And yet I cannot light the match

On the eve of my 30th birthday I realize that every answered prayer has really been a choice. I know it may sound self-explanatory but it wasn’t for me. Not until today. We consider an answered prayer as a gift from above, a Deus ex machina. It is an event we supposedly have no power over. A decision made for us by something bigger than us. But what if it isn’t? What if these have all been things we have wanted all along and the element of prayer was simply a means through which we were able to let it go, and finally observe it as it truly is?

The theory of parallel universes comes to mind, and instantly I can see myself leading a different life, one that was the outcome of one single different choice. I’m in another country, a city I’ve never lived in before, consorting with people I will never meet. A rift in the delicate yet formidably encompassing thread of the cosmos has led me there. Here. 

Am I happy-er? Where do I truly belong? Everywhere. But then I start thinking of the unanswered prayer of the person that sits next to me. Is their dream realized under a different set of circumstances in the universe where I live my alternative elsewhere? Or do we unavoidably cross paths in all realities? Could a clairvoyant moment of totality exist, and would we know if we’ve reached it, experienced it, brushed past it on our way to another otherness? 

But if all our lives exist simultaneously, does it mean we are locked within our choice forever? What would happen if we never made a choice? Impossible. We would simply call it fate. Such a fickle little word. A trickery bathed in wonder. A weakness named divine intervention. 

Would you take a glimpse—if you could? And how would that choice alter your locked reality? Would a click-click-click sound unravel a carefully bound thread with which you have cocooned yourself? Better not risk it.

I read a letter I’ve read a dozen times before, but only now do I realize what it truly is. A choice I did not make. A path I did not choose. A life I will not live. I was holding a parallel universe in my hands this whole time. And every time I put it back in its envelope, deep within the drawer, my universe kept shifting one side over, one parallel veiled existence away.

Does anyone else know this? Should I tell someone? But if I unveil this cosmic taunt how will people ever live with their sullen, spectral sundering? No. I will keep this to myself, along with my letter. I never showed anyone this other life of mine. I don’t want it to exist unless I’m reading it alone. It’s the only way it shows itself to me. A magical object it seems; the opening spell being a single tear.

What would happen if I burned it or threw it away? Would the universe’s last glimpses appear before me in the flames? Would ticking sounds play in my head the second I lit the match? What part of me assumes the role of the protector and which of the destroyer? The destroyer of universes. I like that. It’s a powerful image. But if I am still here, does that mean another me is holding on to another magical object? What happens if her destroyer takes over? Do I disappear?

Memories are kaleidoscopic and erratic for a reason. If we remembered everything the way it truly happened we would be different people, and we would probably hate ourselves a little bit more. Volatile and wavering, they allow us to be who we wanted to be. They allow us to shift our past like pieces in a Rubik’s cube, until the colors all align and we feel satisfied and proud of our ersatz eloquence. 

Guilt on the other hand besets you. Entangles you in a harrowing web of memories you weren’t able to rig. We are our own worst enemies. We long to make cute martyrs of ourselves and wallow in our ill-constructed, self-deprived happiness. Every universe I keep. Every single tear I shed. A fruitless contrivance. An empty aught. 

And yet I cannot light the match. 

We assume our choices are final, inescapable… the only way out. So naïve in our existence. So limited. Our self-imposed misery so limitless. 

Prayers are choices we do not realize we make. Djinnies would laugh at our complete and utter failure to make a single conscious choice. Our first instinct always being to wish for more wishes, which we’ve forbidden djinnies from granting. 

Hopeless. Greedy.

How do we allow ourselves to make a happy memory just as powerful as a happy experience, yet magnify a dire moment of the past to the point where its deformity suits our ill-conceived purposes?

The letter breathes steadily, confident I will soon return to it. Time does not affect it as it lives in both universes. Astral remnants hide within my fingertips, and as I touch my face and close my eyes I begin to dream and wonder. Or wander?

But the real question is where do I go from here? I consciously pick up the part of me that’s willing to go on and take the next step. I get out of bed and look at him. Where are you in that other universe? It’s still dark out but I cannot sleep. 
I go downstairs and make some coffee. One teaspoon brown sugar, a pinch of milk, and I take my mug and tobacco kit outside. The moon sits low in the sky, but its light is bright enough to roll a cigarette. 

Is curiosity a euphemism for greed? Is it greed to wonder when you’re happy? Or does everything we are afraid to answer fall comfortably within the realm of human nature? So why would someone call me a liar should I dare to exclaim that I am happy? Not satisfied. Happy. I solemnly swear that I am happy. I dare you to prove me wrong. But first you will define happiness.

You can’t, can you? Your brain waves do. They will let you know the moment you’ve earned it. Oh, you didn’t know? Happiness is not free, it comes with allowing yourself to shed your ego, and bear to stare at your uglier side naked, in the mirror of your choices and uttered words, and not look away in horror. To know ourselves is possibly the hardest thing we have to accomplish in our lifetime. Most of us will never dare to look, others will do so wearing a mask, craftily made of 100% pure fabricated truths. Nothing softer to the ego’s touch than some silky self-appeasing threads of hypocrisy.

I can hear him coming down the stairs. I take a whiff of my cigarette as I hear the balcony door open. I turn to my left and watch his sleepy eyes look at me with some concern. As I stare at my mirror, I smile.

‘I’ll be right there.’

**I wrote this on September 25th, 2012, what now seems like a few lifetimes ago. I finished it in one sitting, at a cafè, late one afternoon while I was killing some time between job no1 and job no2 (after which I had to go home and revise my PhD thesis). I’ve tried publishing this ‘story’ but all my efforts have been unsuccessful so far. Now that I think of it…where would it fit? What literary space could it occupy? It contains a little too much of me. So it shall, from now on, adorn, as it should have all this time, my Dark Matter.

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