I’ve heard most people regret missed opportunities. Chances to confess their deepest emotion or grip some elusive offer, that which terrifies them into a stasis while the moment slips beyond reach. I’ve said much I’ve been sorry for, done many things that may or may not have led to the best outcomes, but one thing I’ve never had difficulty with, in my entire life, was seizing opportunities when they presented themselves. I’ve experienced more than most and I don’t regret any of it. Not the bad or the uncomfortable or awkward. Without them I wouldn’t have a comparison for the wonderful, the beautiful or the precious.
Yet, even I have a regret. Yes, me. The man who shrugs off mistakes, who laughs at adversity, who thrives under the illusion that is failure.
Please, Seth, do not take what I write next as indicative of a lack of depth of my feelings for you. You have been, quite literally regardless how clichéd it sounds, the best thing in my life, my heart and soul within another and even, at times, my reason for breathing. Despite that, if I could go back, if I could change one thing, it would be to walk past you that morning.
Remember? The southern port within Awadar glowing orange with the sunrise and the docks all a bustle, sailors rushing to catch an escaping tide. You’d just arrived to work, your hair a glossy black and your eyes reflecting the sunlight. It was your smile that had drawn me in, chained me to the ground as I watched you greet your fellow dockworkers and listened to the stories you and them had spun about the game from the night before. A card game, I’d found out after, one I’ve spent countless hours playing with you in the years since. It’s bittersweet looking at those well-worn cards, their corners torn, designs spotted with beer.
My selfishness drove my greeting. I wanted you. More than I wanted to breathe. Make no mistake, Seth, to this day I want you, just as deeply as I did that morning. No, more so now than then, for now I know you. Know the man behind the smile, the stories and twinkling eyes. Know how passionately you love and have seen first-hand the vulnerability you hide. You are my world.
But I regret walking up to you that morning. Regret interjecting myself in your story to tease you. Regret dragging you behind the warehouse, your friends’ good-natured ribbing ringing in our ears as I sank to my knees and let you steal away my breath the same as you’d unknowingly done when I’d first seen you. As perfect as a memory that morning is, emblazoned on my mind, I wish it away. Wish I’d kept walking, allowed you to remain a passing beautiful moment, no more, no less.
If I had, who but the gods know where you might have ended up. Certainly not chased from Awadar as my accomplice to too many crimes to count. Not wracked with endless coughs from the infection you caught in the wetlands below the city, that to this day has weakened your breathing and slowed your pace. Not disowned by your family nor forgotten by your friends. Nor would your chances of attaining a stable, long-term career have blown away in smoke. You wouldn’t have slept more nights in ratty inns or on the cold, hard ground than on a comfortable mattress you owned. You never would have gone hungry during all those times when life had been lean for us. Never would have picked up insomnia, your mind now in a state of constant alertness from countless fights you never started.
You were not made for this life. Not as I am.
I consider every new chance as a fresh opportunity. And the thought of remaining in one place, stagnant like the swamps beneath the Drossalian Heights…I couldn’t do it. I’m resistant to legalities and I’m much too in love with challenge; I relish the way it makes my heart soar.
You were my only constant, Seth, and only because I was just as much in love with you.
I apologize for dragging you into my life. For being so selfish that I had to have you. You are more than I deserve. Far more.
You never once complained. Never asked for anything different than what I am, what I had to give. You’ve stood by me, joined me, been my partner, my confidant, my lover, my everything. And though I’ve done my best to be all that and more in return, I know that I could never live up to you. Though you would never see it that way, for which I am grateful.
When you finally read this, it means I’ve passed, whether from natural causes or from our illustriously insane life, only time will tell. Walking away from you now would be cruel to the both of us, no matter that it might drastically improve your lot. However, if I could go back to that morning, walk past you instead of toward you, I would. It might possibly be the only unselfish thing I’ve ever wished in my life, but I would do it for you.
Because, Seth, you are the only person I’ve ever loved.
~ ~ ~
This story evolved from a question prompt. The question was the typical “what is your biggest regret?” Though I’m sure you already figured that out :)
Since this was the first story in the challenge, I automatically took a more direct approach, rather than the indirect approach I ended up taking with a number of the subsequent questions since I didn’t want to go about each story in the same way.
Despite that straight-forward approach, I love this story even more than many of the others I wrote. Possibly because it shows the least selfish love out of all of them. Or possibly because it called for a more lyrical writing style. I’m not sure.
Next month I’ll do a longer piece, thinking either The Sighing of Dead Butterflies, which is written in first person in a similar style to this story, or The Baywater and The Hurricane, which has a more straight-forward writing style in 3rd person. If you have an opinion on what you’d like to see first, I’d love to hear it :)
Thanks for reading!