Monday, June 16, 2014
[Curtain opens to reveal a man, about fifty years old, sitting at a table SL. Before him is an open notebook, spiral-bound, and in his hand is a pencil/pen. He’s staring intently at the blank page. To his right sits a woman of about equal age. To the right of her, across an aisle, is another table, where sit a young man and woman, both in their late-teens or early twenties. Taylor is walking about, looking at students responses as they walk, maybe conversing quietly with some students who aren’t speaking. He will at times return to his seat at the front of the stage, a stool.]
MAN: Look at him standing there, the pompous prick. Un-tucked shirt hanging from under his argyle sweater, dark jeans meeting tan loafers—the epitome of dress-casual. He walked in wearing his gray pea coat, his scarf tied all neatly around his neck, fancy knot resting in the V of his buttoned coat, slick brown gloves on his hands, and I almost couldn’t help but wish he’d choked on the bulbous knot before getting here. And then he has the audacity to tell us to choose our top five regrets from our lives—as if he could know anything about regret, about lamenting the loss of opportunities lingering so close you can taste them, opportunities that never came to fruition, just waggled in your face, taunting you through your failure. The idea of him talking to us about such things, and everyone just going right along with it. Most of these kids aren’t much younger than he is, and they don’t have a clue. Relying on mommy and daddy’s dime to foot the bill here, walking straight out of high school just like this was the thirteenth grade, coming here to goof around and waste time, their precious time, and parents’ hard-earned money. They don’t have life experience, haven’t worked for what I’ve worked, I can tell by the way they sit and text in class, and snicker, passing notes, playing games when they think Mr. Oates—sorry, Taylor, as he told us to call him that first day—isn’t looking. And what does he do? Just tells them to stop, stands by them, as if proximity were enough to quell their obnoxious horseshit. He tells them they’re only hurting themselves, but doesn’t kick them out. Back in my day, students who didn’t want to be there were kicked out, tails between their legs, and lucky if they were let back in. But no, not now. Not here.
But they don’t have a clue what they’re doing. I know ‘cause I was one of them—cutting class, hanging out, doing what I wanted, giving half-assed effort on everything because I was free from high school and making my way in the world, and everything was gonna just fall into place. I wasn’t there to learn; I was there to socialize, to meet girls and get laid. To drink and party. To find myself and who I was. Freedom from parents, first time from home, at my parents’ expense. I see myself in so many of them who sit here, those who ruled high school, the too-cool-for-school crowd who scoffed at the idea of a future where they weren’t the kings and queens of everything, and someday the harsh truth of reality—that greatest ruling bitch of all—will come crashing down on them, and they’ll be sitting in my seat, looking back on a lifetime of choices and mistakes, of opportunities missed, watching the incoming schmucks who’ve taken their place, and the cycle will continue.
And the instructors—my God, the instructors—actually looked like instructors, with their suits and ties, and dresses and heels, they were prim and proper, they wrote, they published, they smoked cigarettes in classes and didn’t give a goddamn if it bothered you. They didn’t hold the hands of their students, didn’t coddle them, and they were slick and prim and proper, and spoke like professors. Not like Mr. Oates—Taylor—with his shaggy hair and hipster black-framed glasses, the kind that had I worn them when I was his age would have gotten my ass kicked for being such a geek or dweeb—both anachronistic terms. And I bet most of these kids wouldn’t know that term—anachronistic—or even where to look that wasn’t online to find it. Do they even teach context clues in school in more? Do they teach anything in schools anymore? My kids can’t even read cursive, can only sign their names because I taught them how. And how much of what they learn here, even here, will they actually take with them, actually remember or use? How much of education has become an exercise in jumping through hoops? He who jumps best scores the best marks.
