100% of Me
by Kate Aton-Osias
[Art by MJ Pajaron]
The diner assaults us with noise and movement. It is the perfect place to keep you distracted and uncomfortable. The least conducive place for the conversation you have in mind. I scratch my eye patch nervously. The odds have not changed: 35% chance of distracting you from your goal. Thus far, nothing –- not the noise, not the chaos, not even the incompetent waitress who is taking our orders –- has dissuaded you from making The Speech.
The waitress leaves. My chances waver to 34%.
“I don’t know where we’re headed for, Rex,” you say.
Despite my efforts, The Speech has begun. The shrinking opportunity (32%) to escape with most of us intact has me shifting in my seat, but I decide to keep quiet. Multiple potential paths unfurl before me and I silently — desperately — go down each one, but all the odds point to either a catastrophic fight (62%) or a quiet, disappointed goodbye (34%).
30%. I scramble for a meaningful topic, a witty joke, an interesting phrase –- anything! –- but I’m too late.
“You know, we’ve been together for a long time now, and I think we should move on to the next phase.”
You look uncomfortable. I look uncomfortable. 29%.
The incompetent waitress returns and brings us coffee.
You take a sip; you fiddle with the cup; you turn it around in your hands. It always annoys me when you do that because probabilities and possibilities merge and shift (whether or not the old man behind you will suddenly cough: 13%; whether or not a waitress will drop the tray she is carrying: 25%; whether or not a stranger will slam the diner door close: 34%), influencing the outcome of whether or not coffee will spill.
But I don’t tell you this because you’re busy gathering your thoughts, trying to put into words your doubts and, ultimately, your demand, and I really don’t have the heart to hurry the inevitable fight. There’s now a 15% chance for you to chicken out, slowly diminishing (12%) as you become more comfortable with the environment (8%). I was afraid of that. I chose this particular diner because it was noisy and chaotic. We even had a 22% chance of bumping into acquaintances. I’ve used similar tactics before, and for a time, it worked. But now, the law of averages is working against me and all the possibilities look grim.
You are going to talk to me. You are going to ask me where this relationship is heading. And you will end your long speech on relationships and growing up and settling down by asking me: “What do you think, Rex?”
You want to know what I really think? I think that in about three minutes, there is a 93% chance you will put the cup of coffee down, and talk to me. I think that our waitress has a 57% chance of discovering that her husband is screwing around with her best friend and a 97% chance of being stuck working at this diner for the rest of her life. I really think that the guy seated at the table next to ours will have an 88% chance of meeting an accident next week, where he has a 50% chance of dying a 70% chance of losing a leg, and a 99% chance of losing a wife, in any possible circumstance.
Because I’m different. Not unique different, but freaky-weird different. But of course you don’t know that. You don’t need to know that. You only have a 49% chance of believing me, a 73% chance of breaking up with me whether or not I convince you, and a 96% chance of erupting into a didactic speech about choice versus destiny and how I should take charge of my life, whether you believe me or not. But it’s not as simple as that.
Sometimes the odds are stacked against you, and you know what? They mostly get their way. Like when I was ten years old and I knew I only had a 25% chance of making the diving jump my other younger cousins accomplished easily; or when I was sixteen and I only had a 33% chance of getting this girl to go out with me; or when I was twenty two and I only had a 5% chance of getting promoted . And I didn’t make the jump; I didn’t get the girl; and I didn’t get promoted.
Who am I kidding? Even if I do try to explain all these things to you — how I see possibilities, not exactly the future, not really the past, and not quite the present — possibilities that intersect with objects and people and places, would that matter? In the end, you would still want what you want. You will never comprehend how terrified I feel.
When we first met, I already knew that there was a 75% chance of this moment occurring. But you had a beautiful smile and eyes I could drown in, and I felt, if I could just keep looking at you, all the things I see and hear — destinies, chances, odds — they won’t matter. For a time, fate was at a manageable distance and I was anchored by you. But eventually, the possibilities began to evolve. They began to manifest themselves as doubts about you, about us, about what we could be. I tried to remain strong. I tried not to believe, but still, the whispers came, and a part of me began to doubt.
If only I could tell you these things. If only I could tell you about the lines and paths that swing from one end of the spectrum to another. If only I could close off that part of me that sees, and hears, and knows. There are days when I feel destiny shift to something more stable and I believe we have a good chance, but then, so quickly, the odds change — because you’ve met a person, I’ve met a person, you get stopped by an old college friend, or because I’ve eaten fish for lunch — and they no longer are in our favor.
Right now, the chance of a break-up is so high, I’m terrified of even trying to quantify it. And yet if we stay together, if I do give you what you want, that promise of forever and a day and a love to last lifetimes, the years ahead of us don’t look too bright. In four years, there is a 67% chance you will meet a man and have an affair. After that, there is a 62% chance that a child would be born who would not be mine. In eight years, there is a 49% chance we will have a divorce. In eleven years, if we haven’t had a divorce, there is an 89% chance we will start sleeping in different bedrooms. If we do have a divorce, there is a 92% chance that we would be caught in an ugly custody battle.
Worst of all, by the twelfth year, I don’t see any possibilities of us anymore. None. As if something will happen then that will sever our chances of being together. I don’t even want to contemplate what that event could be.
So can you really blame me if I’m afraid? Can you really blame me when, sometimes, I would rather hunker down and dig my heels in the status quo? But I know that you do blame me. I know that you deserve more than me, and I know that I could never explain these thoughts in my head without sounding desperate and insane.
You place the cup down, exactly three minutes after you took a sip. You take a deep breath. And then, you continue The Speech.
1% chance of shifting to another topic. 99% chance of breaking a heart.
I try to look as if I’m hearing everything for the first time, while trying to quiet down the other possibilities of other people in my head (the woman who just came in has a 95% chance of having a heart attack in approximately four hours; the old man that passed our table has a 73% chance of winning the lottery today; the little girl there has a 54% chance of meeting a Hollywood celebrity next week).
The coffee stills, finding equilibrium. I start groping for flimsy arguments, hoping I can bargain with you somehow, someway, without having to explain anything and everything; desperately hoping to convince you that what we have right now fine, that we don’t need promises of the future to be happy.
The coffee cup clatters in its saucer as you suddenly place your hands on the table.
The movement shakes me out of my thoughts. My eye patch is bothering me again as thoughts and memories, the future and all its probabilities, converge and intermingle until I can hardly differentiate one from the other and all I can see is you, seated across from me, all courage and tears, demanding, begging me to believe in us.
And I feel like I’m ten years old again, about to take the jump from the diving board even though I know, I just know, that I will fall.
“What do you think, Rex?”
Law of Averages: a term used to express a belief that outcomes of a random event will “even out” within a small sample.
As invoked in everyday life, the “law” usually reflects bad statistics or wishful thinking rather than any mathematical principle. While there is a real theorem that a random variable will reflect its underlying probability over a very large sample, the law of averages typically assumes that unnatural short-term “balance” must occur. [Wikipedia]