I looked over at the little boy sitting next to me on the couch. I saw his little tan hands with palms facing upwards, the same way my grandmother held her hands when she just couldn’t believe something. His little ten-year old body was already formed and aged, just as he would be years from now. The conservative grandparents clearly came though in his small face. The drive of his parents, the clear delineation between right and wrong and good and bad and black and white. He thought he knew it all. The world was clearly defined and he knew his place in it. His track was set, I could see that. The path of expectations needing fulfillment, degrees in need of achieving, bank accounts in need of filling.
“How can they say that??!!” He looked to me with a smile of disbelief on his face, somewhat mocking in origin, as though he knew it was wrong.
“It’s true,” I said.
We were watching a documentary about the drug war made from the perspective that the drug war is failing. Or rather, I was watching it and he sat beside me, mostly looking at a YouTube video on the small laptop in front of him and occasionally looking up to the larger screen, where images of marijuana fields and homeless men on Skid Row and the power players of America in their business suits moved across our vision.
“I don’t think anyone has ever died from marijuana,” I said.
“Yeah, but it’s bad.”
“Why?” I asked.
“It’s bad, if it was legal everyone would always walk around being high all the time.”
“Cigarettes and alcohol kill a lot more people, no one has ever died from just smoking marijuana.”
“Will you give me a hundred dollars if I find someone who’s died?”
I took a breath and smiled.
“I don’t have one hundred dollars to give you.”
“So then you don’t believe it. So you believe everyone should just walk around being high all the time.” His little face was scrunched in an accusatory ball. The verdict, the rightness of his opinion had been settled, any other statement would be taken as an offense.
“You know, it’s not one way or the other. Maybe a couple of people have died from some sort of weird complication with smoking, but overall, it’s safer than alcohol and alcohol is legal. Just because I don’t want to bet a hundred dollars, it doesn’t mean I don’t think it’s true. Just because I think medical use is okay doesn’t mean I believe everyone should walk around high.”
He disengaged and looked at his computer screen, on it was another little boy giving detailed instructions on how to modify a Nerf gun. Once again, as I had many times in the two years I had known him, I saw myself in this little boy. I recognized the binary thought. It’s one way or the other. This or that. The two ends of the spectrum, miles apart in reality, yet smushed together side by side, leaving no room for the middle.
For in this middle is the place of complex beauty. It is the realm of the subtle and vague. The softer spectrum of watercolor hues where many things can exist at once. Where all possibilities can coexist in an orgy of thought and merging possibilities and wonder.
I see a girl dancing. There are two walls made of bricks. They are miles apart, but they are so tall that their sheer height makes them always known. The pretty girl is in the field, among the gently sloping grass of yellow and green. Her skirt of layered gray chiffon moves like clouds tethered to her waist. She moves around trees and skips over sleeping foxes. She is in the gap. The huge space in the middle.
It is the middle which I push away with extreme thought. Either being happy or sad. Jealous or content in the slimy gloss of lovemaking. Two extremes, side by side. And always together, there will never be space for another possibility. Pushed together there can be no room for something new to flower. Without the gap, there can be no room for surprise.