You were going to ask. . .

"Are they worth so much to you?"
"And to me, they are worth more."

Once upon a time, I knew exactly who I wanted. I loved her, I was dedicated to her. Hell, I dreamt about her. She was it. If people asked me to choose (and daily choice was implicit in everything I did) I chose her, every time.

I passed up on more good opportunities than a narcoleptic sprinting through a mattress factory. On more than one occasion I had women throw themselves at me, outright (though I didn't recognize it as such at the time) and looking back, I'm stunned by the nonchalance and detachment with which I rebuffed them.

Now, things are different. After her, there was another. Not one that I would have chosen with the same stubbornness or ferocity, but one that I thought needed me, and one that I would choose with quiet determination because she needed someone to choose her, and that was a way in which I could aide her somehow.

"I think this is not enough. Not enough for two."

At some point while actively choosing the one above, I realized it was a choice that I no longer wanted to make, perhaps one that I had grown to resent through carelessness or my own inability to be patient and strong.

But resent it I did, and so I chose an alternative.

"But sufficient, perhaps for one."

And there is the trick. Because choosing one that was nothing but an alternate for something else led to choosing another alternative, and two years later I've been through so many alternatives I don't remember what the original was. I started starting jumping straight from one alternative to another, having abandoned the concept of 'primary' altogether.

"Ah... you now have --"

Now, none of them would I choose, if the question was posed to me.

It isn't just that I would hesitate. I would be completely stymied. Incapable of action. I see each of them as worthy as the next. And I have carefully made no promises. Each one is truly an alternative for a reality that no longer exists.

"I'm sorry. You were going to ask me to choose, right? Did you want to finish?"

I would find myself in a permanent holding pattern with the simplest of dilemmas: Which one comes home safe with me, and which do I trust enough to leave behind?

And I find myself having promised them that none of them will ever be chosen. That each would be left on the torturer's rack, to end their lives in quiet despair, dreaming of the hope I never offered them but perhaps always seemed to be just around the corner.

Because it occurs to me that I don't think any of them believe my promises, except, perhaps that first alternate. Who, ironically, might become a second round if fate has her way. And truly fate is the cruelest mistress, and might yet force a darkly humorous twist of this sorry state of affairs.

What is this, an attack of conscience? Maybe. But I've got ten bucks and a human ear that says it won't last long.

"What are we gonna do, clone him?"

Conversation from the television show Firefly. Episode 10: War Stories.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006