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"I almost always will have left myself out when I discover, too late, that I've been left out overnight again."

Before our cats left us, they taught us that leaving them out overnight amounted to the greatest sin we could ever commit in their eyes. This did not happen very often and, to my mind, usually resulted from them being just that much too clever for us. I thought that they'd outsmarted themselves of hogging more than their share of the matrimonial bed and of sharing our overnight body warmth, that they'd lost more than we ever sensed that we'd lost. We'd stretch out into what usually amounted to already occupied territory and accept that additional space without in the moment imagining that the space represented a greater absence. The next morning, opening the door to fetch the newspaper, a grey or ginger blur would slip past me and I'd realize the crime I'd committed. I'd offer the obligatory kitty treats in apology and steel myself for a few hours of glowering stares, for I'd left one of the cats outside overnight where coyotes or owls could have spirited them away. They might have initiated the slip, but I had failed to catch it. The resulting sin got chalked up on my side of the grand ledger and I could never adequately atone.

Anyone who, like me, could never really decide upon what they wanted to be when they finally grew up, carries a sense of having been LeftOut of something.
Those who settled on becoming a nuclear physicist at fifteen could meaningful choose their forward path. Those of us who were still weighing our options at twenty-five found that a few of the choicest spots in the field had already been taken by our more decisive brethren. A deepening sense of having lost the race before even entering it sometimes haunts our days, and especially our nights. We feel intermittently stupid and co-opted, and always somewhat stupid for having been co-opted, but we just could not decide then, like we might have not even now decided for ourselves.

Our lives still present choices, though they seem to more often resemble Hobson's Choices, where we realize that, like with the choices offered by that fabled liveryman Hobson, we can choose any horse in the stable as long it's the one that's already saddled and ready to go. The remainder were previously reserved or somehow preserved for others' exclusive use, which leaves one quite naturally feeling LeftOut. Repeated, a sense of second or third class citizenship pervades one's experience and one might learn to choose circumspectly, by which I mean to select those option for which demand will likely be low, if only to avoid reinforcing the sense, already pervasive, that one does not quite enjoy the rights and privileges of full citizenship, and never will. One never knows how this could have happened to them.

Doubtless that some seem much luckier than others. Some stumble into some advantage or other and then manage to leverage that leg-up into a more permanent positioning. Some who decided what they wanted to be at fifteen were unable to achieve their heart's desire and felt LeftOut in one of the more old fashioned ways. I think a sense of being LeftOut to be a fundamental property of human existence. Nobody gets to become all that they aspire to become, though some manage to wrestle out an Horatio Alger outcome anyway, but everybody gets LeftOut sometimes. Like our long-grieved cats, close examination might show that our own insistence to sneak out when the door was left ajar maybe could have been a primary initiating factor in our lonely night spent out in the cold. Others take more solace, as our cats did, in simply blaming the fellow who probably should have never left that door ajar. That fellow will find reason to critique himself even if the repatriated cats quickly recover.

I'm hearing that some of the success of our social media might be its ability to elicit a sort of panic in its users, a little fear of being LeftOut. I might check my feeds with great regularity to ensure that I don't miss some significant fleeting comment. I might willingly sacrifice the flow and continuity inherent in any life in favor of near constant disruption, just to avoid the quiet shame and exposure of even fleetingly feeling LeftOut, even if only for a moment. Reflection might disclose that I more often regret being included in some of the troll tangles I sometimes engage in than I would ever experience when feeling LeftOut, but the urge to check, then check again, as become like vestigial punctuation; wholly unnecessary—but willingly injected, anyway. I almost always discover that I left myself out when I discover, inevitably too late, that I've been left out overnight again.

©2019 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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