NaPoWriMo - 2019 #20 - If Juliet...

If Juliet...

If Juliet should come to the machine, she'll sneak perhaps
past late night blinking lobby guards;
steal her father's access card;
swipe her father's access card through the reader
by the big steel door.  If Juliet should come to the machine

she'll stand a moment, glance around,
then press her hand upon the activator pad...
there always is that background hum but now
the little lights come on and settle down
to flashing,
as only machines can be
and Juliet will freeze.  It would be better for her

if the device could slightly smile
although a wink would be too much
to ask.  What do you request of the machine
that has everything?  But Juliet has belief
that she knows what to do, asks carefully:
what if the apothecary was not true?

If Juliet should come to the machine
for the first time again
and she's old and grey, her life has not gone well
and if you asked she would not say that Romeo
turned out in later years a bastard and all
those kids just wore her down, but you could believe
it so.  She also will not say that in later life
she came to regret
having taken up with him at all...

And so what do you ask of the machine
that has everything: what if I never met Romeo?

And if Juliet should come again to the machine
again again once more
and she's old but vigorous but in her eyes
a subtle pain as if to say,
that while she's not been one to shirk
the book group and her tapestries
and the committee for civic works
and so has been busy and in many ways fulfilled
there might be something missing...

What do you ask of the machine
which is everything...?

—but at this point let us skip
three hundred iterations
of the non-time loop,
but take it from me you'd see her try everything
sometimes in several different ways:
What if Romeo was a girl?
What if I played the flute?
...ate more fruit?
...if I lived in Verona?
...was taller?
...the boy?

Until eventually—

If Juliet should come to the machine at all
she will, at some point in the sequence,
hit on the most fundamental question,
the one that none of us can call
a comfortable conceit,
but which anyone must eventually ask.

What do you ask of the machine which
can do everything?  Finally?
After the eternity of parallels runs out?
After everything else?

Possibly only now, does Juliet have a plan:

What if I did not exist?

—and the rest is silence.

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