Taylor assigns these prompts at the start of each class. They’re supposed to engage us, to help us focus, to use critical thinking. And then he walks around the room, watching to ensure that we actually work, as if he doesn’t trust us, though given the work ethics of most of the students around me, I guess I can’t blame him. He watches, discusses, tries to inspire our creativity, offering feedback and support. The first thing he said when he walked into class that first day, just before assigning the first of these prompts, was to call him by his first name, and that his second novel was being published by a major house the next spring. He talked about his education and interests, and the more he talked, the more the girls fawned over him. Kids act like he walks on water, and no one seems able to sing his praises high enough. That’s why Cathy said we should take his class—that everyone loved him, that his class was the best. But he’s so young, fresh out of college himself. And he asks us to write about a lifetime of regret. And all I can do is stare at my blank page, clicking my pen, its mechanic clink thudding with each heavy depression. It’s not that I’ve nothing to write, Taylor, I think as I catch him staring at me and my blank page. Quite the contrary; I just don’t know where to start. Not finishing school when I was young. Sleeping through classes. Spending two years in a drunken haze. Failing even my English classes—why I’m here now—when English was the only subject I had cared about in high school. Then spending years as a grease monkey. Years spent working on cars when it should have been me earning a degree. Me teaching this class, assigning asinine prompts to people who don’t give a fuck. I’ve probably forgotten more about writing and literature than this kid knows. And yet there he stands, telling me what and how to write, telling me what good writing is. As if he has a clue about anything. Write about my regrets? Hell, I wear mine like a second skin, so goddamn thick I can feel them clinging to me.
[Pause; looks to his right and sighs] And then there’s Cathy, just writing away, her list complete, each regret explained in full paragraphs. Her regrets? I bet I’m in there somewhere, maybe everywhere. Maybe it’s just one long rant about how our time together has seen us devolve from the people we thought we were going to be. Maybe her writing is wrought with regrets I’ve caused: the pregnancy that saw us both leave college in our early twenties, that saw the dreams we had just started to realize slip away—I had just started to take school seriously, just awakened to the possibilities that lay before me, had just decided what to make of myself (I was going to teach, I realized, a long-forgotten or displaced dream slowly coming back to me)—and then she told me she was pregnant with what would be the first of three children, all of whom would have to be put through college—maybe of trips never taken, locales never visited, of Paris, Cancun, the Caribbean; all trips talked about over the years but never taken, no real reason, just a confluence of everyday events that in one way or another inhibited us from going. Maybe she’s written of all the times we talked about going back to school but never did. But more likely she’s written of missed concerts and plays, of sales not taken advantage of, of bestsellers not read. Though, then again, it was her suggestion, her prodding and goading, her insistence that she had tired of my voracious reading and rekindling love of reading leading to discussions of books she’d never read, that led us back to school all these years later. Her insistence we’d be fine financially if I quit my job as a mechanic, our devotion to school renewed and rekindled, did little to quell the worry that burned within me, keeping me up at night, doubt that we could truly do this festering away. Doubt that returning to school now was what we should do when we had talked about it for so long.
OLDER WOMAN: [looks up from writing] Only five regrets? I’ve got a top-five list of regrets for every stage of my life, every year of my life. My husband probably thinks I’m writing about sales I’ve missed, of concerts we skipped, of all those silly inconsequential things we so often focus on in life. And sure, there are some of those that came to mind—we missed George Carlin on his last tour. We skipped the show for one reason or another—I can’t even remember why now—deciding we’d just catch him next time he came to town. He died later that year. Sure, I regret not going, and maybe before taking this class, I’d have written about something like that. Something innocuous, of no real importance, but if this class has taught me anything, it’s that life is made up of so much more than missed concerts and shows, that the major decisions we consider in life are those that we don’t often dwell on. I knew this, of course, but it wasn’t something I ever thought much about, never put into words—articulated—or attempted to analyze. This class has got me thinking about my life, reflecting in a way that I never did before. And I’ve begun pinpointing the moments that changed my life, that led me to here. Each of those moments was spurred by another moment, another choice, and led to another choice that led to another choice that led to another choice, all of them eventually resulting in my being here, now, at fifty-four, going back to school after my children have already graduated college, attempting to better myself after all these years. And somehow, I can’t help but think that to use that phrase “better myself” diminishes everything I accomplished before. But that’s what I tell myself I’m doing, what I tell my husband we’re doing after all these years. I suppose he agrees with me. Then again, he was always the academic one. Always the reader, the writer. I hated to see him let such talents go to waste. In truth, I’m back here for him as much as I am myself.
