I. THE AGONY OF INDECISION
It’s well-documented and easily observable that when a person is presented with a large number of choices, they experience more difficulty choosing and are more likely to feel regret about their choice afterwards.
* * * * *
Since you never ask,
what I would like, for a change
is to just lie on our backs,
and watch the flowers grow.
But don’t you just love to talk
about how you really have to go?
Maybe in silence,
we would have had a chance.
But you tell me about your day
looking into someone else’s eyes on a screen,
and your laugh lives in an acronym
that has never rolled in the grass
or made a pass at a pretty girl
in a silly summer dream.
If you held my hand,
you would’ve seen
my fingers bloom like flowers
into a forest more beautiful
than the future.
But across the ocean
tall buildings wait for you,
bright lights blink and flash for you,
the top of the world caves for you.
I hear over there, rooms smell like real lemons,
and the fruits are like golden suns
that hang from leafless trees.
I wish we could just watch the flowers grow.
Maybe in a time warp we’d have had a chance.
Maybe in a horse-drawn cart we’d have had a chance.
Maybe without electricity, or light, we’d have had a chance.
Maybe in the limited vicinity of disability,
or in helpless blindness,
or the tightness of poverty,
we’d have had a chance.
You never settle, you tell me,
as you scour the grocery shelves
for the biggest, freshest watermelon-
greener pastures, first world adventures-
Don’t worry, you say
with technology today,
it’ll be like I never even left.
But there’s nothing like seeing
the reflection of the sky
in someone else’s eyes,
and how the little hairs on an arm stand
when you brush gently against them.
The advent of technology you say,
Your dream is a draft
that will snatch you from me.
Maybe in war, we’d have had a chance.
Maybe in peace, we’d have had a chance.
Maybe before aviation, we’d have had a chance.
But we’ve always loved airports
and the vastness of runways,
so you make me take you to the gate
when I wish we could just stay
in this tired old lobby,
smelling fake lemon Glade
sipping cheap coffee,
watching the plastic flowers grow.
There hasn’t been anyone before or since L.B. who so accurately expresses the schisms inside me.
At 17 I read this poem with perfect understanding and sympathy.
At 20, I revisited it with horror and disdain at a past self who could selfishly wish for circumstances so miserably limiting just to get somebody to stay with her.
I’m reading it again, now, with the tender and resigned melancholy that’s enveloped me for the past week or so.
* * * * *
III. DATING AND THE ONLY EXCEPTION
Why doesn’t anybody stay? I keep thinking of those rooms in The Only Exception music video. She was looking for the true meaning of love. She dressed and sat down to a romantic dinner with a guy. But before they could talk, another guy behind him touched his shoulder and he got up and left. There was a long line of guys waiting to have dinner with her, none of whom would stay long enough to get to know her.
That’s what dating feels like now.
There were several rooms, each representing an idea of love that she considered and rejected. In the end she ran back through all the rooms to the first one, to the boy she’d left sleeping, to the true love she couldn’t fully appreciate until she had seen everything else.
What would be that first room for me – the first time I could say I felt true love? Only C. – but it is completely impossible to go back to that now, of course. It’s been years and years and I think she regards her short time with me as some kind of unfortunate temporary insanity. She scrubbed everything, you know. It’s like I never existed.
It’s also possible that I’m just romanticizing the train wreck of a relationship that ended with cheating, a nervous breakdown, near-dropouts, and a near-firing. I mean, I wouldn’t discount that.
There’s a guy who made a documentary about baby geese. He was the first thing they saw when they hatched, new and damp in the sun. They followed him around, obsessed with him, watching his every move, in love with him.
WHY WE BROKE UP
Perhaps humans weren’t made to live in cities. There are too many choices…
I thought I had finally found someone who could look past the superficial – who would sit down across from me at that dinner table in that room and talk with me until the candle burned down and everyone else had tired of waiting their turn.
In the night she would sometimes reach for me in her sleep. How did she know where I was?
It’s difficult to accept that there isn’t one single objective right choice, that the right choice is just simply the one you make and stand by.
Because that just means I chose someone who didn’t choose me back.
Ladder and lattice the reasons. Too young. Too old. Volatile. Cold. Whatever.
It was a decision, made under those conditions.
It’s a bitter pill to take, if only because of those arms reaching for me in the dark.
What makes them think that long line is anything to be desired? That it should make anyone feel better to know that someone else is always waiting their turn? I’ve used that to comfort myself, and it’s just oh so empty. I’d give anything if it were possible at all to go back to that first room, to leave this all behind, and find someone waiting there – “I’m here, I never left.” Impossible.