Engaged

K. S. Anthony  

Copyright 2016 by K. S. Anthony

Photo supplied by K. S. Anthony.

This isn't a new piece of writing, by any means. I wrote it in November or December of 2010, just before heading to New York for school.

People always ask me who I wrote this about. I didn't write it about anyone. It was inspired by a rather awkward (but really, what in my life isn't slightly awkward?) goodbye in a New England coffee shop one morning. There was a pile of newspapers between us. The colors of autumn had returned. I didn't know what the Hell to say to her. I suppose I loved her in a very damaged way. And that was that. I never saw her again.

I have no idea if she's ever read it or not: we haven't spoken in years.

Its predictably sad history aside, "Engagedreflects a fear that I've carried around with me for as long as I can remember: a fear of living subjunctively under the burden of the past conditional, of considering what might have been, of regretting some decision in such a way that I might wish for a do-over, another chance. "Engaged" both entertains and resists that...but it doesn't exorcise the fear of being forgotten, made obsolete, becoming replaceable.

Knowing that doesn't change that fact that I tend to do that to myself. It's a self-fulfilling prophecy. I wrote the second part of "Engaged," -- which is arguably a better piece of writing -- as a way of trying to ward off that tendency. There's actually a third part, as well. I don't have a copy: it was scrawled into a notebook that belongs entirely to someone else. I remember writing it, but I don't remember a word of it. I'm not sure I want to.

But enough of that. Read it and consider the ones closest to you, then put this away and remember it.  

The engagement will be in the New York Times or in Town and Country, maybe both. The typical society engagement announcement.

She, the daughter of He and She of Here, is marrying Him III, the son of Him II and Her, of There. She is...

And you stop.

Because you knew her once. No more, of course. The woman in the photograph bears only the slightest resemblance to the girl you knew. She's changed her hair. You don't recognize that dress or the way she holds herself in the posed picture, turning towards the camera, smiling as she places one hand on the lapel of his jacket as he looks at her the way think you might have looked at her once, too, before he turns to the camera, beaming as the shutter clicks.

You looked at her once and adored her.

She is older certainly, but not old. She's still young and when you do the math and read the cold black copy you realize that it has been eight years since you spoke to her and that she went to Harvard Law instead of becoming a painter and that somewhere you really did lose her without really knowing you did or how or why. You had Paris for a season and she had London and Rome for a year, but even before that, the letters became less frequent and the emails became shorter, more sporadic, and finally you realized that you hadn't talked or heard from her in weeks.

And that is when you realized that you would never be standing in that photo.

And you sit there with your coffee and your croissant, just a few streets from where you'd meet for tea, a block from where you kissed her the first time, and you wonder, not for the first time, if she ever thinks about you. That's what you're thinking about when you leave the magazine or the newspaper on the chair and walk out into the fall remembering that you loved her once.

Realizing that you love her still.

You sit in the park and unfold the photograph torn from the page. You fold him away and look at her and remember. Her lips have not touched yours in nearly a decade but you know what it feels like to kiss her. Your hands have not curved around her waist as you pulled her toward you in some lost November, but you know what it is like to hold her.

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.

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