Flash Fiction

Impossible Odds

Version 2I don’t think it’s love that’s a lie, but maybe the way that we tell it. What are the odds of happiness, anyway? The American Dream seems statistically unlikely, when you think about it.

When I left you I thought it was, in a word, impossible. Impossible to have happened, impossible to live with. Even leaving halfway across the world didn’t seem quite far enough to make you Gone. What followed was a year that didn’t feel real; twelve months in someone else’s job, reminding myself that this suspended foreign reality was temporary, and that I would go home and go on with my life because there were no other choices, even if you wouldn’t be there anymore. I opened the cracked window above my head that slanted over the roof of my little blue room up in the mossy, cloudy spires of Somewhere New, and I thought about my choices. London lay in stone before me- infinite possibility still so limited by time and money and energy. By me. I hadn’t slept in months, between the best and the worst of the last year, and I couldn’t sleep then.

I told the man I was seeing to put out his pungent, rolled Drum tobacco, but I smoked an American cigarette through my window late at the night when there was no one to see. I listened to Love Is A Losing Game, thinking about what it was I had to bet in the first place, until I had memorized her breathing- the spaces in between the sound.

One night when I was walking home from the pub after meeting that same sparkly-eyed, red-headed young London man with a few tattoos and a few more bad ideas, I saw the archway of the house with my attic rented room looming out of the late night mist, and I kept walking. I didn’t have a thick enough coat because I had been trying to look pretty, and the rain was starting to pierce down through the sky and break icily on my skin, but I kept going. I walked straight ahead with That One Song turned all the way up in my ears, unable to stop my feet from carrying me forward because stopping and existing where I was seemed- again- impossible.

The same thing happened to me on the bus back home from downtown the next spring, coming back from some bad therapy where the smug Nice White Lady told me I was “much improved” when I lied smilingly through my teeth about why I couldn’t see her anymore. I barely even tried, and she believed me with a satisfied smile and a handshake that said, “I’ll be sad not to see your check next week, but that was certainly easy. Welcome to Being Normal.”

I sat on the rickety 25 cent bus (were buses really so cheap, then?) back on the other side of the world, rattling along with the doors that didn’t quite close in the warm August sunshine more than a year later, and I couldn’t get off the bus. My stop came closer and closer and all I could think about was how absolutely impossible it would be to pull the lever, to step down from the ridged metal ramp and move my feet back toward another office, toward a city filled with ghosts and a house without you in it. I wondered if it was easy for you, if you could go on as though nothing had happened. What had happened, anyway?

Swaying with the traffic I leaned my head against the warm pane of glass, and I thought about seeing you across the street corner in Manhattan. Your head was glowing, your hands were in your pockets. There was so much both strange and familiar about your face in the dirty twilight, surrounded by strangers. My stomach flew out from under me and I couldn’t stop my face from smiling, couldn’t make my expression decent when I saw you in reach. I pushed ahead into the crowd while the city went on around me and I nearly ran, my heart in my mouth where my words should have been. I don’t remember what I said; all I remember is feeling happier than I had since the last time I had seen your face. Happier even than I had been before.

Perhaps things have changed, and we are no longer who we used to be. Perhaps it really is for the best, as they say. They also say it gets better; but I think I’m what got better. I got better at going on, better at living. Better at doing what I’m supposed to do. I’m no less at odds, no less haunted by thoughts of evenings that never were and mornings that should have been.

There are days I still find impossible; but they happen, all the same.


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