For this prompt, I asked everyone to write down these four words and phrases:
Regret I regret nothing
No Regrets We regret to inform you
Then I read the definition of the word “regret” from the Oxford American Dictionary (click here to read that). The line that stood out for me from the definition was, “to bewail the dead.”
What I wrote follows.
Today at the gym, a man older than I am climbed onto the elliptical machine next to me, and I saw myself in ten years. I have to say, he looked good. He had a nice head of silver hair, and smooth skin on his face. He may have had some surgical assistance with his look, but it could also have just been the result of good facial creams. He looked older, but attractive.
In my peripheral vision, I caught him giving me the once over more than a few times, and I couldn’t tell if he was cruising me or trying to figure out what was blaring in my ears: I tend to lip-synch along with whichever diva du jour is on my iPod. Today it was Ms. Aguilera (I met him out for dinner on a Friday night/He really had me working up an appetite). I should have just smiled at him, but I don’t like to socialize at the gym.
It was profound, though, because for so long now I’ve identified my future self with the old guy who’s bent over a walker, struggling to climb onto the bus, or the chunky, lonely guy by himself in a bar that’s otherwise busy with groups of friends and flirtatious conversation. That’s going to be me, I often tell myself, and the image I’ve held onto to for so long—the older me who’s married to a sweet guy, living in Sonoma County with a brood of chickens, a few dogs, and at least one cat to catch the mice—just slips away more and more.
But this guy, this guy made me re-think all my hopeless thoughts. He had nice arms—firm and slightly furry, with good muscle tone—and nice hands (trimmed nails and invisible cuticles). He was moisturized and clipped; he was keeping up with the maintenance. That could be me, I thought, years from now, still pumping away to a dance tune, confident in shorts and a funky t-shirt.
I’m not sure what to do with these new thoughts. Should I write my therapist a thank-you note? Because the longing and hopelessness I’ve kept company with for so long now is slipping away, and in its place is a new awareness that there’s so much I don’t know. I might end up with a bent spine and stiff legs; I might also complete the AIDS Ride someday and push my body into new, tight shapes. I might live alone in an overstuffed one-bedroom in the Mission, or I might live in a big house with people I know and trust; I might become a foster parent or a big brother. I might have a hot, young lover who finds me extremely sexy, even with these lines on my forehead, and these new thoughts of not being able to control anything.
It all feels strangely possible now.