Gottfried Leibniz theorized that God has the possibility of hundreds, thousands, millions of universes but only one of these universes can actually exist. God chooses one reality for us, and because God is innately good, the timeline that God chooses is the best option. God picks the best of all possible worlds for us to live in.
We met when we were young.
I used to think that we met when we were too young — that we would inevitably break up because we grew up or grew apart or just didn’t grow together.
People would always ask when we were getting married. I never had an answer because I couldn’t fathom spending the rest of my life with someone I met at 18. I used to trivialize the question.
“Well, how can I marry him if my heart belongs to you?”
“Marriage? I’m just in this relationship for the 30% off at Banana Republic.”
You see, I never thought about us growing old together, but sometimes I imagined us interacting when we were older.
I imagined what it would be like if we had met at 25. We would have met through mutual friends at a bar in New York. You’d be working retail and living in a borough, I’d be visiting from Boston.
Our friend would ask, “You two don’t know each other? How?”
I’d order a Manhattan and nervously make a lame joke like, “When in Rome.” You’d give me a sympathetic smile and order the same. You would try to pay, but I would be fast with my card and you are cute, so I wouldn’t want to owe you anything.
You would have laughed at my jokes. I would have told too many and talked too much because hey, that’s kind of my thing, and come on, aren’t my physical imperfections less noticeable when you’re laughing at what I say?
You would have bought another round of bourbons without me noticing and I would have thought about how full your lips were before looking away and talking to someone else. Six months later, you’d call me out of the blue because you’re stranded in Boston for the night. We’d have dinner. I wouldn’t go home with you because you live in New York and the last thing I need to do is get attached to another man who doesn’t live near me. We’d promise to see each other soon, but instead, we’d just Gchat on and off for the next two years.
I imagined what it would be like if we had met at 33, when we had more experience and more money. We would have met somewhere obvious, like a coffee shop or a bodega. I would drop my money and you would help pick it up, because you are gentle and kind. At 25, you would have simply walked away thinking about that cute girl at Tito’s, but at 33, you would ask for my number. We would have dinner. We would have drinks. We would have museums. We would have movies.
We would have more dinner.
We would have breakfast.
We would have all those adventures we talked about as 20-year-olds.
We would have five years together before we find out that we just can’t make it work.
I imagined what it would be like to meet at 45. My daughter Ava and your son Sam would both take karate lessons. I’d be sitting in the waiting room of the dojo with my iPhone 12G. I had to leave work early to pick her up, but as my daughter will tell you, Mommy never actually stops working. My husband would still be at the office and I would be sitting there alone because Ava is our one and only. Turns out the 19-year-old fears I used to tell you about in the comfort of my twinkle-lit dorm room were correct: Reproductive issues seem to run in my family. You’d be there with Sam’s three siblings, Joseph, Abe and Sarah. Sarah would walk up and sit in the chair next to me. She’d stare at me until I look back and smile.
“Your shoes are pretty.”
You would run over and grab her, smiling an apology at me. I’d look back and say, “Thank you. I love your dress.” In this scenario, it is a week before Halloween and Sarah is dressed as Cinderella.
We would all make polite chitchat until Ava and Sam come out of their class. I’d see you every Thursday for the next 12 weeks. In the spring, Ava would decide to give up karate and take tap classes instead.
I imagined what it would be like to meet at 76. I’d be sitting in the cafeteria of George Washington Hospital, drinking coffee. My eyes would be red and swollen, but dry. It would not be my first day at the hospital and it would not be my last. Newspapers had a huge resurgence in 2050, I’d slowly be working on the New York Times crossword puzzle.
I’d look up and you’d be standing over my paper. “Excuse me?”
“Five down. Happenstance.”
I’d look down at my paper. You are correct. You’d ask if it’s okay to sit down and I wouldn’t be able to say no; that would be rude.
We would sit in silence for 15 minutes before you’d ask me my name. We’d talk for the next hour about everything, except the reasons that we are both at the hospital. I’d check my watch and realize that it is time to go.
I’d get up to leave and you would hug me. Even though you are a smaller, older man now, your hands are still strong against my back. The sensation would be familiar and my body would succumb to it for just a moment and let go. You see, this would be the most physical contact I have had in seven weeks — as long as I’ve been visiting the hospital every day.
The next morning, you’d be sitting at the same table with two coffees and two crossword puzzles.
Two weeks later I would no longer have a reason to come to the hospital.
We met when we were young.
We were 18 years old and two weeks into college. Despite your orange gym shorts and tie-dyed T-shirt, I thought you were cute. We saw each other on the T and talked about how awesome Boston is and what concerts were coming to the Paradise and which stop the baseball house party was at and all of other things that are exciting at 18.
We used to get out of class at the same time on Mondays and Wednesdays. My class normally got out five minutes earlier than yours, so I would position myself on the stoop of the piano store next to your dorm and wait for you to walk by. You were always so happy to see me, so surprised at the coincidence.
I thought you were going to kiss me that night we ran from one end of Boylston to the other in the rain. We were out of breath and giggling underneath awnings. The weight of the rain made my hair stick to my forehead and you pushed it out of my eyes. Your right hand lingered on my cheek and my body was screaming, “Kiss me! Kiss me right now!”
“Well, goodnight,” you said. I opened my eyes and saw you staring at me. I mumbled a goodbye and walked away as fast as I could, embarrassed that my eyes had been closed in anticipation.
A week later, you kissed me in the extra-long twin bed of your dorm room. I thought to myself, this is going to be something.
Four years later, the day after our college graduation, we broke up. I surprised everyone with my decision to end things — even myself.
We met when we were young.
I used to think we met when we were too young but maybe this was just the best of our possible worlds.