s an impossible love, baby. You’ll never meet them. Pick ones who are married. Pick ones who are gay—and batting for whatever team you are not on. Your impossible love will be of the best variety—that never to culminate! That ever to reach lift-off!

Remember it’s the dream that matters.

Practice tantric sex positions by yourself, as if they were with you, because you are man or woman enough to IMAGINE. Let this impossible love object/idea/not real person improve your life.

If you are corresponding regularly, hey—decide to fix your teeth and fitness for him/her. Why not? They can’t even see you. Honest. Also, later, such improvements will increase your likelihood for being hit upon by non-impossible loves, as if you wanted those. In the meantime, make wild speculations about fantasy trips and voyages.

Continuously assert that your impossible love can be multi-faceted. Tell him/her every possible thing about you as if they were a diary you wrote to. Decide they are the best person who ever lived.

Now, here’s the hard part: Take the letdown when they suddenly let you go—and for next to no reason—and you can’t go pound on their door because that is the province of possible loves. Realize you thought something was possible, the impossible possible, but it wasn’t possible, none of it. Return to the construct of thought that begins with: If I never knew them well, I never knew them.

Take solace. Your love was at its height when it felt most impossible and it’s still impossible, just more so, zenithed way out into highly unlikely in this universe, buy a lotto ticket. Consider athletes next time. Unattached. Buy baseball cards! Lots of them. Of the new beloved! Hey, worst cast scenario, if your dream doesn’t come through with a famous base-baller who wants a woman half your age with double your breasts, you can at least make lots of little boys happy, handing out baseball cards like candy on the subsequent Halloween, smiling at them, hoping they’ll have their own impossible little loves—for humility, for their good as people—because that would only be fair. Though you don’t mean them any harm. But you feel guilty fantasizing their possible comeuppances in a schadenfreude kind of bent. So you load them up with candy, too, as they go. Small consolation. For the road. For the endless, impossible road.

— Heather Fowler

***

The “Readers Report Back From…” Series is edited by Susan Clements.

Rumpus original art by Jason Novak.