This is my entry this week for therealljidol. I invite you to read and vote for the many fine entries. This week is a little unusual. We were asked to select a Champion to joust for us, as it were, in the literary arena. That Champion would take up the topic we had not written about last week. In my case, I was fortunate enough to be able to persuade the amazingly talented oneonthefence to pick up the lance for me.
In addition, each of the Top 10 had to write about the topic "Sins of Omission." My entry is below, with a link to hers following. You can read them in any order, but it might work better to read mine first.
Dear readers, when reviewing my life, please make note of the following corrections:
At age 3, I should have closed the backyard gate. Therefore, Perry, the beagle mix I named, would have stayed in the backyard, playing with his rubber ball. Please omit the squealing tires, the thump, and the mystifying image of my father carrying Perry in a garbage bag, telling me he was taking him to the vet.
At age 14, when I was camping in the woods with a church group, and a friend confessed that her brother was sexually abusing her, I should have sympathized with her and then told a trusted adult. Please omit the awkward silence, the long night of muffled sobbing from her side of the tent, and the inexplicable cooling of our friendship.
On two separate occasions, when I hit a parked car, I should have left a note. If this mistake is erased, then also erase the karmic hit-and-run accident that crumpled the side of my 1988 Ford Ranger.
At age 23, when a close friend told me about being sexually assaulted on a date, I should have urged her to report it, or to get counseling; should have taught her self-defense moves; should have found out the assailant's name and plastered it across campus. Please omit years of guilt and second-guessing.
At age 25, when an acquaintance with mental-health issues told me she'd bought a Mauser to "hunt people," I should have told the authorities. Please omit the gunshots; the smoke rising from the tarp where she lay, aiming; the terrified students scattering for cover; and two victims, one dead at 19.
At age 26, I should have called off the wedding, even though the invitations had been sent. Please omit his wild moonlight chanting, covering for his odd behavior, and two years of twisting in the torrent his ill mind wrought.
At 28, I should kept my cat inside, instead of allowing her to roam overnight in our quiet neighborhood. Please omit the morning's empty doorstep, the street's ghastly discovery, the careful burial of her small, smashed body.
At 34, I should have visited our former pastor and old family friend after he lost his wife, sometime before he died. Please insert a memory of pleasant conversation over shortbread cookies and tea in his sunny breakfast nook.
I should have stood up for the bullied, should have helped the homeless. I should have spoken up against hate. I should have befriended the pretty girls, instead of hating them.
Throughout, make the following substitutions: punching myself in the stomach should be replaced by affirmations; sneaking snacks in dark corners should be replaced with yogic breathing; babbling incessantly should be replaced by listening; swear words should be replaced with "oh, bother"; "you're my best friend forever" should be replaced by "I've always loved you."
The following corrections should be made to my internal thoughts: where it says "not pretty" read "intelligent"; where it says "but I loved him" read "he was no good for you"; where it says "failure" read "there's still time"; where it says "it's your fault" read "you couldn't have known."
For every moment when I have stared into darkness, contemplating these errors, substitute this internal refrain: "You are forgiven." Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
Inspiration for this piece came, in part, from one of my favorite poems of all time, "Errata" by Charles Simic. A nod, as well, to "Good Will Hunting," which inspired the ending.
Throughout this process, my Champion, oneonthefence, has been a source of valuable insight and advice. Now go with her on a dark internal journey in her entry. The fact that she wrote it in between diaper changes and baby feedings, while also coping with a move and guests in her home, is nothing short of amazing.