Friday, June 27, 2014

"You Don't Meet Nice Girls in Coffee Shops"

I've got this old copy of The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut - an old paperback with yellowing pages and that deliciously musty, old book smell.

Jason gave it to me back in 2006. I don't know Jason very well, or even really at all, but his name is inscribed on the inside cover of the book along with his number and email address. (Facebook wasn't a big thing yet. Neither were Kindles).

I met Jason - whose last name is a mystery - one night in coffee shop where I was sitting alone, reading a different Vonnegut novel. He asked me how I was liking it, (I was loving it), and being a Vonnegut fan himself, struck up a conversation - one of those genuinely interesting, unforced conversations that occur mostly when you've had either just enough caffeine, just enough alcohol, or just enough sleep. 

As I got up to leave, Jason said I should borrow his copy of Sirens to read. I said I didn't know how I'd get it back to him. Then he wrote his information inside the book and handed it to me with a smile.

Pretty smooth.

I didn't call him, though. I knew what calling him would mean, and I was already seeing someone with whom things had just gotten serious. I never ran into Jason again, and I don't really remember what he looks like. The book sits on my shelf now, between Tolstoy and Woolf, and, not often, but every once in awhile I wonder what if I had called that Jason.

It's not unlike that silly old romcom Sliding Doors, that one with Gwenyth Paltrow? (I know, I know). In the movie, her life goes one way if she makes the train one morning, and goes a very different way if she doesn't. We get to see both variations. Hilarity ensues.

Well, so far, my life has gone a way in which I'm pretty damn satisfied. I've got a roof, I'm not hungry, I get and give love, I'm artistically fulfilled. A little bit more money would be great. But the relative hardship and significant heartbreak I've suffered on my way to the this current moment has given me a backbone to be proud of.

Still, it's a very human thing go about "what-iffing." Many of our choices are influenced not only by our needs and ambitions, but by our various relationships, and I wonder, at times, how my life might be different had they been influenced by a different choice in that coffee shop, or by different choices made at myriad other unassuming crossroads. 

Would I be living in South America now? Would I be a rich divorcee in a Texas mansion? Would I have become a social worker? Would I have five children? Or would it not have mattered at all, and I'd be in the same place that I am today, same person, same neuroses, same happiness?

I don't get too far down that rabbit hole before I discover that it's a pointless and imaginary one. In regards to the past, "What if" is a useless thought because there is no rewind button. There is what you did and what you didn't do, and the consequences there of. For the past, there is no "What if." There is only the "What." And this, this right here and right now is the "what." This is what. 

Going forward...who knows?

So there Sirens of Titan sits on my shelf, full of expired possibility, for which I have no regrets. 


No comments:

Post a Comment