I have two persistent regrets:
Not making it work with Abigail
Not spending a year in Paris with Carolyn
These regrets are overlapping. Abigail was my first true love. But I was afraid with her that my life would become smaller, that I wouldn’t do the searching I needed to meet my unknown future. Some of this was petty in my youth—chasing dreams and girls. Some of it was real—I wouldn’t have asked her to follow me east and to New York.
Carolyn was a whole different thing. It was initially intellectual. A slow burn of years, full with reading and writing that only much later blew up. I was afraid that I would never be her equal. I could tell she didn’t trust my youth. I ruined it before we got to the year in Paris together. Instead I went to graduate school and met the people who would later betray me.
I can say unequivocally that I was doing the very best that I could do. I was making sane and sober decisions. I was being true to myself. I was protecting my dreams and forwarding my personal growth. I don’t think I could have done my part much differently, given who I was. I regret that I wasn’t different. I regret that I couldn’t commit my life to another ahead of my own ambitions. I regret that I couldn’t imagine my life being better as part of a couple.
The last time I spoke to Carolyn was in the late summer of 1998. I missed her for years before that and all the years since.
Abigail stopped talking to me at my best friend’s wedding. She might have stopped some time before that, but that’s when I realized it. What year was that? 2002, 3, 4?
Now I sit here at what feels like the lame denouement of my life. Winding down and reflecting, exhausted, waiting for cancer’s return. My mind turns again and again to these old regrets: two people I loved uniquely, hurt brutally, and who asked me to stop contacting them. So I did, and I have.
I’ll probably go on wishing for them to be in my life until the end.