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" Please Allow Me to Introduce Myself | 2009 | Opportunity Knox "

01.16.09 11:31 p.m.

Don't turn away
from possible futures
before you're certain you don't have
anything to learn from them.

You're always free to change your mind and
choose a different future, or
a different

-Richard Bach


Possible Futures

Everyone leaves. Wait long enough and everyone will go, and you let them if you really love them. You have to. Most don't come back, which the aphorism suggests means they were never yours to begin with. You let the majority of these people fade away into nothing more than a number on a profile, at best. You've piled a lifetime of interest upon them under the guise of friendship, but that doesn't even mean they owe you even a goodbye. No matter how you love them (and you do).

Hannah tells me over sushi. She has enlisted in the Navy. She starts in June, doing some manner of electrical engineering. She will spend at least a year in Chicago, undergoing basic training, including boot camp. Then, maybe San Francisco. Maybe not. She has promised the military six years of her life and they have hungrily accepted, offering her a pittance in return.

"How does your family feel about this?" I ask, struggling to find a comfortable ground from which to argue. At least, ground more comfortable than "But Hannah! We love you! Don't leave a Hannah-shaped hole in our lives that we cannot fill."

"My mom was upset, but she has resigned herself to it. My father was in my Navy and his family is excited that I am going to go kill some Iraqis," she replies with a sneer. "I told them I will be far away, repairing the machines that kill the Iraqis, but they didn't see it that way."

"And your family approving of this didn't tell you that it might be the wrong decision?" I know that rural Appalachia holds even less attraction by virtue that it contains her family.

She replies vaguely, noting that Daniel called her a cog in the war machine and quasi-boyfriend Arthur told her that he thought it was wonderful (everything, she says, is just wonderful with Arthur), and we continue other conversations, but I spend the rest of the night returning to this topic as though it were a joke, because I want to find some way in which this isn't going to happen. She has a laminated ID already. The only escape is her simply deciding prior to her ship-off date that this is not the life she wants, something she is disinclined to do because the life she is currently leading is so specifically not one she wants, living with her ex, working a job where she is abused, and dealing with her possibly valid mistrust of the man who occasionally shares a bed with her. To me, it feels like a drastic version of running away, but it isn't for me to decide.

I understand the impulse to run, when you realize that your life is so painfully far from what you know it should be, when you feel trapped by all the bad decisions that seemed so good at the time. But you can't outrun heartbreak, not whether it was a person or a lifestyle, and the only way to overcome is to stand your ground and fight.

Maybe I am judging unduly. The military is right for a lot of people, but it doesn't feel at all right for my Hannah. At the very least, her loyalty to this country is only incidental; she would be just as happy were she Belgian or Australian. I wonder if this is an abdication of decision-making, of letting her fate out of her hands because she feels that being at the reins of her destiny hasn't worked out so far. I've never been in quite her shoes, but I know the style. Taking them off is more than reasonable - they pinch and suffocate - but it never occurred to me to exchange them for boots that look to have shackles. There are far easier escapes than indentured servitude. She could simple move far from the loci of her current problems, which would only take a few dozen miles.

I want to find an out for her, to give her a job and man to love so that she only wishes to run back to us. I want her in my life because I feel oddly understood curled up with her, watching a movie. It is like we have an unspoken agreement that it would never even occur to us to speak, the intimacy my cousins had with one another and to which I always felt an outsider. I feel like I grew up with her and I want to keep growing up with her, even though I am twenty-eight already. I do not want her to disappear from my narrative, only to pop back infrequently, changed and divorced from the beautiful and oddly fragile girl I know. She can gain the strength she needs organically, not by dropping and giving twenty until she breaks to splinters and is reglued for a far different purpose.

Like the terminally ill are advised, I intend to make the most of what time I have remaining with this woman I love like family and not belabor how I feel about this decision and how keen I would be to her rescinding her offer to the military. I have to judge that only she can know and do what is best for her.

Soon in Xenology: Drive. Seeing Emily. Reunion.

last watched: United States of Tara
reading: Confirmation
listening: Regina Spektor

" Please Allow Me to Introduce Myself | 2009 | Opportunity Knox "

Thomm Quackenbush is an author and teacher in the Hudson Valley. Double Dragon publishes four novels in his Night's Dream series (We Shadows, Danse Macabre, and Artificial Gods, and Flies to Wanton Boys). He has sold jewelry in Victorian England, confused children as a mad scientist, filed away more books than anyone has ever read, and tried to inspire the learning disabled and gifted. He is capable of crossing one eye, raising one eyebrow, and once accidentally groped a ghost. When not writing, he can be found biking, hiking the Adirondacks, grazing on snacks at art openings, and keeping a straight face when listening to people tell him they are in touch with 164 species of interstellar beings. He likes when you comment.

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