“Do You Have Any Regrets?”
There will a come a time when you’re just settling into bed on your friend’s blow-up mattress, tipsy from a night of bar-hopping in a foreign city, browsing Facebook on your phone, when your friend’s good-looking roommate will return home from his own night out.
“Hey Kate, you still awake?”
You could go either way.
“Yeah, I’m up.”
You chat about your respective evenings. He puts on a Blur album; you suggest To Pimp a Butterfly instead. By the time Kendrick sings, “But your flood can be misunderstood,” he’ll have casually slid next to you on the air mattress.
Will it be a fun night? Oh, yes.
But there’s a casualty — it will make things weird with your friend. Your friend who was so kind to offer you a place to stay, to take you out for dinner and drinks, to catch up on everything that’s been happening in the years since you drank buckets together in ramshackle bars built by the water, cockroaches scurrying by your feet.
You’re over 30 now. And you still pull that shit?
You could have yawned and said, “Yeah, I’m going to bed now, though.”
There will come a time when one of your longtime blogger friends will be in Bangkok at the same time as you. Delighted to finally meet in person, you plan to grab lunch together before you fly south the next day.
He doesn’t eat seafood, but you do. Served up is a giant plate of shrimp, dripping in fresh lime juice and punctuated by zests of garlic and chili. This isn’t pad grapow on Soi Rambuttri — this is real Thai food for Thai people. And perhaps that’s why you’re caught off guard.
You’re fine as you catch your early morning flight to Ranong. You’re fine as you cross the choppy waters to Koh Phayam, gazing at Myanmar in the distance. You’re fine on the kamikaze motorbike ride to your guesthouse as you drink in the warm breezes of the Andaman Sea.
36 hours after your fateful meal, it hits you. Stomach cramps. Nausea. Fever. Diarrhea. Running to the bathroom four times an hour and feeling like you’re going to die each time.
Years into your long-term travels, this is only the second time you’ve fallen victim to food poisoning; you’re proud of your cast-iron stomach. But everyone has their kryptonite.
The diarrhea isn’t even the worst part. Soon, the stomach cramps get so bad that you can’t sit up — you can only rock back and forth on the bed, moaning in place. Staying still is impossible. Sitting up is impossible. All you can do is whimper and turn down offers of plain sticky rice from the concerned ladies checking on you.
The next day, it’s all over. You eat a bag of plain potato chips. They taste like sunshine.
Years later, you’ll invite that same blogger friend into your New York apartment for a slice of strawberry rhubarb pie from Long Island. Nobody will get sick that time.
Maybe, Kate, you shouldn’t order that plate of shrimp in Bangkok.
There will come a time when you randomly reply to a press release, saying you’d love to come visit their destination — and holy shit, it actually works.
It’s the Faroe Islands. You’re going to the Faroe fucking Islands. Nobody goes there. And their people want you there.
But flights from the UK are limited. What makes the most sense is to do a four-night trip over a long weekend, they suggest.
And you hesitate.
You have a boyfriend who is so good to you. And weekends are the times when you get to spend the most time with him. And you feel so guilty being away so much of the time, even though there are visa-related reasons for that, and being present on the weekend is the least you could do for him.
“Could we do it during the week instead?” you ask.
Of course. The only thing is, due to that limited flight schedule, you could only fit three nights, not four.
That’s fine. Of course you’d be okay with that.
You land in the islands, rent a car, and burst into shrieks of happiness as you drive down the island of Vágar. This is as close as you’ve been to being at the end of the world.
Driving down those smooth roads on the islands, hiking with puffins on Mykines, getting that iconic shot of the waterfall at Gasadalur (not to mention accidentally driving your car into a ditch). Gripping the steering wheel as you needle your way toward Gjogv, dining on lamb with fermented salt, sailing into dark caves to the sounds of Nordic singing.
This place is everything.
Your heart aches fiercely when it’s time to leave — you would do anything to stay longer.
Well, you could have stayed longer. And you chose not to. You didn’t even ask your boyfriend for his input; you assumed this was what he wanted.
Years later, that airline route won’t even exist anymore, and you’ll by chance sit next to Visit Faroe Islands reps at a conference. You’ll reminisce about how much you fell in love with their islands and how much they loved your content.
Maybe, Kate, you should go for four days instead of three.
There will come many times when you’ll be in the Italian countryside drinking homemade red wine out of repurposed Gatorade bottles.
This is almost always a mistake.
Homemade wine is much stronger than what you can buy in the store. Often twice as strong. And while it’s local and organic, it has way more of the stuff that settles behind your eyeballs and gives you a blinding headache the next day.
In fact, the following morning, after a twisty car ride through the Tuscan countryside, you’ll beg for the van to stop and dash off, vomiting between two olive trees.
Because yes, Kate, you do know you’re prone to severe motion sickness, ever since you couldn’t keep yourself from retching out the car door on camping trips to New Hampshire as a kid. But let’s not pretend that the wine wasn’t a factor.
For the sake of your body, Kate, not to mention your pride, you should skip the home-fermented brew altogether.
There will come a time when a nice boy asks you to dance.
Of course you say yes.
He takes your hand and pulls you onto the dance floor, light on his feet and holding you at just the right closeness.
It doesn’t hurt that he bears a resemblance to a certain good-looking friend of yours. The friend that can make you draw your breath in sharply with just a glance. The friend who has had a lovely girlfriend for as long as you’ve known him.
This guy appears to be more available, and a better dancer to boot. You dance to a second song. A third. You try some goofy steps and laugh through a fourth.
He whirls you around and pauses, looking into your eyes. “I really want to kiss you.”
You’re dumbfounded. “What…did you say?”
“I want to kiss you now.”
You heard him the first time.
Why did you say no? You wanted to kiss him. But you had a narrative in mind for the night and that kiss would have taken it in a completely different direction.
Feeling a bit sheepish, you exchange numbers with the nice dancer boy and pose for a selfie. You’ll never see each other again.
Kiss him, Kate. It will go nowhere, but who cares? Imagine the narrative you could have chosen instead. Writers always need stories, after all.