I Am That Meme

The distracted boyfriend is the story / of lifelong discontent / of what-ifs

I Am That Meme

by Christopher Clauss

I am the distracted boyfriend
in every meme
The one in which the girlfriend is something important
and I am rubbernecking at a squirrel

The one where I am walking side by side with my half-eaten bowl of Life cereal
realizing there is a box of CInnamon Life cereal unopened in the pantry
and I am looking at it as if to say
Where have you been all my life?

And my original life cereal is giving me that look like, 
Hey, I am right here you stupid idiot
You were perfectly content five seconds ago
and how suddenly your existence is meaningless
without a cereal that looks exactly the same 
and doesn’t taste much different

I am the distracted boyfriend
and the love of my life looks on in scorn
as I stare at a computer screen all evening 
and never her eyes once

I am the flesh and blood meme boyfriend
distracted by something that is always due tomorrow
due in five minutes
due yesterday
forgetting to walk arm in arm with my own life goals

The distracted boyfriend is me
literally on my way to pick up lunch at Five Guys
realizing as I’m about to drive past McDonalds 
that ooooh I’ll bet it’s egg nog milkshake season!
and the drive-thru is pretty quick, right? 
so maybe my family wouldn’t even notice
if I take a little detour

The distracted boyfriend is me
teaching middle school 
wishing every day my students had the maturity of a high schooler
and also me
getting a new job teaching high school
wishing every day my students had even half the curiosity 
of the 6th graders I once complained about

I will always be the distracted boyfriend
preoccupied with things just out of my reach
not appreciating those things for which I’ve worked so hard

The thing that makes the distracted boyfriend meme relatable
is not the whistling boyfriend
ogling a passer-by
it is the girlfriend’s indignant response
incredulous at being so quickly forgotten

Forever being the distracted boyfriend
is the failing of everything that makes us human
the unending search for greener pastures
in which we are never content to graze

The kicker with the distracted boyfriend
is the irony that there is nothing more desirable to be had here
Change the red shirt for a blue one
ogling a girl who looks no different
than the one he is turning away from

The distracted boyfriend is the story
of lifelong discontent
of what-ifs
and things we never knew we wanted
until the last thing we wanted
didn’t solve all life’s yearnings

The jilted girlfriend is the gift horse
looked in the mouth
the chicken counted before it hatched
with him assuming the best thing in his life will still be there
by the time the hollow echo of his whistle
bounces back to him

Today my girlfriend is a pair of Fluevog shoes
and the passer-by is the same style of Future Angels
in a brighter color.
I now own three pair and wear the oldest to mow the lawn

Today my passer-by is a shiny new Mazda
when the one I have reminds me
it has never broken down
but I never wash it
and always leave the back seat full of trash

Today my girlfriend is the greatest poem I haven’t read out loud
and the passer-by is the poem I have just begun to write

If I don’t stop whistling 
at all the things I don’t have
there is no guarantee tomorrow
I’ll still have any of the things I do. 

Christopher Clauss (he/him) is an introvert, Ravenclaw, father, poet, and middle school science teacher in rural New Hampshire. His mother believes his poetry is "just wonderful." His children declare that he is the "best daddy they have," and his pre-teen science students rave that he’s "Fine, I guess. Whatever."