Do you know that line in Robert Frost’s poem, The Road Not Taken (https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/44272/the-road-not-taken), where he’s contemplating which path to take when it divides to a fork in the woods, “Oh, I kept the first for another day!”?
I love that line. It makes the poem for me. The exclamation mark telling us that he’s done that thing that we all do: deluded ourselves into thinking that it lies there still, as it did that day when not taken; waiting for him should he change his mind and choose to return to it, twenty, thirty, forty years later.
That thing that we all do? Maybe it’s just me. Perhaps it’s most of us.
I was in the middle of telling you about Eggo, wasn’t I? He doesn’t live like that. He has had this sort of momentum about him since he was about fifteen years old, which makes each episode of his life the self-fulfilling suggestion of the next. As if, when he was younger, he’d completed some exercise or other successfully, as many of us do, but where his success infected him with a sort of energy that took him into the orbits of far away objects. He didn’t bully and barge his way through to each next level as other filthy egoists might; he had this equable air about him, a sort of balance, as he danced through life, so concentrated on his next step that he was unable to look back to see where he came from, … or what he’d left in his wake.
When we were younger, he was always off on spells away – touring with the Moscow State Circus, or whatever it was he got up to. When he came back on the scene, he’d schedule the odd day with us, but we’d see him out and about with other people, girls mainly. He had this knack. He’d be with them for a day or two then move on. Nothing to explain, no breakup to broker, and they’d still be there ready for him next time he came around. A phone call and it was all picked up again. For me, for the rest of us I imagine, there was no such luxury. You were all in or all out; going out together or dumped; working or sacked; friends or enemies.
No person, situation, job, ex, could ever be returned to once you’d passed through. Any attempt to do so would produce a reaction of total disbelief that you had the bare-faced nerve to contact them again after the way it ended last time. You know, where the girl says to you, ‘Give me a ring,’ and either you do, in which case the frequency of ringing and meeting builds until it becomes a more serious relationship, or you don’t, in which case you have thereby delivered an insult which cannot be undone. I wonder how he dealt with that? Were girls so in awe that they made no demands of him, and were merely grateful for their slot in the schedule? Say what you will about egocentric tosspots this is a by-product to be coveted. Oh, to be busy like that.
Mind you, I was busy once in my life, and when I was, I found the requests to meet up and the obligation to receive telephone calls quite irksome and best avoided. Of course, when I say irksome, I mean profoundly depressing and unpleasant; and when I say best avoided, I mean terrifying and boring in equal amounts. It didn’t last long though – being busy. You needed launch yourself into that game early in life. Momentum. Otherwise, it was just what would become another ultimately unsatisfactory episode before we paused again to reflect about that other road.
I write this on the day that I finally acknowledge that another aspect of Newton’s First Law has me in its grip. When momentum gives in to inertia. I have done so little for so long, that I know it now as an undeniable truth, that I will never be able to get going again.
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