We met at a bar. He was a friend of a friend; a safe guy to chat to, held accountable for his actions by the group we were with. We talked philosophy, physics, and food, and the conversation was pretty good by my standards. He was tall. A little goofy looking. Verbose. Slightly pretentious, but aware of it. In other words, the perfect candidate for a one-night stand.
When the lights went up and the bartender shouted “last call”, he asked me if I’d like to come home with him. I was a little drunk, but I knew what I was doing when I said yes. We hopped in a City Cab and traveled up Thirteenth Street, took a left and pulled up to a house that straddled an invisible line between Center City and the Fairmount neighborhood–fairly steep rent. I wondered how many roommates he had; by my estimation, he’d need at least five to afford a place like this, so I figured the set-up might be a little cramped. If he shares a room, I’ll peace out. No big deal.
He led me inside like a secret. His enormous frame was crouched over like that of a cartoon burglar, and he felt his way around the (surprisingly cohesive) furnishings without turning on any lights. As we crept to the second floor, I noticed a faint light coming from the crack of a barely opened door. The floorboards creaked as we passed by, and a groggy female voice broke the painstakingly maintained quiet. “Is that you?” It asked.
He motioned for me to proceed to the room down the hall and he widened the crack in the door and slipped in. I was pretty damn confused at this point, but I followed the direction of his extended hand.
He came in moments later.
“Who was that?”
“My Mom. She gets worried when I come home later than I’m supposed to.”
“You live with your parents?”
“Yeah. I mean, it’s a beautiful house, I don’t have to pay rent, and I’m living in the city anyway, so why not?”
I could think of a host of reasons “why not”, but I kept them to myself. This was a one-off kind of thing; who gives a shit if he lives with his parents? At least they kept the place nice, and I might even get breakfast before I did my walk of shame.
We fooled around on the bed, breaking to talk about all kinds of macro things, because what else do you talk about at three in the morning? He started sharing some of his deeper self, and I became fidgety–this
wasn’t going where I wanted it to be going, and if it wasn’t going to go that way, it was time for me to be going. I began studying the cracks in the ceiling. Sensing he was losing me, he thrust his face into my field of vision.
“I can’t believe this is happening,” he said. Nothing’s happening, I thought. Again, I kept my thoughts to myself. “I think I’m falling for you.”
My body tensed–I’d heard those words before. In bed. From someone I’d actually been falling for. Two minutes, he’d said. One minute, he’d said. I love you, he’d said.
“I have to leave,” I said.
The sun was rising. He rifled through his closet to find a coat to give me–a woman’s coat–and I walked out of his parent’s house and left. There were no cabs to be found, so I walked. I walked into Rittenhouse and across the Walnut Street Bridge. I walked through University City and past the restaurant where my ex worked. I walked all the way to my apartment and lay down on my frameless bed. I picked up my phone and called my ex and asked him out to dinner. The rest, as they say, is history.
Stephen Hawking believes in the concept of the multiverse–there are an infinite number of dimensions in which infinite versions of ourselves are living out their lives based on roads not taken. If this is true, each time we make a decision, we conversely choose the other unawares. If I’d stayed at that house that evening, if I’d chosen to fall for another, the life I’m living right now would also exist, but I’d have no conscious knowledge of it. My daughter would exist somewhere as she is right now, but I’d never see her face. Hear her laugh. Watch her cry. How many children do I have in alternate dimensions? Has one of me died yet? Is one of me living in Europe? Is one of me still alone?
These thoughts circulate around the image of a blindfolded woman clutching two swords. She is the fork in the road, the necessary deviation and the necessary selection. Every choice is essentially a blind choice–we have no way of knowing where it will take us. We have past experience and intuition to inform us, but no matter how far we mentally project ourselves, we can never completely predict the future. In The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Milan Kundera asserts, “There is no means of testing which decision is better, because there is no basis for comparison. We live everything as it comes, without warning, like an actor going on cold. And what can life be worth if the first rehearsal for life is life itself? That is why life is always like a sketch. No, “sketch” is not quite the word, because a sketch is an outline of something…whereas the sketch that is our life is a sketch for nothing, an outline with no picture.” When we reach the point of crisis, when we can no longer wait to take action, we go for it and hope for the best. The best doesn’t always happen, but the worst doesn’t always happen either, and apparently, it all happens anyway.
So, “what can life be worth?” Conscious choices, regardless of the unpredictability of their outcomes, do make a difference. They are the ones we reflect on, bet on, and live with. Regretting a choice is not useless if it helps inform future ones. But it is useless if we fixate on it, if we convince ourselves that our lives would have been better if we’d chosen differently. Once we make a choice, it no longer belongs to us–it belongs to the cosmos, belongs to the life of the other us we spawned by making it. My mother always used to say (and I always used to scoff) that life is about making the best decisions you can at the time and living with them. Needless to say, I scoff no more. The Two of Swords reminds us that a choice, once made, cannot be unmade. Therefore, we may as well commit ourselves fully, may as well live the life we created with our choices with conviction. I believe that Kundera’s vision of life can be liberating–if we have no practice run, no point of reference, than we don’t deserve the abuse we dole out to ourselves for making the “wrong” choice. Essentially, there are no wrong choices. Knowing that, I have no regrets.
Love and Light Always,
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