“What do you love?” she asked.
I shrugged. I could have answered with a sarcastic response, or something canned, but Amy wouldn’t have tolerated that. She demanded active participation, demanded I think, and would have no less than that.
“What do you want to do when you are older?” she asked.
Her choice of words intrigued me. I asked because I knew the answer would be interesting. “That’s a weird way to ask the question. Usually people ask ‘What do you want to be when you grow up.’”
“I’m not usual.”
This was a bizarre answer, even for Amy. I turned away from the edge and looked at her sitting cross legged in the middle of the floor. She looked like more of a child than she ever had, rolling a small stone around in hands. It disturbed me to see her so disarmed. So weak.
I sat down beside her, tilted her face up so I could look in her eyes. She wasn’t crying, but she looked ready to. “What’s wrong Amy? What’s bothering you?”
“One of the girls at school asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, and I didn’t know, and she told me I was ridiculous because I had no plans. And that I was stupid. Of course, I know I’m not stupid.”
She sighed, a moment, and collected herself.
“And then I started thinking about it. I don’t care if I don’t know what I want to do when I grow up. I’m ten! I don’t have to start worrying about that for years. But it bothered me that I don’t love anything. That I have no passion for anything.” After a pause, “I’m broken.”
“I don’t get it.” Even as the words came out of my mouth I felt stupid.
“I mean I have no ambitions. No goals. Everyone else keeps talking about how they’re going to get University degrees, then get married and have kids. Houses and picket fences, two cats in the yard. All that garbage. I don’t have those sorts of dreams. Or any at all.”
“Maybe that’s because you’re ten?” I was already thinking about this in my own terms and beginning to understand why she was upset.
“They all have dreams and ambitions. I’m smarter than them but I don’t. What’s wrong with me? Why am I broken?” she replied.
I had no answer. I sat and let her thoughts sink in. I had no ambition. Most of my friends knew what they wanted to do when they were older. Had a plan. Had some idea what they wanted out of life. I just wasn’t sure it mattered. I decided to find out.
“But Amy, does it matter?”
She laughed at me. “Matter? Does ambition matter? You’re even worse. I’m nothing. You’re this massive well of potential, of capability. But you have no ambition. You can do no greatness without great ambitions. You court irrelevance.”
I was startled by this sudden reversal, her sudden change of target from herself to myself. “I thought this was about you?” I asked her.
“Ha. It’s about both of us. Stop being so short-sighted. Some day we’ll wake up and realize our greatest fear has come true. That our ambivalence has begot our meaningless. Irrelevance. And that will be our own personal hell.”
I stifled back a nervous laugh, but she looked right into my eyes, and again I felt the weight and gravity of her gaze.
“You’re the proverbial grasshopper Adrian. In the sunshine and warmth it’s all song and dance, without care for your destiny.”
She turned away from me and threw the stone out into the forest.
“What will you do when winter comes?”