Sometimes you imagine that everything could have been different for you, that if only you had gone right one day when you chose to go left, you would be living a life you could never have anticipated. But at other times you think there was no other way forward--that you were always bound to end up exactly where you have.
But love doesn't always generate hope. Anyone who has ever experienced love knows that you can have too much love or too little. You can have love that parches, love that defeats. You can have love measured out in the wrong proportions. It's like your sunlight and water--the wrong kind of love is just as likely to stifle hope as it is to nourish it.
How often, you wonder, has the direction of your life been shaped by such misunderstandings? How many opportunities have you been denied--or, for that matter, awarded--because someone failed to see you properly? How many friends have you lost, how many have you gained, because they glimpsed some element of your personality that shone through for only an instant, and in circumstances you could never reproduce? An illusion of water shimmering at the far bend of a highway.
You remember having friends who used to lampoon the world so effortlessly, crouching at the verge of every joke and waiting to pounce on it, and you remember how they changed as they grew older and the joy of questioning everything slowly became transformed into the pain of questioning everything, like a star consuming its own core.
Occasionally, in the stillness of a taxi or an airplane, she would catalog the pleasures she had lost. Cigarettes. Chewing gum. Strong mint toothpaste. Any food with hard edges or sharp corners that could pierce or abrade the inside of her mouth: potato chips, croutons, crunchy peanut butter. Any food that was more than infinitesimally, protozoically, spicy or tangy or salty or acidic: pesto or Worcestershire sauce, wasabi or anchovies, tomato juice or movie-theater popcorn. Certain pamphlets and magazines whose paper carried a caustic wafting chemical scent she could taste as she turned the pages. Perfume. Incense. Library books. Long hours of easy conversation. The ability to lick an envelope without worrying that the glue had irritated her mouth. The knowledge that if she heard a song she liked, she could sing along to it in all her dreadful jubilant tunelessness. The faith that if she bit her tongue, she would soon feel better rather than worse.