I try to live my life without regrets, to let go of small mistakes and missed opportunities, but some regrets, especially small ones, are largely unavoidable, like tiny, shallow nicks that leave an inexplicable scar. I know they’re of no consequence anymore—and likely never have been of any consequence at all—but, at times, they still nag at the back of my mind and, even more infrequently but persistently, will tumble to the front.
For whatever reason, I decided to share a few of those insignificant but persistent regrets.
While in Myanmar, I achieved a level of food poisoning that can only be described as ballistic. I spent a full two nights and two days in a darkened guesthouse room in Nyaung Shwe expelling unspeakable things from my body. To make matters worse, the lovely but noisy temples of Myanmar produce recordings of Buddhist chants from around 3am to around 5am, ensuring that sleep is made impossible and that samsara is made as unpleasant as possible.
At one point I tumbled from my bed, somehow made it to the washroom, and vomited boisterously and copiously into the sink (reaching the toilet, it seems, was beyond my abilities at the time). I had the presence of mind to realize that running the tap would only worsen the situation that had taken over my sink, but I was just dazed and confused enough to think scooping the vomitus into the nearby trash can was a good workaround. My work done and my stomach settled (for the moment), I returned to my bed.
Sometime later, my strengths regained, I left the guesthouse and headed for Bagan. Only much later did I realize that I had never cleaned out that trash can of my digestive horrors. Even now, I cringe as I imagine the poor Burmese staff picking up the oddly heavy trash can, expecting to empty it of a few scraps of tissue and maybe a Q-tip, only to find it half-filled with a liter of congealed vomit. I genuinely hope he or she just threw the whole thing out. Sometimes I get the urge to book a ticket to Nyaung Shwe, find the guesthouse and apologize profusely. Maybe buy them a new trash can.
While walking in Montreal with my friend Paul (not Paul Walker; a normal, still-living Paul), we crossed a couple of young women carrying an oversized couch along the sidewalk. They were laughing, but it was the kinda laugh you produce when you’re struggling not to shout something like, “Dammit, Angela, will you please lift your end higher ’cause the edge of this thing keeps catching on my goddamn belt buckle!” or “For Christ’s sake, Emily, can you speed up, you sack of dumbass?”
They had adopted a somewhat circuitous route along the sidewalk, sometimes scraping the couch along the nearby wall while, at other moments, seeming intent on leaving the sidewalk entirely and merging with traffic. At the same time, they raised and lowered the couch every few meters, as though practicing for the role of the dragon in a Chinese parade. Paul and I dutifully stepped out of their way, giving them plenty of room, and watched them make their slow, torturously three-dimensional way past us.
I think we made it one or two blocks before Paul turned to me and said, “Should we have offered to help them?” I glanced at him and said, “Yes.” We stopped and looked back the way we’d come. They were gone, maybe beyond a slight hill or around a corner or wholly swallowed by their couch.
“Do we go back?” Paul asked.
I considered it, but now it felt weird and a tad insulting and even creepy. Like what, run back there? Seemed like that would just say, “Hey, we saw you about three minutes and a hundred yards ago and did nothing but, now that we’ve had to think about it, we think helping you would be a great way to find out where you live.”
I shook my head. “No, it’s too late.”
We kept walking.
I don’t regret not running back to offer belated assistance. I think that was the right call. But I definitely regret not offering help in the first place. But I’m sure they made it. Sorry, ladies.
On the set of the Richard Donner film, Timeline—a film largely and rightfully ignored by viewers and reviewers alike—I had a scene with Paul Walker and his childhood friend. The childhood friend was named Randal or Marshal or something like that (I really should remember because it was tattooed on his back, as though he were constantly wearing an invisible jersey in a forever game of shirts and skins, his having pledged his undying allegiance to the latter team), and his official role was as Paul Walker’s assistant, though he would also participate in the occasional scene.
We were all standing around the professor, played by Billy Connelly, to celebrate the old gent’s birthday. During the scene (the entirety of which was later cut), with cameras rolling, Paul Walker reached into a nearby ice box and pulled out a can of beer, which he handed to Randal (or Marshal or whatever). Randal, though, did not see the proffered beverage. I did. In fact, not only did I see the beer, see what Paul Walker was doing and read his intentions for a bit of celebratory improv, I also met his sky-blue eyes. And I did nothing. I could have nudged Randal or Marshal or whatever, then nodded at the hovering beer can, which he would have immediately grabbed from his good buddy Paul Walker’s waiting grip. Or I could even have reached across and grabbed it myself, popping it open and celebrating my sneaky win with a generous gulp. But no. I did none of that. I just stood there, frozen. I left Paul Walker hanging. I let Paul Walker down. And now he’s dead.