2019 Junior Division: 1st Place
The word rolls off your tongue funny. It never seems to sit right. Maybe. What a nothing word. Not quite passionate enough for yes, not quite strong enough for no. The meeting point of temptation and insecurity. Maybe we should. Maybe we shouldn’t. Maybe baby. You need order and confirmation. A set time. 8:15 at the Junction cafe. You never quite understood how people could just wing it. I’ll get there when I get there isn’t an acceptable form of RSVP. You’ve always been this way, going with the flow has never been easy. It’s been difficult, but you can’t help who you are.
You get it from your mother, who got it from hers. Perfectionism replicated during meiosis. Leaving the house 45 minutes before you actually need to, just because of the off chance that there might be traffic. You’re father rolls his eyes and ties his laces. Better to accept than resist. You end up being the first ones there. Not uncommon. Or maybe you didn’t inherit the need for organisation. Maybe you’ve been conditioned to accept that it’s the only correct way to live. The old nurture versus nature. Spend enough time with someone and they rub off on you, right? You get takeaways every friday and sit on the rug in front of the TV. This kind of predictability and stability you enjoy, especially when you get to pick the film. Love Actually, Another Cinderella Story, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. You pick up your grandmother at 1:30 pm every Sunday. She still needs two hours notice. Spontaneity is a stranger in this family. You’ve always known that. So when your friend calls you and asks if you want to see a Shakespeare show in 15 minutes it sends both you and your mother into a panic. Your father rolls his eyes and talks to the cat instead.
High school changes things. So does facebook. The little maybe button on event pages frustrates you something shocking. You can’t make plans off maybe you say, no one else seems to agree. You hand in your English assessments two weeks early. Play lacrosse. Dissect a fish. Press too hard with your pen. You turn 15 on a Friday and start to adapt to unpredictability, but it still hangs low in your stomach. People mock your plans, tell you to chill. Maybe is acceptable now. Maybe is acceptable now. You breathe through the panic when you hop on a different bus to the one you had planned. You laugh along with your friends when they suggest you all stay out another hour. You swallow down the need for organisation and tell her to be quiet. You don’t want her to ruin anything. The girl you sit with in maths starts to throw parties on the weekends. Friday night takeaways are replaced with bags of salt and vinegar chips. Love Actually is replaced with vodka cruisers. You feel like an adult. You feel out of control. Someone asks you if you’re going to her house this weekend. You say maybe. You hear a cry in the back of your throat. Your mother grips the bench tightly when you say you’ll go whenever. She pauses, then continues to cut capsicums.
You think this ok, maybe even starts to become your friend. Some of the best memories you have so far came from split second decisions. Hopping in the back of his car in the cinema carpark when you could have gone home. Riding lime scooters up Queen street when you were just going to get ice cream. In the middle of the night you tell him you have feelings for him. No maybes. You’re sure about this. He tells you he thinks about you all the time. And for a while that seems like enough. You’re elated. You stare at paintings in the Auckland Art Gallery and think you know what love means. There’s nothing maybe about ink and oil. You read poetry and write notes in the corner like in your favourite movies. Everyday feels like summer. He listens to the same music as you, and writes song titles on the palm of your hand. You want him to be yours, he says maybe. Maybe. You wonder why you’re not good enough for a yes, or what you did wrong to warrant a no. That maybe sits in your throat and wells in your eyes. Maybe. So you wait. And hope. It’s a strange place. Limbo. Between heaven and hell. You realise all that glitters is definitely not gold. Hoping is somehow worse than being rejected, and you think this is karma for making maybe your friend. Instead of crying you grieve, and instead of living you exist.
The maybe fades. It takes months, but now it sits, hazy, in the very back of your temporal lobe. You feel stronger and scrub those songs from your hands. Ink isn’t as permanent as you thought it was. It makes you angry, how nowadays it’s ok to be indecisive. To live your life off a few moments, rather than try and build anything. The collective fear of commitment from your peers makes you realise how modernity has left so much to be desired. Maybe we should. Maybe we shouldn’t. This seasons yes and no. Our parents and grandparents were so decisive. Left home at 17. Married at 18. Sailed halfway around the world with nothing. Life was a matter of determining choices. And they made them. There might have been regrets, but at least they can look back and say. Yes. I did that. I dived head first. Generation Z won’t even dip their toes in. Too scared of the water and what swims underneath. You think it’s appalling. Where did we go wrong. But no one sees it like you do. They enjoy the instability. And you don’t want to ruin the fun. So you grip the back of the bus seat. Pause. And say yeah. Maybe .