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The Impossibility of Love

heart hands
Mayur Gala/Unsplash

On finding love in a hopeless state.

I hate romantic comedies.

I hate romantic comedies because people like me are never the stars of romantic comedies. I'm a sassy black gay so I'm the sassy black gay friend. Or neighbor. I'm a great sassy neighbor. But no one cares if the sassy neighbor is getting some. We just add a little, ahem, color to the main action, the love story between What's Her Face and That Guy from Whatever. Our romances are left in the background, off-camera, or on the cutting room floor.

But I didn't always hate rom coms. My favorite growing up, because I'm 800, was The Philadelphia Story, starring Katharine Hepburn as a frigid bitch who, thanks to the competing affections of Cary Grant and Jimmy Stewart, learns she's not so frigid or such a bitch after all.

the philadelphia story

I could easily relate. Back in those days, 1940, they knew how to make romantic comedies. They didn't feel like tedious exercises in cliche--by the way, thanks for that, Kate Hudson. Films like The Philadelphia Story, or 1960's The Apartment--in which a charmingly neurotic Jack Lemmon falls in love with a charmingly suicidal Shirley MacLaine--gave me my first ideals of love. They made love seem reparative; life-changing, life-affirming, life-saving.

the apartment

They made love seem possible.

For a romantic comedy to work, there must always be the possibility of love. Despite any and all obstacles, the audience must believe that true love A.) exists, and B.) will conquer all.

I started dating comparatively late, around my early-20s, but I soon became accustomed to love's impossibility. Here I am, 30 (or 800, depending whom you ask) and I've never been in love, never been in a relationship, never had a boyfriend, serious or otherwise. Whenever I tell people that, reactions range from pity to abject horror. More than once I've thought I would have to escape to a castle tower with torch-wielding villagers gaining at my heels simply because I was an unconfirmed bachelor.

The reasons for this chronic singledom are myriad and complex, but in short, love remained only something I read about, sang along to, repeated lines from; something I experienced only secondhand, or in short, all too fleeting, but ultimately disingenuous bursts. With each failed attempt, I divined that my desire drove people away. So I became afraid of my own feelings and their unwavering intensity.

the philadelphia story

It was just too much--for me, let alone any boy on whom I set my voracious sights. But those boys, they never saw me anyway. Not really. They didn't see or care to see my complexities, or the vein of hurt that ran deep, but not as deep as the wellspring of love that bubbles up with joy within me from time to time without reason or provocation.

Then for the last two months, I felt seen. I felt like I was finally the star of my own romantic comedy. I felt that love was possible. Because he was possible, this boy of my dreams that somehow manifested himself before me, not on Grindr or Scruff where dreams are just that, but in the real world.

Who are you?

Where did you come from?

Where have you been?

I didn't know boys like you existed.

The question then inevitably turned to, When are you leaving? Of course--the impossibility of love--I met him two months before he had to leave the country. He was here doing research, his time was finite, he was well aware, and I was well aware, but I fell anyway, as I knew I would. How could I not? And why shouldn't I? He made me want to believe, despite the impossibility of the situation, that not every boy is a potential hurt waiting to happen.

If this was a romantic comedy, I would have flown halfway around the world to be with him, showing up at his front door with just one suitcase looking flawless despite a 13-hour flight.

the apartment gif

Then, I would've found out he's secretly engaged, or his family hates me, or there's a curse preventing us from being together. We'd breeze through some shenanigans, some hackneyed comedic devices, maybe a musical number (definitely a musical number), and I win him over before the closing credits.

But life is not a romantic comedy, and nothing is that easy. While I played out these various fantasies in my head, I slowly came to terms with what him leaving would mean. It wasn't love, it couldn't be, I was smart enough to know that. Because he was leaving and he knew he was leaving, dating and certainly love were not options--he's far more pragmatic than I--so it wasn't love. It was hope. I had found hope in him, this dream made reality, and I worried that with him my hope would also leave the country for an indeterminate period of time.

I saw him for probably the last time last night, we went to a book reading. Some author, her name escapes me at the moment, read a short story by Haruki Murakami, "On Seeing the 100% Perfect Girl One Beautiful April Morning." I thought it was new to me, until it seemed all too familiar. As he stood next to me, the author read:

They were not lonely anymore. They had found and been found by their 100% perfect other. What a wonderful thing it is to find and be found by your 100% perfect other. It's a miracle, a cosmic miracle.

I was too shy or too afraid to look over at him and wonder if he thought I was that 100% perfect other, or who had been that in his life. Had it been anyone else in mine? No, not that I had met, no matter how much I had wanted to believe it at the time.

As they sat and talked, however, a tiny, tiny sliver of doubt took root in their hearts: Was it really all right for one's dreams to come true so easily?

And so, when there came a momentary lull in their conversation, the boy said to the girl, "Let's test ourselves--just once. If we really are each other's 100% perfect lovers, then sometime, somewhere, we will meet again without fail. And when that happens, and we know that we are the 100% perfect ones, we'll marry then and there. What do you think?"

"Yes," she said, "that is exactly what we should do."

And so they parted, she to the east, and he to the west.

And so we parted.

I don't know if he was my 100% perfect other, but he made me believe again that such a person exists. It's not the best ending--I didn't even get my damn musical number--but it'll have to be enough. At least for now.

GIFs and schmaltz |Les Fabian Brathwaite

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Les Fabian Brathwaite