Karen Rivers

If and When.

Karen Rivers

Start with the yellow dress that you bought two years ago.  It hangs on the handle of your dressing table such that every time you open a drawer, the dress billows and soars like a bright yellow flag, reminding you of the life you bought the dress to suit, a life that you didn't have then and don't have now.  

The dress is very specific.  Ideally, the dress should be worn in Greece.  The white buildings with blue awnings, and that vivid sky, all would form an ideal backdrop for the dress, the very yellowness of it announcing its own joy to anyone who saw you.  

The dress is just waiting for you to decide. 


On their way to steal tank tops to sleep in from your drawer, the kids tussle with The Dress.  Why is it here? they say.  It's in the way.

It is in the way.  But you can't bring yourself to move it.

After all, it contains so many possibilities.  

At any given time, you can sign in to Expedia and purchase a ticket.   You can get on an airplane and go to Greece.   You can put on the yellow dress and go find a cafe.   You can order a glass of something cold.   You can feel the sun warming your shoulders.  You can breathe in the smell of sunscreen and Greece, whatever that particular scent may be.  Olive oil?  Garlic?  The dust of crumbling white buildings?   You can rest your bare arm on the cool slab of stone that forms the table top and watch the moisture condensing on the outside of your ice cold glass.  You can sip it slowly and look out to sea.   You can wait.    

You can be a woman who wears a yellow dress in front of a white building, the Mediterranean Sea applauding against a nearby shore.  

It's a choice. 

Either make it.   Or don't.

It can wait.

What is time, after all?  Slipping by us, like it does, the kids inching up towards adulthood in fits and starts, the dogs starting to grey around their muzzles, our own temples flecked with silver, our smiles sinking deeper and deeper into our skin.  

Well, there's that.  How it passes by.

Of course, there is a possibility that the yellow dress no longer fits, and you should file it in your closet next to the bag that contains your unworn wedding dress, which still fits your body, but no longer your situation.   You are no longer sure that you can ever imagine being married, much less a wedding.   Your former fiance is getting married this summer.   You hear that the bride is wearing blush.  

Well, you think.  Well.

Then:  If I got married now, I think I'd wear yellow.   

Everything is still possible.   Or at least, not impossible.

You are happy that he has made a choice and run with it.   You hope he crosses the finish line this time.  You hope he makes it all the way.   Why not?  

Maybe that way, happiness lies.

Or maybe not.

Because you're happy, aren't you?  

Not 24/7, but mostly.   On balance, yes.  

Definitely, yes.   

But what do you want, for God's sake?  What? 


On the other hand, if you never decide, then you never have to choose and isn't choice the most seductive thing of all?   All those futures, arrayed in front of you like the diamond-tipped ripples of a sunlit sea.   

There's such beauty in that.  

Can't you see it?

Put the yellow dress on a hanger and hang it amidst all your other memories, real and fictional.  All those clothes for all those lives that aren't yours, for the character you could suddenly decide to become, for the character you never were.  

The road not taken.  Or, more accurately, the road not taken yet.

For now, what do you need really, but some comfortable pairs of jeans and a few t-shirts and sweaters, a good pair of shoes or boots for hiking in the forest, the rain dripping off the leaves, the mud splattering the softened denim of you?

You'll get there.  

One day, you'll know that this is it, that this is who you are and this is what you wear.  

People will say, "That's a great dress!"  

And you'll smile and say, "Thank you.   I love it, too."    

Because you do.  Because you will.  

When you're ready for all that, you'll have the right thing to wear, that daffodil-bright dress carrying you like the silks of a parachute into the sky of choices made, delivering you gently to the place you were going all along.