You regret not texting, or calling home more often. You’re not stupid, you know it takes very little effort to pick up the phone, to check in, to maintain contact. You know that a short phone call or text would mean a lot. But you’re busy, or tired, or sick, or absentminded. And none of these things are great characters defects, on their own, on a given day, so you let them slide. You let things slide, let the days roll by like scenery: ornamental, passive, useless. You watch this scenery pass, like watching someone else’s life. Sometimes you wonder what this person is doing, why they don’t take greater care to tend to all the shrubs, the streamlets, riverbanks, livestock, dirt roads, fences and stands of trees that come and go. It wouldn’t be hard. It would take just a little more effort. The scenery rolls by. You don’t call your mother. You regret this.
You regret living an anonymous life in an urban center. You know this is what it was all for. It’s why you left. It’s what you decided was more important than any personal commitment or community. By extension, you are what you decided was most important; compromise on a lifelong scale is a lesson you were not taught. So here you are. And still, you don’t make the most of it, you let apartment buildings and intersections loom overlarge everywhere you look, you let sprawl and crowd force you back inside. You don’t see your friends often, in the large urban center you all came to together, to all realise individual dreams in general proximity. You make eye contact and act like you do not see each other. You act like none of it happened. You wonder what’s the point then, of moving, being washed over by the picturesque instead of getting off and enjoying one spot. It wouldn’t be hard, to tend to a small garden. Eyes evade each other. You don’t maintain your friendships. You regret this.
You regret how you feel about the past, how it reflects on your present. You regret every swaddle and cribsong. You regret the maths and reading lessons mum gave you long before you went to school. You regret all the puddles you jumped and swings you swung. You regret using jumpers for goalposts and talking into a wired phone for an hour after school every day. You regret every book that kept you up until morning, every track that got replayed on loop for whole summers, every hobby or pastime or activity that bristled with curiosity. You regret getting drunk every weekend before you were pub-going age, and becoming inseparable from two floppy haired boys. You regret seeing the same six or so people every day for six years, and never running out of things to talk about. You regret creating jokes that had more of a mythos than a history to them. You regret developing a shared passion for idolizing musicians. You regret feeling excitement about where you were all going to go together. Your regrets change tack here. You have not made your present the culmination of your past. You regret this.
Finally, you regret that it is not too late. You have not lost any of the things you miss, you have forgotten the angle from which you relate to them, but they are not lost. There is no familiar path you can no longer revisit, there is no memory that everyone has forgotten, there is not yet dust on all the picture frames. You can fix all your regrets.
You regret the weight of this responsibility.
by Jamie Stedmond
Jamie Stedmond is a young Irish writer based in Dublin, Ireland. He is currently pursuing an MA in Creative Writing and working on a novel.