Update from Italy: I Don’t Want …

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

I don’t want. Yesterday I posted what I do want. Today I my thoughts wander, in my spot of southern sunshine that I call Barbados. I am thinking about what I don’t want. This is tougher. I am given to manifesting the positive. No sense saying what I don’t want; the Universe doesn’t really know how to respond to that.

What I do want.

What I don’t want.

In many languages, “I don’t want” takes the subjunctive form of the verb, for whatever the thing is that you want/don’t want to happen. 

The indicative mood represents certainty. The subjunctive mood represents, on the other hand, uncertainty.

English is plaintive and direct, like a toddler.

I want you to cry.

I don’t want you to cry.

Both take the infinitive. What I want and what might happen are hung in time and space, like Schroedinger’s cat. Will you cry? Won’t you cry? Who knows? I want the thing to happen, and both actions are possible. We won’t know until we open the box. Are you crying, or not crying? Open the box to find out.

In Spanish, however, llorar (to cry) changes form with a vowel marker so that your listener or reader knows that you are not in control. There is no direct translation for this in English. I’d rather that you not cry comes closest.

Quiero que llores.

No quiero que llores.

Italian is the same, marking piangere (again, to cry) with a vowel shift so that your reader is aware of your ultimate lack of agency in the situation.

Voglio che tu pianga.

Non voglio che tu pianga.

There’s no box to open, no cat/gato/gatto to discover. The mood of the verb has told you that it may not be possible. It is uncertain, and this shade of uncertainty means the box may skew negative. The cat has a hole in the back of the box, an emergency exit, if you will. The speaker abdicates agency with the verb marker.

The things we want, or do not want, do not rely upon the speaker.

Thinking of what I do not want, my mind immediately goes to Spanish. No quiero que … English is no longer sufficient for me. The gradations do not exist.

In any case, I’ll make the list, doing my best to avoid grammatical backflips.

  1. I don’t want to go back to life as it was before February 23.
  2. I don’t want my children to remember this as a negative experience. I want them to remember how much time they had with J. and me, how much closeness and access they had to us, and us to them.
  3. I don’t want much more time to pass by before I have a pet I love again. And I’m not talking goldfish, iguana, salamander, lizard. None of this Hogwart’s nonsense. I need a standard poodle or a Maine coon.
  4. I don’t want people to protest, of all things, a virus. Has it all really come to this inanity? 
  5. I don’t want to prioritize quantity over quality. At the same time, let me live to be 100, and let it be a good life. I’ve got family precursors for this in the hardy Finnish and Scottish stock. I hope that it might be my lot too.
  6. I don’t want to stop writing.
  7. I don’t ever want to work eight to five or later in an office or elsewhere again. Ever.
  8. I don’t ever want to commute to work again. Ever.
  9. I don’t ever want to have a corporate annual review or set quarterly performance goals again, both tied to a pittance of a payout. Ever.
  10. I don’t want people to suffer or die.