The Improbability

You’d forgotten what it’s like—the “soul-click,” that moment when you meet what should be a stranger, but instead, seems like a person you’ve known all your life. It’s as Sigrid Nunez says, “My skin remembers him.” So simple. You’d forgotten it could be that simple. It’s been years since it’s happened, and here it is, now, once again. The same, but different, and damn it, how you want to believe in it—that maybe it will be this easy—but there’s a weight of knowledge in you now that won’t allow it. You think of Sandra Beasley, saying, “Sometimes a handful of / light is mistaken for love.”

And yet, C.S. Lewis says, “Remember your fairy tales. Spells are used for breaking enchantments as well as for inducing them.” Perhaps this soul-click is now, for the first time, the real thing, and all the ones before it were merely illusions. It would be nice to believe that, wouldn’t it? Believe, and give in, and not hear Maggie Nelson echo in your ear: “I admit that I may have been lonely. I know that loneliness can produce bolts of hot pain, a pain which, if it stays hot enough for long enough, can begin to simulate, or to provoke—take your pick—an apprehension of the divine.”

It’s true. It can. You’ve seen it many times, in others and especially in yourself. It’s made you wonder what you’ve missed, as Rilke points out, “Weren’t you always / distracted by expectation, as if every event / announced a beloved?” But you’re done with all that, were done long ago, and this, here, came out of nowhere—unasked for, unexpected, though if you’re being honest, you’ve long been intoning Frank O’Hara: “I wanted to be sure to reach you; / though my ship was on the way it got caught / in some moorings. I am always tying up / and then deciding to depart.”

You wonder if you’re a fool. You wonder if this is another of fate’s cruel tricks. You think once again about leaving, ask as Amy Sackville asks, “Why did we come here? Is this far enough?” But you can’t run forever. Your legs will give out, and the questions will still be at your heels. How you want one good answer—one yes to end them all. How you want what Mary Oliver wants: “to think again of dangerous and noble things…. / to be improbable beautiful and afraid of nothing.” If you’re afraid of anything, it’s that you’re burdened with too much knowing to believe in the improbable.

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