The Urban Sherpa - a blog by Christopher DeWan

(desperately seeking serendipity...)

Read Work and Other Essays, a collection of nonfiction by Christopher DeWan.

The Wide Wide River of Regret rating=3

Moon and Ocean

You wake to find yourself adrift in a boat, floating on a river, heading out to sea, and then you realize the boat is a coffin, and it's yours, because you're dead.

Funny things happen in your brain while you drift out to sea in your own coffin.

"Did I leave the stove on?" "What was I wearing?" "Did I tell her that I loved her, enough?"

"Did I love the right ones?"

It's a wide wide river of regret, and you are floating in it, for a while. Your self-pity is warmly comforting: "Why me? Why now? Why so soon?" Second-guessing helps you pass the time: "I should have worn more sunscreen." "I should have driven slower." "I should have enjoyed that German chocolate cake."

Very few of these regrets are actually yours. You've inherited the idea of them, residue from some life you believed you were supposed to have lived, learned from TV and movies and from not knowing yourself well enough. You sail through this clutter, this Sargasso Sea of fabricated desires, bumping up against them with hollow thuds, till finally your boat hits something softer:

"I wish I'd been braver."

"I wish I understood that people cared about me, and let them."

"I wish I'd found something to care about more than myself."

The boat floats on toward the sea. There's no steering it. There's no stopping it.

One morning, you wake. You've rounded a bend, and the sun hits you right in your dead face. Everything is bright and clear, and you can't remember anything. You can't remember who you are. You don't recall where you came from. You watch the birds flying low over the river with great clarity, but you no longer remember yourself as the one who lived in that house, the one who went to that job, the one who loved that woman, the one who hoped for … whatever you hoped for.

Now you're just the man floating in the coffin on the river, on the way out to sea. You've finally arrived, in death, at yourself; and it's wonderful.