Do you ever lie awake at night and think - if offered one wish - what you'd want? Or - given the ability to travel backward in time but retaining all present knowledge - which point in your life you'd select?
For years after college, I thought back to one evening with Gabe - remember Gabe? - when we sat in the living room of my apartment. I remember looking at him and shivering - he was just so wonderful - and smiling sadly as I said he should go. He had a girlfriend at the time and we'd finished with whatever excuse I'd used to lure him over.
"I have a headache," I told him and cocked my head when he asked if I wanted a back rub.
"We could go to your room," he offered and I stared at him while my stomach flipped and eyes dilated. And I wanted to - to acquiesce and walk with him down the hall. To lie down on my bed with the fluffy comforter decorated with botanical pictures and their Latin names and close my eyes while he touched me.
I broke eye contact a moment later and shook my head. I thanked him for the offer, replied that, yes, I was sure, and opened the door so he could leave. And I returned to my room and that fluffy comforter decorated with botanical pictures and their Latin names and sat on the edge before curling into a ball. Wishing I were braver. That I was able to easily take risks. To get what I wanted.
If I could do it again, I often thought as sleep eluded me, I'd say yes.
The wish - the temporal point - shifted after several years. There was another moment - another invitation - I declined. I was deeply involved in a flirtation with Pete - remember Pete? - and everything was sexy and exciting and wonderful. I'd complained about a lonely and boring weekend and, as I wanted and expected, he said something like he wished I was where he was.
Then he did as I wanted but did not expect and invited me to join him. He had access to a vacation home and was house-sitting for friends. It was on the beach and had a fireplace and, I recall, a couch that played heavily into one of my favorite fantasies. I blushed when I read it, wanting so desperately to go that I could envision it with absolute clarity.
Not yet, I thought. I'm not thin or pretty enough, somehow not ready to meet him and encourage him to love me. I wanted him so much yet was too afraid to take him. So I pretended he was teasing and flirtatiously replied that if I thought he were serious, I'd be on a plane.
Given the chance to do it again - even knowing it would not alter the unpleasant outcome - I would have eagerly accepted the chance to leave the center of the country for a day or two. Even had nothing happened - had it been awkward and awful - I would have known.
Because I would have said yes.
The third time was different. Given the opportunity to meet a random person - you don't remember him because he didn't rate a post, actually - who once read my blog and with whom I was attracted, I did say yes to meeting. And I would have gone, I realized with some sense of awed dismay. And, were there mutual interest, I likely would have gone further.
Alas, it was not meant to be. And I'm fine with that - no need for a do-ever - because I wasn't the one who refused.
Given that initial proof of concept, I decided I'd not miss another opportunity were one to occur. There is one - or at least the possibility of one - at hand. And though my natural reserve remains strong - I am not inherently sexy, difficult as that must be to believe - the difference now is that when inhibitions were once reinforced by additional thought, I now think of sleepless nights and anguished regrets and am braver. More willing to take risks.
I may not get what I want - with this particular chance or any chance, really - but it won't be for refusing to try.