106 S Union Street
Alexandria, VA 22314
by Beau Cadiyo
Back in January or February of 2000, I was in a supermarket in Cardiff, Wales. I was studying in Cardiff and a girl in one of my literature classes was shopping in the same market – brunette, dark skinned with green eyes, half-Italian, yacht. She came up and we started chatting about books in the aisle, and then paid, and then talked some more outside, and then she invited me back to her place for tea. Once in her apartment, she put the kettle on, and then we looked at some pictures from her life, and then we were sitting on her bed, and then we had more tea, and then I left. In retrospect all I had to do was make a move. The problem wasn’t my not knowing what to do; it was that I didn’t even realize what sort of situation I was in. It was like being in front of an apple tree, and starving, but not knowing that apples are edible. Oh man, I could have eaten.
The Indigo Girls have a song called Watershed, with the line, “Every five years or so I look back on my life and I have a good laugh.” For me it is the opposite. Every five years or so I look back on my life and think of these moments and experience a deep, profound sadness. It’s usually temporary, but it usually makes me cry. I feel – acutely – the lost opportunities, the chances missed, the girls not bedded, the words not said, the papers not written and the books not read. I mourn, more than anything, the fact that I could have done more and that I didn’t. I’m not only getting older, but it’s not going to get better; there’s little or nothing for me to live for if I can’t take advantage of the opportunities right in front of my face. Kids – kids are a reason to live, they’re a reason to keep going. Kids work.
I don’t have kids.
Not that I want them – I don’t, not right now and probably not ever. If anything, they might make my life more satisfying, but they’d also prevent me from taking advantage of opportunities that are out there. Yes, no kids for me.
Today, though, it is fear of age and extreme mourning of what could be interpreted as a misspent youth. Someone once told me that part of my problem was that I grew up too early – that I never had time to be young because I was always too busy becoming old. I was 20 going on 60. Now, though, all I want to do is go back twelve years, thirteen years, and live that time over again.
The curse of experience is that you know how badly you screwed up.
This whole line of thinking is, of course, foolish. I can eat apple pie for breakfast if I want to because I am an adult, with a job (knock on wood), and I have money to buy apple pie for breakfast if I want it, and the freedom to eat as much apple pie as I can. There was a stretch of three or four days where every meal I ate involved rotisserie chicken skin. Try eating rotisserie chicken skin for every meal. You’ll love it. But now, in my early thirties, I just want to be young again, even if I can't afford apple pie and rotisserie chicken skin – I want to be young and carefree, without real responsibilities. Greener grass. Plus, I have this idea that if I could go back, everything would be halcyon. I wouldn’t feel pain, and I’d take advantage of all of the opportunities thrown at me. I’d be able to woo Annabelle Fryer again. I’d run faster, stretch out my arms farther. . . . And one fine morning
Eventually I get to the point where I see this as a painful opportunity to look at my life, see what paths are open to me, and see which are the ones I want to follow or should try to blaze. What could I do now that I’d regret not doing later? I suppose I should feel fortunate about this as an opportunity, but really, I can’t help but regret what I did not do, the paths I didn’t take.
One path I did take recently was an $18 cheeseburger at Virtue Feed & Grain in Alexandria, Virginia. I wish I could say it wasn’t worth it – that it was mediocre, that the bread wasn’t perfect, the meat wasn’t juicy, the cheese not perfectly matched, the fries were cold and soggy, but none of those things were true. This burger was worth every penny I spent on it, and I am glad I took that path. Plus, I was with great friends, and now the husband of them is going to start using a straight razor, which is exciting. So that path - the $18 cheeseburger at Virtue - is a good path to take if you can.
But there are still other paths I wish I’d taken. Over the next few days, I’m going to think about how I want to live my life, and the “Raymond K. Hessel” things I want to do. Who knows – you might hear about some of them.