But none of that explicitly has to do with regrets, does it? I suppose not; they’re in there, but not fully discussed. So I guess I’ll start with the first one that comes to mind, the first moment that led me to here. When I was eighteen, Bobby McCarthy asked me to marry him. We went steady all through high school. My, he was something. Smart. Talented. Ambitious. His father owned a small business in town, a wholesale grocery company that supplied to all the stores in the area, and Bobby’d been working there since he was fifteen. Everyone knew that his future was set. He’d go on to take management positions, working his way up the family business until he would ultimately take over after his father retired. It was easy work, inheriting a multi-million dollar company. But he wanted more, was never satisfied with just that. So he did other work on the side, always dreaming of making a difference in the world, of writing, of acting, of doing something to leave his mark, something other than just being a multimillion-dollar grocer. The last I heard he was happily married with a couple kids, boys, and considering retiring. He’d become somewhat of a philanthropist, more so than his old man ever was, donating money to get the new library built back home, a new theatre for the high school. He ended up getting a couple books published. And, don’t get me wrong, I love my life for what it is, but in the back of my mind, I’ve always wondered what life would have been like had I married Bobby McCarthy when I was 18.
Then I met Harold in college. He was smart and funny; he could always make me laugh, and God, he was charming. It was in writing class that we met for the first time all those years ago. He was a great writer, and I think what first struck me about him was the degree to which he could add to the discussions in class. He showed real promise; even as just an average student, I could tell that. So when he asked me out on a date, I was all too eager to accept. And we hit it off really well. [pause] And then I wound up pregnant. Several of my friends recommended I get rid of it, but I couldn’t do that. Not only was I Catholic, I kind of liked the idea of being a mother. Sure, it had come sooner than I would’ve liked, but I thought it was a blessing, however it worked out. And Harold was a real gem, decided he would take care of me and the baby, would be involved in our lives, but I have to admit I thought that would be end of it. He’d see the kid when he could, send money, all that. I never expected he’d marry me, but he surprised me one night, about two months into the pregnancy. It was just after the end of the fall term, when everyone was getting ready to go home for winter break, and after he had helped me load up my car, he acted as though he had dropped something in the snow and dropped down to one knee. And then he looked up, ring in hand.
We went back for the spring term, but neither of us finished it. We got a place, got married. And then came the baby. We tried to make it work with school, but we just couldn’t. Harold took a job as a mechanic to make ends meet. Sure, he ultimately owned his own garage, and he was successful at it. But I know he was never really happy with it, not like he would’ve been had he followed through with his education. And I put aside my dreams of becoming a social worker. Ever since I was little, that was all I ever wanted to do—I wanted to take care of people, to help them. To help those so desperately in need of help. But I didn’t. Oh sure, I had a family to take care of, and don’t get me wrong, that was rewarding, but it was a different sort of rewarding. I suppose, in truth, being a social worker wasn’t always wanted to do. When I was a little girl, I wanted to be a fashion designer. This was before fashion became what it is today, but the thought of it excited me so. Everyone told me it was just a pipedream—my father told me I’d have to move to the big city, and he’d rather see me on the streets than do that, for the city was the personification of evil in my house growing up. Everything bad began and was centered there: drugs, excess, sex, degenerates. Even my teachers discouraged me, told me I’d never make it as a designer. They said I lacked the attention to detail, the artistic talent. Maybe they were right. But I guess I’ll never know now.
Bottom of the ninth, championship game. We were down by two runs, bases were loaded, and I was up to bat. I worked the pitcher to a full count, and I knew I was going to win the game. I could just see it. Grand slam to win it all, and I would be a hero. The king of the high school. It would’ve been the first time we’d won state in thirty years. Everyone was staring at me, on the edge of their seats. No one was so much as breathing, just holding their breath as they waited for the pitch. And I can still see it: the pitcher wiped the sweat from his brow with his glove, went into his windup, and released. And the ball soared toward me, and I swung with all my might, hard as I could, and I knew as soon as it left that bat I’d blown it. Popped it straight down the first base line. The guy caught it without even trying. And you should’ve seen the other team rush out onto the field, celebrating and falling all over each other. We just sort of stood there. I was numb for days. I mean, that was my one chance. The bus ride back home was the quietest trip I’ve ever made.
I think the hardest part about is that I had to face my father after the game. He was on the championship team thirty years ago, and I could tell he was disappointed in us. In me. I should’ve been the hero of that game. But I wasn’t. That was one of those moments I’ll always regret.
