Risk and Reward

I never knew her name. I'd see her after school waiting for the bus. She wore a smiley-face Nirvana shirt at least once a week. I loved Nirvana. Her pierced-bottom lip is why I got a B in English. Did it make kissing better? What would it be like to kiss her? All these questions were far more interesting than The Picture of Dorian Grey. Hers was the first A-line I fell in love with. The steeply sloping angle came to an abrupt and sharp point. She stood out like a blue rose among the weeds of Hug High School. It killed me.

But I never spoke to her. Every day for a year I saw her. Five options-a-week to meet the girl of my fourteen year-old dreams. Maybe it's just my memory playing tricks on me, but I swear she looked over and smiled a few times. Each day fate looked me in the eyes and I turned away. I had a hard time holding eye-contact with a woman I don't know. Had? I have a hard time.

She moved away the following year.

These moments are not uncommon. She was not the first, nor will she be the last. The roots of my love for short hair grew here. My white whale evaded me and I, like the desperate Ahab, perpetually search it out. And in all likelihood, my blue rose was not the love of my life, but rather the idealized face of regret. That face is burned into my memory. Her face reminds me to audition, submit my writing samples to be published, answer ads for bands seeking guitar players, ask my boss for a raise, offer my ideas, speak up, and take a fucking risk. Failure stings. Regret festers forever.

I'm not a risk-taker. I barely recognize opportunities. I wonder how much of my life I've missed out on.  Auditions terrify me. There's an album worth of songs I've written on my computer no one's ever heard. A half-finished novel sits on my shelf.

Last year I started a campaign against my fear and insecurity. A resolution to be bold and, as a hero of mine once said, "live dangerously." And I did. For a while. Lately, I've been counting on luck and believe me, she has been kind. The Gods favor worthy bold souls, those who stand with full extension in the knees. Their love is fickle. It's a contract that needs to be renewed. Daily.

And again I find myself taking the bus. Sometimes I think of her while waiting and it makes me smile. The mistake is thinking that you only get one white whale. They are everywhere. As long as you're on the sea, the hunt is on. Regret is worse than failure. Trust me.


  1. You should reread Picture of Dorian Gray. Wilde is not to be trifled with.

  2. I reread it when I was a TA in college. You are correct. Wilde is legit.