A Folder Called 'A Promise'
A candid discussion about when we fail love.
There is a folder on my computer that I dreaded opening. I avoided eye contact with it like one does when you see an old acquaintance at the grocery store, and take great strides to steer clear of them, acting as if you were too preoccupied reading the ingredients on the box of macaroni shells to pay them any attention. Or how one refrains from verifying the available balance in your checking account after a frivolous weekend.
The folder hovered over the other folders. Neglected, it gathered cybernetic dust, its merited content withering in omission until one day I brought myself to finally open it, retrieving a plethora of archived sentiments, an inundation of past memories meant to adulate someone in particular.
Like many other writers and poets, artists, painters, creators, sculptors, and channelers of art, my work tends to be enhanced whenever I’m in love, whatever that may mean. When in ardor, my muse becomes my significant other's eyes, the portals to their soul. Or maybe just their morning breath. Either way, I am inclined to write about them.
I keep most of my writing in digital form, opting to have legible text over scribbles. Illegible writing tends to be a writer’s worst enemy only second to writer’s block. The folder I am referring to doesn’t have a proper name. Instead, it was simply assigned one by default of the word processing system, being given the title of the first document uploaded; ‘A Promise’. ‘A Promise’ is actually the title of a piece of prose I had written and then uploaded into a folder intended to exist as the domain for written sweet nothings dedicated to one particular individual. 'A Promise' was then the name, by default, assigned as the folder’s name, simply because I myself didn’t assign it one.
And what a bullshit name it is.
As aforementioned, the folder contains many poems and prose I wrote an ex-boyfriend, the ones that weren’t written on bar or restaurant napkins, or on the Notes app on my iPhone, later to be discarded inside a trashcan or by deletion. The folder named ‘A Promise’ is like a computerized Pandora’s box, its contents an in-depth, retrospective anthology of what once was, and will never be again. A computerized reminder of my own lies and deception.
Not entirely intentional, though. You see, love—for me, at least—is a complicated, complex, ever-morphing entity. Its complexities—again, I speak only for myself—I analyze and evaluate over and over again in my head. Even at my age, I don’t thoroughly understand the inner-workings of such things. Perhaps I never will. And, honestly, who does? Whomever claims to have mastered and perfected the art and skill of loving is entirely and utterly delusional, in my opinion. I don’t believe one single person exists that has eluded the harsh and damaging side of love.
I met my ex at a complicated time in my life, as cliche as that sounds. “You met me at a weird time in my life,” many have said, and will continue to do so for the remainder of human existence on earth. But it’s true. It’s an honest human anecdote, the details of which I won’t bore you with. Perhaps all of our humanistic phases in life are complicated, weird ones. But had I known what I know now, I wouldn’t have acted the way that I did in that particular relationship; manipulative, controlling, verbally-abusive, a cheater, and a liar. ‘A Promise,’ the folder reads. The poem narrates different promises I had made my ex at one point, most of which I didn’t fulfill. Others, I never had the chance to. “Like a blossoming spring, I can always be counted on,” a line in a stanza states. Another goes “like a streaming tear, cadencing downward, know that like a shimmer, my hopes are forward.” I can picture my ex jolting his head back in laughter, way too familiar with my malarkey to take it serious. Those poems, letters, and prose were probably satires to him. I can only imagine, or at least hope, that he, at one point, read them jubilantly, perhaps calling his friends afterwards to brag about his then boyfriend’s textual admiration for him.
What is most interesting to me about the folder isn’t that particular poem, or the rest of its content, a myriad amount of structured proclamations of love, deranged admiration, and fixations on illusions. Rather, it is its name that boggles me much; A Promise.
I recall writing that particular poem quite vividly. You know, nostalgia can be a tricky sentiment. It can be extremely fruitful, transporting you back to days long gone, and completely immerse you in whatever it was you were feeling at the time. But that’s also a sick thing to do. And it’s that particular phenomenon that has me pondering why I even wrote the poem in the first place. If I had made such grandeur an endeavor to solidify my loyalty to someone, then why did I so remarkably fail? The intention behind the poem was to win my ex back after having cheated on him, dashingly, and wittingly exasperating my devotion, and profound love. Just like a conniving politician, I uttered affirmations I simply could not attest to.
It’s a clear reminder of my own human failures, of how deliberately I harmed someone else. But I’m sure I’m not the only one. I’ve witnessed it in various forms, in many ways, on numerous occasions, and in countless variations. The human mouth providing lip service. The human fingers writing false claims. The human heart making fake promises.
Without passing judgement to anyone else, and taking complete responsibility for my own mistakes, it is interesting to see how we, as humans, allow ourselves to go to great lengths to make a parody of something as valuable and unique as love. It is evident that something entices us—not all, but many—to be contemptuous toward honest, real, and raw emotion. We act as though we are professional puppeteers. We perform an elaborate play on an exquisite stage only to be given unfavorable reviews, the screenplay to which is then crumbled up and discarded.
But my screenplay to my horrid performance isn’t discarded. A folder on my computer keeps it safeguarded from oblivion, from obliterating itself from contextual reality. Although emotionally, I have dealt with, and have managed to make amends with the past—both by forgiving myself, and mending my relation to my ex, which is now based on an amicable friendship—it is hard to come to terms with the fallacy integrated in the writing of the contents of the folder named ‘A Promise’.
Reading through the content, I can’t help but ask myself why so much effort was placed in writing it, and not in actually living up to the written words. Writing, just like relationships, takes many fails and attempts to perfect, at least the closest one can get to perfection. I don’t claim to be a perfect or brilliant writer. Equally enough, I don’t claim to be a perfect boyfriend either, much less a perfect human being.
Although there is a way to rewrite poems and prose, I can’t rewrite the past. No editing or revising skills will help me with that. What I can do, however, is make adaptations. There is much to learn from the person who wrote those poems, particularly in finding the way to make them be truthful in nature, and in reality in the future. The next time I fall in love, I can write honest poems and make honest promises; attempt to be a better writer and a better human being.
That is a promise I can make to myself.