7 min read

What If

Sometimes I think of all the discontinued relationships I could have developed with some of the people I know, but never got around to doing it, because I was busy doing something else. I think of all the chances and decisions and of all the seemingly unimportant, yet pivotal moments, such as when you pick up your coat to leave, and he or she is asking you to stay longer. I think of the kind of people you are sorry to meet only once or twice a year, but never seem to break the habit and learn who they really are somewhere in a dark corner of a bar late at night. I think of all the situations that decide about the distance between yourself and somebody you might like to get to know better or to share a strong common experience with.

I am sorry for some of these relationships. I occasionally feel remorse for not doing what I could have done, for not taking chances and for minding my own business while I could have been listening to others, while I could have been spending meaningful time with somebody and actually sharing something personal with them, as infrequent and demanding as that experience might be for me.

I regret never getting closer with some people. But I can’t seem to be able to open up so easily anymore. There is this cynical shadow, this premonitory skepticism haunting me every time I have the chance to, and I can’t seem to find a way around it. Can you? Is it even remotely possible to avoid alienation? Or is this just part of the magic that would get lost the very moment it would become easy to find the time and will to become and remain close with just about anybody you know?

Because it is this magic, this mixture of coincidence, sympathy, timing, and, always, a hint of mystery that eventually determines all the values, the whole meaning of what happens between two human beings, both of them quietly hoping something would happen to them – be it an exchange of a few words, a harmonious friendship, a troubled and short-lived love story, or perhaps a one night stand.

One night stands have always fascinated me. Not only because I’ve never had any by strict definition, but also because of the intriguing concept of pure, uninhibited passion determining the phenomenon in all its puzzling, instinctive nature that seems to depart from any and all other daily experience. This kind of passion and genuine detachment from reason is, frankly, a rather rare occurrence in my life. I’ve grown skeptical to the point of refusal, and although to this day it escapes me both how and why I have turned down the few chances I had, I still am not one bit sorry about what I have (not) done.

Vigilance, care, and, at times really meaningless and counterproductive awareness of the consequences of my own actions stop me from acting. What scares me occasionally is that this holds true for any life context, not only for one night stand situations. In the end, I do nothing, balancing between doubt and pride, indifferent and estranged from the experience of my own self.

All that remains is the vague what if at the back of my head, a question whether or not it would have changed anything, whether it would have changed my daily life in any way, whether or not it would have changed me. I will never know. I probably don’t even want to. It probably wasn’t right, something wasn’t right and these moments were not worth it, they had no meaning to me, no meaning at all. When there is meaning, you will know and your world will, as a rule, turn around completely.

When there is no meaning, there is no point. Nothing at all happens and before you know, it (whatever it may be, sometimes I think it is but an image stuck in your head for some reason or the other) is gone. You forget about it, you forget about them in a few days. There is no pain, no regret. That’s how you know something was wrong and that is the point where you move on. Just like that. We all do, from time to time. Some of us regret it, too. From time to time. Regret, however, is sometimes the only catalyst for change.

Do you really believe that people change? I, for one, am not sure anymore. I am not even sure about whether I change. I have no idea whether I would behave different today, whether I would feel different, whether I would be different in the same situations I have found myself in at some point in the past, alternating between saying empty, meaningless words while contemplating on their possible effects and prognoses all the while looking dull and puzzled from mere existence, and staring into the distance, silent and completely disconnected from the moment through vast bewilderment and hesitation.

I become doubtful by default. At times I feel so swayed, so hesitant, uncertain and biased by my past experience, that I arrive to a point of complete ambivalence and question, where I feel I can neither do anything, nor remain idle.

Still, even for the cost of making the same mistakes over and over again, which I might as well be doing right now (I wouldn’t know), I wouldn’t trade these moments for times of safe stereotype. Overcoming doubt and insecurity and accepting the presence of endless possibility is, however scary and unsettling, always a captivating and an exhilaratingly exciting experience.

I guess it takes a bit of some twisted sense for masochism to enjoy being, from time to time, stressed out by uncertainty at its purest, having trouble sleeping and focusing on your daily routine, on your life as such, while changing feelings, beliefs and convictions by the hour without any external influence or change. But be that as it may, I honestly do, in one way or the other, enjoy the times when the ground seems to disappear from beneath your feet and you are left floating in the void amidst the endlessly various, equally feasible interpretations of your reality. That is, I think, what life really is about. It is not about answers. It is about questions.

I know I will never learn about any of the what ifs. I know I will never get any answers about any of the rejected one night stands, missed chances, early departures or any other moments in which I could have (not) done something different from what I did (not) do within, what was ultimately to become, an (un)pursued relationship of some kind. I know it will not get any better, clearer or easier in the future. I know that it will always be the same, startlingly breathtaking experience to be getting to know someone:

All it takes is a word, a face or a gesture, and everything can become, well…unpredictable as fuck. It is only up to you whether you run from it or towards it. As for me, however more comfortable it would be, however easier for me to cope, however less embarrassing and however more secure about myself and my decisions I could be falling asleep every night, somewhere at the back of my head, I am certain that I don’t want my life to be predictable.

No matter how many times I pity myself under the pretense of irony, no matter how many times I twist my life into a funny story just to be able to cope with it, no matter how many times I seek assurance with my friends just to feel less shitty about myself, no matter how many times I feel like crying myself to sleep, I would not, for anything in the world, trade with anyone else.

Would you?