So I wound up here. I thought I was going to play professional baseball, but I couldn’t even got a scholarship to play in college. I guess I wasn’t good enough. I never thought that would be the case. My dad’s always told me these great stories about playing in school—the girls, the parties, the profs taking it easy on them. I mean, most schools worship football, but my dad’s school ate, slept, and breathed baseball back in the day, cause the baseball team was so much better than the football team. They won the championship three of the four years my dad played, and he used to tell me that a lot of the profs let assignments slide for the ballplayers, especially when they were winning. And the girls—my God, my dad told me the guys on the team were like gods. They could get any girl they wanted because they were athletes, and everybody wanted to be with an athlete. That’s how it was in high school. I can’t count how many times I got laid just because I played baseball. But I guess those days are over. No one here gives a shit I played baseball in high school. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that bad here—the profs are cool and seem to care, especially Taylor, probably because he’s not much older than I am. The classes are kinda easy, kinda like high school, not that I took those classes that seriously. I don’t know; maybe if I had, this would be even easier. Taylor talks a lot about stuff he thinks we should know, but I got to be honest, sometimes I have no idea what the hell he’s talking about. And in science, I’m totally lost. I skipped chemistry most of the time in high school. Mr. Withers was old and about to retire, so he didn’t give a shit what we did. I remember we caught a bunch of shit on his desk on fire. He was oblivious until the smoke alarm went off. He’d been off in the corner scribbling some notes on the whiteboard, mumbling about some formula not making sense. Man, that was a good day. Somehow, I don’t think Dr. Jenkins is going to be so carefree. He makes us actually work, and the lab reports are killer. I’ve never written so much in my life.
And I have to admit, I’m a little nervous about writing for Taylor’s class. We have to write five full essays this term. Five essays in sixteen weeks. I didn’t write five essays in my English class all last year. And everyone says the next level is even harder. I mean, I thought I did all right on my first essay in here. I talked about the topic—steroid use in baseball—and I had some facts to back it up. It wasn’t like I just made it all up. But Taylor gave me a C. He said my writing was all over the place, lacked coherence and direction. I have no idea what that means. He wrote a lot of other stuff in the margins too, stuff about sentence structure and subject-verb agreement and all kinds of stuff I guess I should’ve learned in high school. But hell, my teacher last year was just glad if we actually turned in our essays. She was nice, but I guess she didn’t really prepare me for this. I wish now she had.
Okay, so maybe I cheated once or twice. Nothing major. It’s not like I looked over at someone’s test during the ACT or anything like that. Not even on those stupid end-of-the-year state tests they always gave, which were a complete waste of time. My mother told me so, every year. And every time she said it, she acted as though it would be the last time, like that was the final straw and she was going to give up teaching. But maybe I cheated on homework. Me and my friend Sarah always copied our math homework off Tyler in homeroom. He was so much better at it than we were anyway, and he always thought that maybe we’d go out with him if he gave us all the answers. Of course we never did. But that’s beside the point.
So maybe I cheated a bit and I copied parts of my papers, but you learn pretty quick if you’re a teacher’s kid, especially when your mom teaches in the same district, that no one cares. It’s too much of a hassle for anyone to make a deal out of your cheating cause they know your mom will raise several kinds of hell if anyone accuses you of anything that’s going to make them look bad. A student teacher caught me and another girl cheating red-handed and he told the actual teacher, Mrs. Murphy, who made it all disappear. The only reason I know is that my friend Laura overheard Mrs. Murphy telling another teacher about it in the hall one day. And to make it not look like an issue, the entire stack of papers came up missing a day or two later. No one got credit for the work, not even those who did it. Mrs. Murphy said she must have accidentally thrown them away while cleaning off her desk. I mean, come on, seriously? This woman was the most organized woman I’ve ever seen. Everything in her room was neat and tidy. She used to yell at us if we scooted our desks ever so slightly out of their straight lines. And she lost an entire stack of assignments in the span of two days? Yeah, right.
So what do I regret? Now that I’m here, maybe I regret not taking high school more seriously. High school was a joke, and this place isn’t much better. I mean, come one, this is really a college? I feel like I’m in the thirteenth grade here. The assignments are jokes, a bunch of crap that’s supposedly going to help us in the real world, kind like the stuff in high school was going to help us in college. And the teachers, especially Taylor, are nothing like I expected, telling us to call them by their first names, except those with doctorates—they’re pretty hardcore about us calling them “Doctor this and Doctor that”—and they don’t give us shit about not coming to class. It’s like they don’t care whether we’re here or not. In high school, I skipped class all the time, and everyone was on my ass about it—Mr. Higgins told me that if he caught me one more time, he was going to tell my parents. He never did. He always said that I couldn’t learn if I wasn’t in class. I remember Mrs. Murphy would send students to the office for acting up, and the office would send them right back just a few minutes later. They always claimed that a student couldn’t learn if they weren’t in class. Not like they were learning much while goofing off in class anyway.
