I used to love a boy named Phillip. He was nineteen and I was twenty-one. It was 2004 and we were both addicts together. He of drugs that had slangs I had never even heard of, and I of loveless sex and sexless love. It was a hot month both literally and figuratively. Summer had come early and we found ourselves in the month of March skinny dipping a lot after midnight in the pool at my apartment complex.
He would say things to me like, “Let’s pretend we are in love” while we danced naked in my living room to Kenny Chesney. “Let’s actually be in love,” I would respond, like the good little love junkie I was. And then we would smile and do things to and with each other that I cannot write about in this blog without an X-Rated label. In all my memories of Phillip, it was always nighttime and the moon was always full.
And then I met John. My future husband. My future adulterous husband. My future adulterous dead husband.
For a whole week, I loved John and Phillip both. Both wanted to marry me. Being at the top of a love triangle was the most awake I’d ever been. What’s precious to me now about this time in my life, is the optimism and simplicity of how we three viewed marriage. They loved me, I loved them so obviously marriage was the next step. No one bothered to ask each other anything logical like what their credit scores were, if they had any medical conditions or you know, what their last names were. We, like most adults in their infancy, made all our decisions based on intuition, and feelings, and hormones….logic be damned!
After that one hot month and that one hot week, John told me to choose. I chose him without hesitation….intuition and feelings, and hormones be damned! Logic had won and Phillip had lost. I patted myself on the back for being a ‘real’ grown up. Phillip was devastated. He showed up that night at 3am on my door step crying and telling me he loved me. Yep, Phillip was crazy, this act of passion had confirmed, and John was not crazy. He was not a drug addict. He was too ridged to skinny dip, and too practical to dance naked. John was the good choice.
Ten years almost exactly to the date that I chose John over Phillip, John would be crying and telling me he loved me as he shot himself.
I didn’t immediately think of Phillip that night; I didn’t immediately think of anything other than our children that night, but months later I would find myself searching Instagram for Phillip. I realize now that I wasn’t searching just for him though, I was searching for a piece of myself that had been lost ten years ago, and another piece that had been lost when John fired that gun, and all the pieces of my younger self that I had been lost in between the ten-year gap of Phillip and widowhood.
Instagram would tell me that Phillip was now married with three daughters. All of them had his blue eyes and their mother’s brown curls. It would tell me that he was sober, in love with his wife, had a stable job, and loved to barbeque. Instagram would tell me that I should’ve chosen Phillip.
I realize saying this makes me a bad widow and an even worse mother, but there you have it: regret. Who would I be today if I’d chosen Phillip? Certainly not this broken, anxiety-ridden, bitter, pessimistic, bitch that everyone loves to be entertained by on social media. I would be in a kitchen somewhere in Texas preparing side dishes to go with Phillip’s barbeque with my hope and my faith and my innocence still intact.
I don’t care if the person I am and the place I am at in my life is amazing right now-and yes, my life here in San Diego is amazing-I don’t want it. What it has taken to get me here, to get me to be the person who lives a life so boldly with her best friend and their five children by the beach, is not worth the suffering that got me here.
I’d rather be Phillip’s wife, not John’s widow.
But soon I wont want this. You see, its 4am as I write this and I know that this regret, (like my capacity to love a man) will not last; it comes and it goes as mysteriously as my joy. My kids will be up soon with their little drool-incrusted faces and hair like mine, that is ratted and has a mind of its own. We’ll fill our day up with appointments and work and arguing over who left their cereal bowl in the sink, and in the midst of me caving in and scrubbing the damn cereal bowl myself, I will wonder how I got to be so very fortunate to have this life. Tonight Lynnette and I will have a few glasses of wine on our backyard palette couch that we built ourselves and laugh about the arbitrary things that made up our day.
I will go to bed not regretting one single choice I ever made because what John gave to me was equal to what he took from me, and I will be so content and full of wine.