Life is a series of first times…First word, first steps, first day of school, first kiss (eesh…wish I could forget that one…so gross), first time you have…yeah, wish I could forget that too. But how about your first regret? Do you remember yours? Do you even have one? Well, I do.

I can still see those giant blue eyes peering back at me, magnified by the thick lenses of her glasses. She had been leaning against the back of my seat (unbeknownst to me) with both arms sort of hugging the top of the headrest. Her two hands were pressed flatly together, serving as a restful spot for her chin whilst creating the perfect eavesdropping position. Quiet as a mouse, she hadn’t been but a foot away from me as I spoke ill of her.

“I don’t like her,” I stated to a fellow classmate as we waited for everyone to finish loading and boarding the bus.


“I don’t know. I just don’t.”

Ever experience that awkward moment when you suddenly sense the person you are talking about is right behind you? Yeah, I must have felt her presence because when I turned around there she was, listening intently. Caught in my sin, I did nothing. I said nothing. I simply turned back around to fester in my now defiled seat of shame. As I processed what I had just done, I glanced behind me to see poor little Joanna, now several seats back, sobbing uncontrollably. I could see the enormous teardrops cascading down her cheeks, one right after the other. And despite the presence of others on board, I had never seen someone look more alone. My innards were gripped with fear when I noticed one of the popular girls asking my now red and puffy faced victim what was wrong.

“This is it. I’m about to be found out. Utterly outed. Everyone will soon know that I’m the reason she’s crying.”

Impending doom enveloped me like a thick, wet blanket as I waited for my public shaming; but Joanna never said a word. She couldn’t. She was too busy struggling to breath in between deep guttural sobs of heartache. To say I felt like a heel would be an understatement.

This should have been a happy time. We were finally about to head back home following a week of outdoor adventure. This trip to Bryant Pond, Maine took place every year and was a highly anticipated tradition for all sixth graders. It was a chance to learn all about plants and animals; to experience nature at its finest, up close and personal, rain or shine. It was also, for many of us, a ‘first time’ being away from home.

We slept in cabinesque dormitories (one for girls and one for boys). We gathered in Roger’s Hall for meals, classes and entertainment. We climbed Mount Christopher and enjoyed amazing views of the lake below. Along that hike we had the ultimate experience of squeezing through a rock formation called, for lack of a better name, ‘The Lemon Squeeze.’ We had had our fill of fresh air and scenic landscapes, fun and laughter, and tons of picture taking to remember it all. Joanna should have been reflecting on all of this but now, instead of ending the trip on a happy note, I sent her home with a heavy heart. I did that. Me.

Until that day, I had no idea the power I possessed; the power to kill with mere words. That was the day of my first true regret in life. That was the day I first learned the meaning of foolishness, for I was a fool indeed.

I’ve often thought about which point in time I would start my life over if I could go back with the knowledge I have now.  Where would I start my re-do? I decided on that stupid day in 1986. I’d be willing to start again at the age of eleven if it meant I could take back the five seconds it took to crush her. I’d be willing to go through all the hellish stages of adolescence onceafuckingain if it meant I could fix that mistake. I judged her poorly. I judged her based on nothing, really. She was a sweet, tiny, awkward little thing who never hurt a fly. And I’m not sure how taking back those five seconds would change my life, but at least it would take away one less heart-stab in hers.

Hurt is hurt.

7 responses »

  1. Todd Cantalupo says:

    Wow, Mindy. That was both beautiful and extraordinarily moving. You captured those moments so vividly and, because I went to Bryant Pond, too, allowed me to instantly visualize these events. I even remembered my own fistfight there … thanks?

  2. jamesscott66 says:

    This is so beautifully written.

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