Regrets That Rip You Apart — 8 Lessons From a Machete Maniac.
“What are these crescent marks on your homework, Richard?”
“The paper came like that. I have no idea,” I said (as “cool”as possible).
Hell, I knew what those odd marks were.
I wasn’t going to tell my teacher, that’s for sure. Smearing my #2 pencil math and causing me to lose precious points.
“Look he’s a good boy. He works so hard, then he sits here and does his homework,” she said.
“He’s going places.”
Not then. Certainly not at that age. I sat at the corner of a circular bar late in the afternoon. After school. With a Coke. Lots of ice and french fries to get me through.
I looked up. Susan was wearing much of nothing. I loved and still remember how the bottom of her perk-hard breasts curved higher and her nipples were always erect. She told me it was an affliction or genetic or something I can’t recall. Either way, I focused on them a lot so I know she knew what she was talking about.
She would peek down. Hair hanging close enough for me to smell the Prell. She’d grin and point to me like I was the man (boy). I noticed I was the only person she would point at. I was special.
A couple of nights a week she would let me sleep on the couch at her place. I thought she was old. Susan couldn’t have been older than 22 but to a 13 year-old, 22 is damn near ancient. She had been on her own for a long time that I knew. She appeared older because inside she was.
Her face was perfect and clean except for some light/dark circles under her eyes. Yet they were the most perfect brown eyes. Her dark hair was big-wave curly most of the time, longer than shoulder length. She barely wore make up (I remember because I cleaned her bathroom).
To earn my keep I completed various chores which included select personal grooming. Pedicures (bright-red polish I bought at Duane Reade’s for 59 cents), deep hair conditioning, run bath water, cook, vacuum (my favorite for some reason) and other responsibilities I’ll refrain from print.
Susan was a pseudo-mom, occasionally a big sister, frequently a guardian and all the time, as she strut her stuff on that bar for strange men, she was my overseer. A mentor in size 6 black heels. Always black.
I rarely saw her happy. When I told her about my good grades at school, she did smile. Genuine. Her eyes would brighten. She would hug me. It was at those times, she appeared much younger. I felt older than her when she smiled. It was that kind of innocent. In some way, I took her pain away.
“It’s important you stay in school, Richie.”
I hated Richie but it stuck for years. Even now I cringe if people call me that. Most important was what she taught me, how she truly cared for me, took on a roll a mother abandoned for a time. I could see in her eyes how much she loved me. If I was older I think she would have married me. I questioned why I should bother to stay in school, what was the point?
We could live together and go on like this forever and instead of laboring over homework and studies I could get a real job. I worked in the place she did. I cleaned tables, put aluminum foil and mirrors up on dank walls, filled the cigarette machine and I was grateful for the money but for Susan I wanted to accomplish more.
She inspired me in a world that was several bottoms less than inspiring. Was it romantic love I felt? Not sure. I loved her but couldn’t forge the feelings correctly in my head. They only went so far. My life experiences then were too limited to put the pieces together properly.
I’m saddened (tortured) even today, how I never asked her why she cared so much, why she bothered. What was her past like? I don’t recall any family discussed, any photos hanging on the walls of the studio apartment above the Salumeria (Italian deli). Who influenced her? I regret not asking. Not caring for her more. I took out a big knife with rusty edges. I…
Wondered what happened to her?
Bonds you extend to others, those they extend to you, are (I’m convinced) laid out by a higher power. I have no clue what the power or energy is. Is it God? Not certain. Are these bonds darker and do they hold more DNA than blood? Yes. In that I AM certain.
Sometimes people you extend the bond to sever it. And not surgically. Some will use a machete and whack at it in such a terrifying manner and so quickly, you are not sure you could ever extend the bond again.
There’s too much of your own blood spilled. You need a transfusion from someone. Something. Who the fuck is listening?
But where? Who? I know. It happened to me recently. It’s happened to you. And I’m not clear on my ability to bond again for the first time in a long time.
I raised the machete to Susan many years ago.
I was cut by beauty & intelligence. Never again. Never again?
And after several decades, the regret of what happened then and today resurfaces like a beast. A demon I thought was slayed, returns. Much stronger.A greater malevolence than I ever imagined was (is) still thrives within. And I regret every moment of what (who) unchained it. It was Susan. A Susan doppleganger.
Every moment of happiness, every dinner, every discussion, I regret.
But I say, in the blood is the lesson. Because that’s where lessons are born. Oaths are taken.
In blood. In the blood of interaction, in the blood of intimacy, in the blood of vulnerability, in the blood of stupidity, trust. In toe-nail polish.
Regrets can rip you apart. Yet in a way, you will eventually emerge from a cocoon more beautiful than ever before, a diamond with an additional imperfection which can only make you more valuable to yourself and others.
1). Cocoon. You must heal. Assess what you will and won’t do again. Create your machete protection program but be careful. To live, you must be cut. You decide for how much and how long. Feel bad for yourself. Live with the demon a bit. It’s ok. I’m doing it. Demon has been stealing my socks for a couple of months.
2). Spend money. On anything that will make you stronger physically or emotionally. An exercise class, martial arts, a book on self-improvement. Indulge a bit. It takes time to heal from a machete attack.
3). Listen to. Music. So many studies that show how music can help your mind, your healing. Find music that relates to your situation. Listen to music that allows happier memories to emerge. And stick.
4). Don’t listen to. People-who try to give you guidance right now. Fuck them. What do they know about what you’re going through? Only you know. Be polite, but…
“Everybody’s talking at me. I don’t hear a word they’re saying, Only the echoes of my mind. People stopping staring, I can’t see their faces, Only the shadows of their eyes.”
Thank you Harry Nilsson and “Midnight Cowboy,” for the encouragement.
5). Learn to. Ask people why they love you. Why they hate you. Why do they care so much about you? Be sincerely interested in others that higher powers throw in your path. Everyone has a story. Perhaps you’ll learn something to make you better in the long run. But DO IT AFTER YOUR COCOON PROCESS HAS CONCLUDED.
6). Pray. To yourself. To the healer inside you.
7). Downsize. Get rid of the baggage, toxic chemicals and material crap that makes you a slave. Free your mind from excess. For example, I stopped drinking and my regret demon hates it. It reminds me in the shower of how much it hates my abstinence.
8). Mind your mentors. They are all ages, all forms. Some are smarter, others not. You’ll love them, you’ll hate them. Susan was a mentor. Susan’s double was too.
Susan walked on my homework. I have no idea. Perhaps it was her stamp of approval. I never asked why she did.
The crescents were the bottom of her tiny heels.
At 16 I severed ties -I felt I was too good for her. She was a low-life stripper. I was going to be successful. She tried to find me.
I told her I would meet her for coffee and I watched from across the street as she went into a luncheonette in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn. She sat there for an hour and a half and waited for me.
Ten years ago she died from a drug overdose. Alone. I still had time to thank her, to ask, to tell her. To explain. To be there.
But I didn’t. And I wasn’t.
And so I must live with this regret. Cage it. It’s stronger/bigger each go round. It emerges from the past. I work to slay it in the present.
Who will unleash it next?
I pray it isn’t you. And you know who you are.