That was another thing my mother always bitched about. She’d send students to the office and right back they’d come. She always talked about how in her day the office and teachers both would paddle students who pulled shit in class. Can’t do it now or you’ll get sued. Every August and May I would watch the life drain from my mother—at the start she was dreading the year, and by the end, she was exhausted by it. In between, it was like she was on autopilot, just coasting along until summer came and gave her a few months of rest.
I wonder if she regrets any of it. Going into teaching. I know she probably hates it. How couldn’t she with all the changes that have come along. She always tells us it isn’t like it used to be. So that’s what I wrote my first paper on—comparing how things used to be with how they are now. And I know I’m not the best writer, but come one, Taylor gave me a C. A C! Does he not know who I am? I haven’t made a C in my life. I may see if my mom will talk to him. She teaches English, he teaches English—surely he’ll understand his mistake when she talks to him.
YOUNG MAN: My school counselor tried to talk to me about college last year. She asked about what I was interested in, what I wanted to do with my life after high school and then after college. Baseball. That’s what I told her. I was going to play through college, make it to the minors, and then work my way up. That’s what my dad did. Played triple A for several years before getting called up. Played one season with the Reds. But then he got hurt. They shipped back to the minors. He played a few more seasons, but called it quits when my older sister was born. Runs a sporting goods store downtown. He seems to like it all right, but I’ve got to wonder if misses it. I’m sure he does, but he never talks about it much. He was always focusing on my playing instead. But sometimes, when he’s been drinking, I’ll hear him in the garage, talking like he’s broadcasting the game. Regardless of what happens in the game, he always has himself as the hero, the one hitting a walk-off to win the Series. But there’s always a sadness in his voice at the end.
OLDER MAN: Regrets—all I can think of is what could have been done differently, each day a different path. Not to mention mistakes made with the kids. There was just so much we didn’t know early on. I guess we learned from everything, all the regrets having taught us something, but what kind of answer is that: I regret nothing because I learned from everything. Give me a break. At this point of my life, a regret is a regret is a regret—good or bad. Back to school, moving forward, and all I’m thinking of is the past.
OLDER WOMAN: Perhaps my biggest regret, though, is that I wasn’t there for my mother at the end. She never really got over the fact that I left college when I did. She eventually came to embrace Joshua, our first-born, and Harold, though she would often remind me of what I gave up. My mother wasn’t educated; she barely finished high school before marrying my father, and college was never a thought for her. And when I was younger I always thought she held my dropping out of college against Harold and me because she thought I could do better than Harold, but I’ve learned that it wasn’t Harold or the fact that he was just a mechanic that bothered her. It was that she was afraid I would turn out just like her. She wanted so badly for me to get the education she didn’t, and she wanted me to be better than she was. she wanted me to have a life better than the one she had, and she knew education would be the path that would lead me there. But I was too stubborn to see that, so we drifted apart. Sure, we were pleasant to one another, but the relationship wasn’t special, wasn’t close, and at the end, as she lay dying, I should’ve told her what I had learned over the years, that I understood why she was the way she was, that I forgave her her distance and needed her to forgive mine. But I didn’t. I was there, of course, at the end. I told her I loved her, but there was something deep down that wouldn’t let me do more, wouldn’t let me say more. I kept hearing her telling me how disappointed she was I never finished college, that I never became what I wanted, and I know it was because she had placed all her forgotten hopes and dreams in me, as though she would accomplish everything she had forgotten by marrying my father through my success. And I understand it, because I watch my children now, all three graduated from college, and all their success, and I can’t help but feel as though, in some part, it’s my success too.
YOUNG MAN: I guess I’ll be okay as long as I don’t wind up like him, right? I mean, he’s great and I love him, but in those moments he just seems so sad. But who knows, maybe when I transfer I can walk on somewhere. Maybe I can make it. Make my dad proud. Maybe.
