The water flows both ways through the tunnel of love, depending on which rusty lever I force! Like life, this tacky carnival ride with its soggy boats bobbing in a curving trough is not a circle but a figure-eight, or an eighty-eight, that doubles back and gives us second chances to be noble or to wet the seat of our pants. Where the streams cross, with my over-education I can steer the couples through the wide or the narrow entrances to tapered, covered corridors and either squeeze them together or wedge them apart, depending on their fitness for each other—and all for the minimum wage! Take this gentleman for example and his uncertain girlfriend. If I wobble their boat just slightly as they step into it and he steadies her by the shoulder and elbow, his small but certain gesture will beguile her. I could put myself in his place at that moment and she would want even me! On the other hand, if I collide two boats before the tunnel, I can sunder the pair that responds with annoyance—and at the same time cinch the two who share a laugh about it! The two I denounce will smell the mildew from the trapped water of an aging ride that should be condemned. For the two I affirm, ample to themselves, the tunnel and its weeping walls will fade away like other people’s problems. I should be paid what couples counselors get for my discernment! The uninspiring and the doomed I leave alone for the gears of the drive chain to propel toward their insipid certainties, but those I can, I help, to find one another or to flee. It would be selfish not to when the merest twitch of my fingertips is all that fate requires.

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