Regrets . . . I’ve had a few

The difference between the things we should say and do, and what we actually say and do

Sat, May 24, 2014, 01:00

I wish I could say “Je ne regret Rien” but the truth is I do regret Rien. I was lonely, he was there – Paris, of course. Sure, I left happier than I arrived but I regret Rien because he meant nothing to me. And I regret plenty besides him. You see, mes petits amis, there are the things we should say and do and then there are things we do say and do.

Get this: you never regret the things you do, only the things you don’t do. If I ever meet the clown who came up with that old chestnut, I’ll conk him right out. He’s wrong, I almost always regret the things I do.

I mean, one time, I accidentally jumped on a puppy as he slept on some steps I happened to be jumping on. Another time(s) I ate a family-sized bag of Minstrels, without my family.

The latter part of his dumb dictum – regretting the things you don’t do – doesn’t hold up either.

I’m forever grateful for the things I have managed not to do. So far in my (short, brutish) life I have avoided a number of low points. I have never ordered Chinese food in a Chinese accent, gone to a burlesque show or committed genocide. Long may it continue, this skinny regret-free streak. Lord knows it’s surrounded by missteps and errors spotted in hindsight, mistakes once molten, now hardened into a solid lava-rock of regrets.

I should have, I shouldn’t have. Oh, what a word! Should is a truly lousy word, the “s” snakes around and bunches your shoulders up, hunching you over while the rest of the word does just what it says and pulls a hood tight over your head. It’s difficult to breathe under too many shoulds but just as difficult to cast them off.

I have two favourite pastimes. One is sticking photos of my head onto photos of Beyoncé’s body. The other is reliving moments where I should have said or done something, but didn’t. I call this fun game “The Courtroom of my Life” and I play all the characters.

I am my defender, my prosecutor, my own key witness. I am the jabbering spectators and the puffed-up jury. I am tired old Justice Higgins presiding over the scene, calling all of me to order and demanding the trial of “Higgins vs Should” to start at once. Now I am the faithful stenographer, adjusting my glasses, fingers poised to record the complex wrangling about to begin. The evidence mounts.

Exhibit A: I’m in a Dublin pub and a girl, a tragic girl with a series of props in lieu of a personality, calls me outside to show me her umbrella. It has pictures of puppies sitting in prams. She twirls it and looks at my face. I arrange said face into a charmed smile and say “That is so cute” in a robot voice that comes from nowhere near my heart. That was being kind, right? Should I have told her what I really thought? Should I have gone with my first instinct and rammed that umbrella where the rain don’t fall?

Exhibit B: I’m at a work meeting with a scrawny guy, owner of the greatest voice of all time. When he talks, it feels like someone is pouring warm honey into my ears. In reality, having honey poured into your ears would be unpleasant, but this is the opposite.

I’m blissing out, man. I ask other people at the meeting “Do you hear this?” They look away, embarrassed. I can’t stop staring at the guy. I want to touch him. With great clarity, I recognise this is what’s known as massive chemistry, or maybe simple biology, but Scrawny’s got a girlfriend so I use physics and I run away, admittedly quite slowly. Should I have stood and fought? Did I make a mistake by denying nature? Who am I to defy science? What if he is the one, or one of the ones? Should I call him?

Exhibit C: I’m on tour in Stockholm, doing a comedy show in a modern art gallery. I don’t know why either. At lunchtime I attempt to order a salad with feta cheese but instead, some herrings show up. They are too confronting to eat, so I stick to the rocket leaves soaked in brine that cling to the glassy-eyed fish. The waitress asks if I’m okay. I nod, saying “Tag” which possibly means goodbye, or maybe tag. Should I explain? Ask for what I want? Should I even be here?

And so on, until Justice Higgins has had enough. She slams down her gavel, bellowing “Case dismissed – unreliable witness”. I thank everyone for their mercy, and I am free, free, free.

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