Several Questions You Might Ask

Do I love myself? Do I need to? I have gone up and down these streets for hours, and no one has an answer. Mrs. Maplethorpe would rather talk about televisions, Bob Ames about how he figured out exactly when every human life begins and the various ramifications of this discovery, and Miss Ramirez (pretty as she is) has nothing to say at all.

Still the questions remain: If I love myself, can I love someone else as well? Or can a person only love one person at a time? To this, Mrs. Maplethorpe's daughter had a reply: A lifetime isn't long enough for the beauty of this world and the responsibilities of your life; but was later corrected by Mrs. Maplethorpe, an avid news-watcher and part-time expert on the abundance of this world's un-beauty and in fact downright cruelty, as in the case of the murdered twins or the man who ate his stepdaughter; Mrs. Maplethorpe, who admitted that she sometimes wondered "what love could do for anyone at all. I mean, in this day and age."

In this day and age indeed! Why just this afternoon I walked down Grand Concourse under a frantic winter sky and saw the city skyline like teeth on keys -– home to millions of people I will never meet. What is the significance of love amongst so many strangers? And if I love myself, would they know the difference? On the 4 train home I watched Miss Ramirez through her reflection in the window and wondered. Would she meet my gaze and know that I was a man full up on love, that I could open any door and stand in the midst of any crowd assembled there with two feet firmly planted in my heart and say Yes! Yes! to every possible tomorrow with its terror and its loneliness and Yes! Yes! to heartbreaking limits and Yes! Yes! to the murdered twins and the eaten little girl and the earth that wants nothing less than to swallow us whole? Would she notice me then? Would that be happiness?

Oh Jenny Maplethorpe, I know what you mean; we have so little time, and so many questions. I know there are monsters out there; I know there are regrets waiting like gifts that will take our whole lives to unwrap. But if I have to choose – and we all have to choose, whether it's television or prayer or paying attention – then for now, I choose to keep asking.


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