“What?” I said in disbelief. “No way!”

“Yeah,” she said. “I do it all the time.”

“You sneak out of your house in the middle of the night just to go walking?”

“Yes,” she said nonchalantly.

“I don’t believe you.”

“Then I’ll prove it to you. One day in the middle of the night I’m going to sneak over to your house.”

“You’re crazy,” I said.

“I will.” she said. And then she added two very important words: “I promise.”

“When?” I asked.

“I’m not going to tell you. It’ll be a surprise. That way you’ll have to be ready at all times.”

And I was. I mean, I didn’t spend every night looking out the window in anticipation. But it was something that I thought about from time to time. “I wonder when she’ll come by,” I used to think. “Maybe it’ll be tonight.”

It never happened though.

And really that should come as no surprise. I mean, we were fourteen or fifteen at the time. It’s not easy to sneak out of one’s house when one has protective parents, walk two kilometres across Woodbridge, get the attention of a teenage boy fast asleep on the second floor, and then sneak back in at the break of dawn. Did she seriously plan on doing this, and forget? Or was she just joking, not expecting me to take her seriously? There’s no way to know for sure. But I believed her anyhow, and kept up my hopes for years. She had said “I promise”, after all.

 

It might be childish, but for me saying “I promise” carries a special meaning. I’m very careful about when I say it. Unless I have every intention of carrying the promise out and can’t foresee anything that could stop me, I don’t say it. I say “maybe”, or “we’ll see”, or “I’ll try”.

If I’m confident I might even say “I will”. That’s a little dangerous because if I say that I will do something and then I don’t do it, that means I’ve told a lie. That’s not good, but it’s better than a broken promise.

I think that ascribing some particular meaning to the words “I promise” is probably a good thing, but only if everyone does it. If only some people see promises as something special, then all you’ve got is a basis for miscommunication. Sometimes the end result is feeling a bit disappointed that you weren’t woken up by someone throwing rocks at your window in the middle of the night.

Sometimes it’s a heck of a lot worse.

 

Fun fact: The majority of this entry was actually written over five years ago. I decided to go back and finish it up now because I’d read a book that made me think, among other things, about how people perceive promises.

Why didn’t I finish it five years ago? Well, I was writing it on March 30th, 2011, between 2:00 AM and 3:00 AM. Certain events intervened before I could finish it, and as a result of those events it suddenly became extremely inappropriate to post a story about an ex-girlfriend. Funny timing.

Most of what I find in my Unpublished Archives is either wildly outdated or not reflective of how I feel anymore, but this is an exception. Keep your promises, people.

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