Pretty as a midsummer's morn, they call her Dawn, though that's not her real name. It's not even her real chat name, which is another matter entirely.

Be that as it may, Dawn, newly divorced and looking towards the future, might legitimately be considered a Real Find; once a decent interval has passed (and the definition of "decent" is nothing if not fluid these days), and assuming she even wants to go through our culture's daffy courtship rituals again, it's inevitable that someone will look upon her and say, "This is the one for me."

That someone, however, is almost certainly someone else. Even in the global village, there's still such a thing as geographic undesirability, and I have it in spades. And even if I thought her to be the greatest thing since sliced bread — she's already a couple of steps ahead of chopped liver, so it's just a matter of time — there's always going to be a certain amount of doubt nagging at the back of my mind, posing all those unanswerable questions like "What makes you think you won't screw this one up, too?" Given that particular mindset, one which took hold decades ago and isn't likely to let go any time soon, I have to believe that the utilitarian ideal, the greatest good for the greatest number of people, is best served by trying to keep poor Dawn out of the clutches of creeps like me.

The romantics among us will read this and scoff, and I expect a cynic or two will offer a couple of cadenzas on the world's smallest violin. That's fine; it's nothing beyond my capacity to endure, and it's not the first time one of my writings contained such prodigious quantities of both whine and cheese. But I cannot — I will not — put another woman through the pain and sorrow that always seem to follow me around, and if this means I must dash my own hopes against the rocks, then I shall do exactly that, and force a smile all the while.

So as Frankie Valli's voice fades in the background, and Sting, testing the limits of English grammar, exhorts "If you love somebody, set them free," I console myself with the dubious comforts that come with doing the Right Thing in spite of it all. I hope someday Dawn will come to understand. But mostly, I hope she stays too busy being happy to worry about whatever happened to me.

The Vent

#99
1 May 1998

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