Last night I left work, heavy bag on my shoulder, ready to have a quick drink with my friend Ellie before heading home for a night of reading and solitude. The night was brusque, though, and the first exhale of fall into the night breeze seems to bring me different places than I expect. Following that spirit, I ended up deposited on a my friend Kyle’s porch with a gathering of pals until midnight, talking and watching our blue cigarette smoke curl into the night as I was lulled by the movements of the rocking chair on which I was perched. I stared into the deep purple of the dark world off the porch like I could see into my shrouded future, and my head turned to the chair on my left.

There are always two rocking chairs. On my porch, on that porch, on almost every porch. Sometimes they are at each side of the door, like two warm sentries, nodding with gentle approval in the wind, seeming to say “all is well, enter, yes, have some lemonade.” Sometimes they are tucked in a corner, facing each other, knocking knees and swaying with secrets, or in the middle of other more stationary chairs, the weathered elegant country thrones saved for…saved for who?

My rocking chair on my porch has a chair on the left. And it has a rotating cast of bottoms occupying it. Friends with coffee, friends with beer, friends with stories, all sitting and rocking and staring at the blowing leaves and trees and sighing and laughing and getting up and leaving. I think my rocking chair on the left wonders…who does it belong to? I wonder the same thing.

It’s common daydream fodder, the idea of who we’re supposed to end up with. Sorry, I shouldn’t drag you into this…who I’m supposed to end up with. Call it the product of Disney, and all the marketing little girls have gone through since the birth of gender roles, but I end up thinking about it with winsome expression. Who will I choose? Who will choose me? Who will sit down, stay a while, not get sick of the same view from the same porch, in the same rocking chair, next to mine?

After much deliberation, after many months sitting in this chair, with its lonely companion pacing the same worried back and forth, I’ve had to break the news kindly to that second rocking chair that it will have to remain empty for a while. That no one can claim it for their own just yet. It has friends that keep it warm, and the neighbor cat that is so fond of its cozy curves, and if maybe someone should want to sit for a little longer and a little more often than anyone else, that would be ok. Just to see how it goes, just to see if we see the same thing when we stare out at the hurried street below, and when we turn our heads to look at who is beside us.

But it still crosses my mind on clear-eyed nights like last night, when the leaves make shattered mosaics on the ground, and the clouds gather like a down comforter over my head, who and what will remain? In the quietest of moments, when the porch empties of friends, I wonder who will eventually look over at me on their right, my hair white and my cigarette habit hopefully kicked, and get up with me to leave the rocking chairs to their slow two-step, moving together, slower, and slower, until they finally stop to rest, two warm things under a starry eternity.