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Regret

I have done some incredibly stupid things in my life.
I have made some terrible mistakes.
My actions (or inaction at times) have caused suffering to myself and others.
I have, however, no regrets.

I almost killed a man once.
I was young, stupid, jaded and bored. I was a very different person then. My only real motivation was greed. In all likelihood I would have been caught and spent the next twenty to thirty years of my life in prison. Had I not been caught, I may very well have been worse off.
It’s easy enough to say I don’t regret that decision.

I almost kissed a girl once.
Melanie was the first great love of my life. She was incredible. It was love at first sight – the only time I have ever experienced it. She was a cashier after school at a local supermarket. I was training as a day cashier and picking up extra hours in the evenings pushing carts. The first time I saw her; I sat outside the window on top of the row of carts and watched her work for my entire shift.
There was nothing I wouldn’t do for her. I was willing to move the earth for her – or die trying. One night we found ourselves parked on top of a hill, shedding an unbelievably long, whirlwind of a day. I have had precious few “perfect” moments in my life – telling my wife to be “I think I love you” for the first time in that bathtub, hearing my wife say “I do”, a flock of birds taking flight behind me and a girl at the precise moment the sun disappeared into the Pacific – this was one of them. We stood outside the car and stared off into the lights below silently.
Melanie knew how strongly I felt about her, but she would soon be going off to college. Her senior year was filled with school work, acting in the senior play, working a part time job and helping her single mother care for her young sister. I was never sure if she was interested in me, but I was sure she had no time for me. She made it clear that she was not looking to get into a relationship.
She asked if I had a jacket in my car. I didn’t, but I had a blanket in the trunk to wrap around her. I leaned on the car. She leaned into me. My arms were around her. Her face was inches from mine. There we both stood for what felt like an hour – silent and still in that moment. I could have remained there for the rest of my life and died a satisfied man.
“Should I kiss her?” My mind began to sweat.
I was a virgin, but I wasn’t completely inexperienced. The moment felt right. A kiss felt natural. This was what I had been waiting for since the moment I first saw her.
I knew she only wanted to be friends. I didn’t want to betray her trust. I didn’t want to put her in an uncomfortable situation.
She was the most beautiful girl I had ever known. This was my chance to make the first move toward the rest of our life together. I wasn’t going to let the trivialities of life get in the way of love. I was willing to sit and wait in the wings while she finished her play and her school year. There was the possibility that she would be going to college only thirty minutes away, but I was willing to drop everything and move to wherever she decided to go. I would have gone to the ends of the earth for her and waited there for as long as she needed me to. If she asked me to marry her then and there, I would have without an instant of hesitation.
This was it. This was the moment that would define my life. Deciding whether or not to kiss her would irreparably alter the course of my life as much as deciding whether or not to kill a man years later would. I wanted to kiss her more than I wanted to take my next breath. I was pretty certain it was now or never.
It was never.
She moved to Boston for college at the end of her senior year. I never heard from her again. Was it because I didn’t kiss her? I don’t know – probably not. She never told me why she stopped returning my calls shortly after that night.
Five years later, I finally began to heal.
Quite a few times over the years, I came as close to regret as I came to kissing her that night.

A romance, unsullied by the slings and arrows of real life, remains sublime. That perfect moment on the hill with Melanie in my arms came to define my relationship with her. I hadn’t realized it at the time, but for nearly twenty years, I would hold every woman I met next to my memory of that moment in time and our potential. I spent time with many women over those years, and not one of them could hold a candle to Melanie.
People often told me my standards were too high. They accused me of looking for perfection and perfection did not exist. I would always respond that I wasn’t looking for a perfect person, simply a person who was perfect for me. I wasn’t willing to settle for less – I would have rather died alone than live with someone who wasn’t right for me. What I meant was that I wasn’t willing to settle for less than Melanie. Eventually I found a woman who would surpass the impossible standard I set of the ideal, imaginary relationship I had with Melanie.

I did not kiss her that night out of respect for her. I do not regret it out of respect for myself.
Every decision I have made, every action I have taken, every experience I have had, helped shape the person I am and the life I have led so far. Even such seemingly insignificant details of my life that I can’t even recall – such as what color shirt I wore on January 17th, 1986 – have played a role in who I am today.
I like who I am. I love my life. I love my wife. None of this would be what it is, had I kissed Melanie that night.

Mistakes and poor judgment are inevitable.
The way I see it, one can learn from mistakes and use that wisdom to become a better person - or one can go the way of the fool.
I'm no fool.
My mistakes make me a better person.

If I wish to change anything I have done, I am wishing I were a different person with a different life.
I have far too much respect for myself and pride in who I am to wish for that.

October 06, 2010, 02:33:17 am

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