YOUNG WOMAN: But I’m supposed to be writing about regrets, aren’t I? I guess I regret high school. Maybe I should’ve worked harder; then I wouldn’t be here in the thirteenth grade. But right now I regret taking this class. [She notices Taylor walking about the room, looking at people’s writings.] Oh, shit! Is he going to read these? [She stars erasing the last few lines.]
OLDER WOMAN: But here I am, after all these years, finishing what I started so long ago. And I can’t help but think of my mother, and how she’d feel knowing that I’m finally finishing school. I like to think that, maybe, somehow, she knows, wherever she is now.
That’s close to five, right? Or is it all just one, a continuous strand of events held together only by the fact that had I done something different , maybe they wouldn’t be there at all.
OLDER MAN: Mr. Oates tells us to wrap up our final thoughts, and I’ve written nothing. Not a single word. Cathy’s halfway through her second page, and even the young schmucks who haven’t lived long enough to have regrets, the kind that burrow deep in your gut and keep you up at night, have filled their lists, numbering their short lives in order of importance. Only five? I can do better than that. I can number my page to one and write the only true answer I have: everything.
[Standing in the middle of the stage between the two tables. He’s been looking over the student’s writing, smiling at some of what he reads.] They look at me with skepticism, most of them—the older ones especially because I’m so much younger than they are, and the younger ones, fresh out of high school, because I don’t look much older than them. Like we could’ve all gone to school together, or maybe I graduated with an older brother or sister. It takes time for them to understand me, to understand that I know what I’m talking about and that, if they’ll let me, I can help them. Not just with the class, but with whatever comes next for them. I stress that so much of what we talk about goes so far beyond the classroom—communication and relating to others, to the world around them; of analyzing and understanding themselves. And yet some of them just see me as a pompous prick.
That’s what a lady called me my first semester teaching. I was adjuncting then; I’d just graduated myself a few months earlier. I remember her plainly: she was a nontrad, about forty-one, forty-two, and she sat in the back of the class. She butted heads with me after I let slip how old I was. “My God,” she cried out. “You’re how old! My stepdaughter’s your age.” And I knew it was going to be tough to win her over, to convince her that my seeming lack of experience in no way negated what I had to say. And slowly but surely, I won her over. At the end of the term, she looked at me and smiled. “You know,” she said, “when I started this class you were a pompous prick and I couldn’t understand half the shit you were talking about. But you know, you aren’t so bad after all.” I ran into her the term and she hugged me and told me how much my class had prepared her for the next.
I guess maybe I am making a difference. That’s why I decided to become a teacher. Actually, I decided to become a writer. I was going to be a journalist. I dreamed of a crowded, noisy newsroom, a thin layer of smoke always overhead. I’d keep a half-finished novel in my bottom desk drawer, right next to a half-bottle of bourbon. Both we could be company on long nights at the desk. That’s what I went to school for—to be a journalist. At least at first. The more I got into my journalism classes, the more I hated them. They weren’t representative of what I thought I wanted. I kept dreaming my life would be like a scene from His Girl Friday or The Front Page, but I learned those days are over. So I switched my major to education. If I couldn’t be a writer, I could at least teach others how. I’d teach high school English, always my favorite class as a student. But by the time I reached student teaching, I realized that the education I loved had been replaced by testing and test prep. Gone were the lectures of Dickens and Faulkner, of Hemingway and Twain, replaced with short passages and multiple choice questions. It wasn’t for me.
So I lucked into teaching here part time, teaching developmental writing classes. After graduation, a former professor put me to work, and I’ve been here ever since. I hired on full-time after I got my Master’s, thinking I would make the transfer from developmental to college-level writing. But I was wrong. The only full-time spots open were for developmental, but I keep hoping that one of the old-timers will retire and I can take the open spot. But it doesn’t seem it’s going to happen anytime soon.
Part of me still wonders what life would be like if I had finished my journalism degree, or if after college I had moved away. I thought about it; God, I thought about it. Yet here I stay. So when my students say I don’t understand what I’m asking for when I ask them to write about regrets, that I couldn’t possibly understand at my young age about missed opportunities and chances not taken, I want to tell them they have no idea what the fuck they’re talking about. Yet I can’t, for we each must deal with the circumstances we’re given, and whenever we want to just stop and scream at the sky at the top of our lungs for chances missed, we so often just bite our tongues until the blood trickles across our teeth and we spit it out onto the cold hard ground, mixing into a muddied salve to heal our wounds.