Patti (whipartist) wrote,

An excerpt

(I wrote this tonight, and I haven't reread it. Odds of it being shite: extremely high. It kind of captures the spirit of the novel, though.)

As they drove home, Carol asked John, “What would you do if you could go back to your high school graduation and start again?”

“What do you mean?”

“Imagine that right this minute you could go back to high school and be eighteen again. You’d know everything you know now, but you could start your adult life over and do whatever you want.”


“Would you do it all again? Would you do it differently?”

“I’d borrow every cent I could get my hands on and invest it in Microsoft stock.”

“Honey, I’m serious. Would you still go to college? Would you study the same things?”

“Hmm. I think that if I had it to do all over again, I’d stick around and go to grad school. It would have been a lot easier to get my MBA then than in night school the way I did it.”

“Yeah, I can see that. We kind of didn’t have that option at the time, though.”

“No, you’re right.” Carolyn had found out she was pregnant just a few weeks before they graduated from college, and they moved up the wedding by a few months because of it. Rather than going to grad school, they’d both taken jobs immediately after graduation.

“What else?”

“Would I still marry you and raise a family? Absolutely. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. You, Diana, and Michael are the most important things in my life.”

“Thanks honey.”

“What about you? What would you do differently?”

Carolyn chuckled. “Well, first off, I think I’d have made you use a condom that night.”

“Would you?”

“Yeah. I love Diana… remember how we used to call her our little oops? Anyway, I love her to pieces, but I think I would have waited a couple of years before we had kids. It would have been nice to settle into my career before I took time off to be a mom.” She shifted in her seat so she could look at him.

“I can see that. But is that the biggest thing you’d change?”

“Yes. No. … I don’t know. I like my life, but sometimes I wonder what I’m missing. What if I’d just run off to Europe for a summer? What if I’d decided to try to be an actress instead of an accountant? What if I learned to ride a motorcycle when I was young?”

“You want a motorcycle?!” He seemed incredulous.

“No. Well, I don’t think so… I’ve never ridden one. When you’re in your early 20s, it seems like your whole life is in front of you and you can pick any path you want, but you have to pick one. Every time you make a decision, the number of options you have in the future goes down.”

“How do you mean?”

“Hmm, let me see if I can explain.” She pondered for a moment. “Think of life as a giant tree, and you’re an ant. You start out at the bottom, and then go climbing up toward the top. Every time you come to a branch, you make a decision which way to go, and then you keep climbing. The only thing is, you have to keep moving forward. You aren’t allowed to go back.”

“I see.” He didn’t sound like he did.

“So you’re climbing and climbing, and you get to the first branch. There are three different ways you can go, and each of them has branches farther along the line, and those branches have branches.”

“And so on, and so on.”

“Right. So you pick one of the branches, and you keep going. Now you only have the opportunities in the future that are on branch number one. There are all kinds of things on branches two and three, but you’ll never get a chance to see them because you took branch number one.”

“OK, I get it. You want to know what was on branches two and three.”

“Yeah. Well, not exactly, but yeah. I don’t really want to go do it all over again, but sometimes I wonder what might have happened. Maybe I would have gone to Paris, met a great painter while staring at the Mona Lisa, and become a painter? Maybe I would have tried to be an actress, and wound up doing one of those Dr. Pepper commercials where everybody danced up the walls and onto the ceiling? Maybe I would have ended up living in a trailer park with ten cats, drinking diet Coke and eating Cheetos while I watched soap operas.”

“Oh, yeah, I can see that. You could perm your hair and wear bright red lipstick and blue eye shadow.”

“OK, that probably wouldn’t have happened, but who knows? Maybe I could have written the great American novel. Or a piece of trash bestseller. Maybe I would have been a photojournalist… that might have happened.”

“Hmm. Is it too late? Couldn’t you still write the great American novel? You could quit your job and go to journalism school… we can afford it.”

“No. For better or worse, I’ve made my life. And I like my life.”

John reached over and tousled her hair. “I’m glad. I like you here. And I think we did pretty well picking branches.”

“Yeah, we did.”

“What brought this on, anyway?”

“Being back in schools always takes me back to when I was a teenager. I just can’t help thinking about what it was like to be that age.”

“Yeah, I guess.”

“Plus, I’m about to turn forty. Doesn’t everyone get this way right before their fortieth birthday? I thought it was mandatory.”
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