Of all the promises that can be made the most cruel one of them has to be the ‘next time’ promise.
“Next time I’m in town…”
“Next time you go to the dentist…”
“Next time you come to work late…”
It’s as if the person making the promise has not yet figured out how much to inflict on you this time, so they are going to up the stakes and let the sword of ‘next time’ dangle precariously over your head along with a promise of unmentionable, unimaginable horrors.
Then there is the smoking-marriage promise, also sometimes known as the smoking-baby promise. When one to-be-spouse promises the other to-be-spouse that they will give up smoking as soon as they get married. It’s too late when you find out they weren’t planning on keeping that one, isn’t it?
Same with the smoking-baby promise. Baby come, smoking go. Baby come, no smoking go – what you gonna do? Reverse the baby?
Some empty promises you can make out as easily as a chinese Versace hand bag. They usually start with a liberal smattering of adjectives like the biggest, largest, one and only, yours forever…
Then the daily promises: Let me call you back in a minute. I’ll email it to you right now, and the especially succinct one: Done!!!. The more exclamation marks follow that one, the more surely you know in your gut it’s not happening.
Fathers who promise they won’t be working on the next weekend, mothers that promise a play date ‘soon’, employees that promise a high performance and governments that promise low fuel prices. End of the week promises and end of the year promises. Promises that never should have been made and promises that were made to be broken. Promises that were made with the best of intentions but the lousiest of foresight.
A promise, when part of the future, becomes a hope. As part of an unfulfilled past, becomes a gnawing burden.
We make them. And we break them. And we try to keep at least some of them. And sometimes just one promise delivered can mean hope for the entire human race.
Those, however, are called religions.