September 29, 2005
I know that I was angry at L. I remember feeling frustrated and sad, not so much over L., but about the life we had envisioned, that I had started to view as a reality. I found myself mourning the losses that never were -- theoretical, suppositional losses -- the honeymoon we would not spend in Jerusalem; the home we would not set up together; the children we would not have.
L. and I broke off our engagement last year, a month before our wedding date of June 20.
On the day our wedding was to have been, I was intensely aware of the time when we would have been standing under the chuppah, without seeing a clock or watch. My breath stopped, and I stood still, feeling the growing ache in my chest. I spent the day alone, and I cried. And I thought about cosmic meaning and why this was happening to me. And then everything was fine.
It was not a pleasant summer, but June 21 marked a new phase. Once the day of the non-wedding passed, I was able to move on.
It was a weird time. People didn't know what to say. It was not a tragedy; it was not even heartbreaking like a divorce when children are involved. I recognized that. But it did suck.
"Better now than later," people said.
Better still would have been before the invitations went out, guests made plane and hotel reservations and gifts were delivered. As L. was from Colorado but studying in New York, all the gifts had been delivered to my parents' house in New York, and served as a reminder for weeks of what would not be -- until everything could be sorted out. One of the hardest things was having to explain to each person why the gifts were being returned.
I immediately missed having someone in my life; I missed being a couple, interacting with others as a couple, a state I had graduated to after years of singlehood. I had been one of the elite, an engaged man, a living defiance of statistics and the fear of commitment. I missed L.'s smile, and the joy of giving to someone so fully and with such love. How could it have fallen apart so quickly, all in the span of a week?
Of course, hindsight is astounding in its clarity. I was so eager to marry that I made the mistake of getting engaged to the wrong woman. I remain thankful that the marriage did not go through, not because L. is a horrible person -- on the contrary, she is sweet and lovely -- but simply because we were wrong for each other.
I think I agree with what some rabbis say -- that you could get married to 90 percent of the opposite sex and make it work ... but why should you have to? Why not look for the 10 percent who are actually a good fit for you?
All the anger, sadness, frustration have long since dissipated. I can barely recall how excited I was on our first date, or the pain I felt when it was clear things would not work out. Instead, I remember all the wonderful friends -- and people I had not been in touch with for years -- who called to tell me of their own broken engagement stories.
A few months ago, I took apart the scrapbook I had made for L. as an engagement gift, and just this past week, as part of a cleaning spree, I threw out all the pictures I had of her. I don't like throwing out pictures -- something about seeing faces in a wastebasket is eerie -- but I didn't feel right holding onto them. It was the closing of a book, and having not read it for a while, it was slowly fading, the details becoming distant memory, the story a blend of the real and the imagined. June 20 came and went like a dream.
Michael Rose is a New York-based writer at work on his first novel. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.