Changing Lanes

In a car it is a simple enough thing—turn on the blinker, consult the mirrors, swivel your head in a smooth, practiced motion, then move, the car, now headed in a different direction. Almost a muscle memory, an action repeated so many times it’s become simple.

In life, it is usually less so.

I am often drawn, for friendship and otherwise, to bright, extroverted charmers with whom my relationships often have a life span of no more than three months. For many of them, the most exciting thing about a new person tends to be the mystery of it all; once they think they’ve figured out the other person, they lose interest and move on.

They are wrong of course. There is always more mystery. It is impossible to inhabit another person so completely that you know everything about them. I loved a man for more than 15 years, lived with him for 10, yet paging through his papers and sorting boxes of belongings after he died, there were still new revelations, new things to be learned.

Even my creative work reflects this. 10 poems in on fruit flies and I’m still thinking of Muller’s irradiated ones, half a dozen essays considering the meaning of words and there are still more to unpack, more than three dozen poems on love and I’m still not done saying things about it.

And it isn’t the unwrapping that is most enticing for me anyway. I don’t care about the bows, the paper, the flashy tinsel and ribbon. Too much tape, box inside box, and I’m likely to give up. When I care for someone, I like them more the more they reveal, not less. You can see what a thing truly is and still love it, in spite of its flaws, maybe even because of them.

And so I am not good at sudden changes in direction, despite being drawn to people who are. Perhaps it is, after all, part of their charm to me, their go-with-the-flow natures, their ease at moving through the world, their ability to simply let go, all the things I find so lacking in myself.

But when they leave they take something from me, when they leave I learn to open myself up at little less, when they leave I watch the sky, all dark and starless, feel as if the same, all bright spots in me gone dim, the sputtering end of a light bulb just before black.

I am not good at changing lanes.

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