Regrets, I've had a few

Submitted for Contest #44 in response to: Write a story that starts with a life-changing event.... view prompt

63 comments

It's 1979.

My mother’s brand-new Kodak camera clacks and flashes awkwardly, as the university's chancellor clasps my clammy hand to shake it. I see stars from the flash of the taken photo, but when I adjust my line of vision, she is the only one I see. Despite the audience in the auditorium, who are heftily cheering me on, and believe me, today it is brimming, overflowing with people. Small kids, who don't know what or why they have been dragged here, run around chasing each other into the corners, squealing in excitement, only stopped when a strict adult grabs them up by the wrist and firmly sits them down. Students, past graduates, perform their nerve-wracking performances, whether strumming a Led Zeppelin riff on their electric guitar or a magic trick or a speech. Oh, those goddamn speeches. Every possible viewpoint of every possible type of person. My friend, Sam, nods off halfway through, and I shake him awake when it's his turn to get his honors.


But first comes my moment. She sits in the second row, my mother, clapping and shouting through cupped hands: Yay, Charley! It's her version of modesty. Smiling so big, her dimples that she usually so successfully hides, pierce through her cheeks. She told me she found them ugly, scarring to her dainty little face, but that day she was the most beautiful in the room and I'm tempted to say the whole world. As a teenager, I had always preferred the look of Adrienne Barbeau or Gretchen Corbett, but in the end, you always realize your mother topped them all. The camera she had bought was new, a memento for the day.


"Charley, just imagine, in twenty years' time this camera will be old." She told me, a couple days previously when she had just bought the camera. A new model, that would've made the other mothers of the time "ooooh" and "aaaah". She pronounced the word "old" as though it was foreign. I remember giving some smart ass comment, that would've made her slap me over the ear any other day, but those couple of days before graduation, nothing could have shaken her. She had a star-gazed, proud, happy expression, that she just couldn't get rid of. No matter how many times I told her how dumb it looked or how embarrassing she was. 


"Ahh." She teased me "I'm a mother, Chuck. That's part of our scheme." I'm grateful, thinking back, that she took it lightly. That she took my cheeky comments as jokes, and my rude gestures, as acts and outbursts of nervousness. However much of her attitude killed me at the time, I am grateful that I had hit the million-dollar jackpot on mothers. Whether I deserved her or not, is a different subject. 


The day goes fast. Just like my life. One moment we're sitting, side by side, in the university’s gum-covered chairs, wearing our blue nylon robes. In the next moment, our square caps are being thrown in the air, and the ceremony in the gym finished. The iconic moment passed, and I can recall my hesitant approach to the situation. I didn't feel the burst of joy I wanted so much to feel. I told myself that I was scared. That it was normal to feel like this. I hugged my favorite professor's goodbye, holding them close and whispering a sincere, heartfelt thanks in their ears. Wishing I could do something more in return, to express my gratitude. Then my friends and I head down to the lake. The college chant we sang still rings in my ears these many years later. 


I made a mistake, whatever that means. An act or judgment that is misguided or wrong. What in the hell does that mean? All I can tell you is that what I did that day of graduation, was a mistake. My mother had warned me, I had three hours, and then she wanted me home. She had put all faith in me, even as she watched me march off, arm in arm with friends. She wanted me to remember this day as a special one, and she trusted I would listen. But I didn't. I didn't act like I was supposed to. I didn't celebrate this day, as the day I said goodbye to my past behavior. Behavior that would only be expected from a college kid. Childish, immature behavior. I can't say I didn't have a choice. I guess I'm a shit decision-maker. Always have been, always will be.


I drank, I smoked, I cursed. Made out with about three girls. Things escalated, and before I knew it, I was sitting bleary-eyed in front of an overworked cop, in the local police station, at 3 am. Charged for smashing the window of the corner shop. I was sleazy, stunk of my sweat of the whole day. Alcohol and cigarettes and regret. I couldn't form a sentence. My words slurred, meshed together like in a blender. I laughed at everything said, but deep inside I hurt. I hacked everything out as much as I could. I hacked out the pain, and regret, and sadness, and stupidity, that had come to possess me. I hacked it out in laughs until my throat closed up and I had to lean over the side of the chair they had provided, and puke it all out. 


"Whoa, kid." Was all they could get out. And then my mother was there, leaning over me in the early hours of the morning, harshly pulling me up by my wrist. This time it was her turn to be embarrassed, and rightfully so. She had promised to pay for the damage in the window, and I was tugged out at the first chance she got. She didn't want to talk to me, she was furious. Her jaw set in a firm, motionless line, very much like a statue. Her chestnut eyes looked straight ahead, filled with nothing.

Filled with nothing. 


The next day was silent as if somebody was missing. But it was just my mother and I, like always. A dull ache, in my head. My eyes stung, with exhaustion. The decorations for a party she had so meticulously and lovingly put up, still hung, almost as a reminder at what I had done. I felt as though I was walking through a grave. A grave of my mother's trust and support and love and respect, that she had developed for me, as her only son. The unopened graduation gifts perched on the dining room table, and when I tried to run away from it all, I was just confronted by a full fridge. It was crammed with party food. Canapés, ice cream, and sodas, even a few sneaky beers. Mini burgers, stuffed with lettuce, and a ludicrous amount of mayonnaise. Like she did 'em when I was small. 

Fuck, fuck, no. I told myself, I was not going to cry. Don't cry, Chuck. Don't you dare, don't you dare, you better not, you fucking bastard. But everything became muddied up. The first tear came, which was then joined by the second one. I was crying, tears staining my cheeks. I was sobbing and then I tore up to my room. And I stayed there. I didn't get out of bed. Barely ate, barely slept. 


A week later I got a job down at the convenience store. Sorting cans of beans from the incoming shipment of diapers. The week after that I moved in with my girlfriend, Joanie. Packing didn't prove difficult. I was a quick packer and all that I needed fit in the sports bag. What much would you need? A couple of shirts, underwear, pants... A wad of cash, that would keep you going for a bit. The bag, that had previously served as my baseball bag, I had now come to live out of. This became my new life and as fast as my days went, so did my life. 

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63 comments

20:04 Jul 10, 2020

Three things. 1. I don't know if this was intentional, but the reference in the title to the song "my way" made total sense and was kinda ironic. 2. You really know how to convey emotion in your stories! 3. Once again, great imagery. Your friend, A.

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Elsa jude Gazzea
20:42 Jul 10, 2020

Thanks! It was in reference to the song: My way! Thanks for noticing.

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21:29 Jul 10, 2020

It's stuck in my head now. -A.

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Elsa jude Gazzea
21:33 Jul 10, 2020

Haha. I had Elvis singing it in my head, whilst writing it🤣https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ixbcvKCl4Jc

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21:45 Jul 10, 2020

And now, the end is near... And so I face the final curtain....... -A.

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Elsa jude Gazzea
06:49 Jul 11, 2020

My friend, I'll make it clear State my case, of which I'm certain

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Lexi Moreno
06:36 Jul 10, 2020

I find that you have scored so well in creating this relationship with his mom! It was so sweet and it made me smile. Good job!

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Elsa jude Gazzea
06:39 Jul 10, 2020

Thanks! That was my aim!

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19:40 Jul 06, 2020

Wow. Love this story. I chose it because of the title (one of my favorite songs by Sinatra). I was engrossed in the story from start to finish. The part with the leftover party decorations and food towards the end broke my heart. I wanted to cry along with the character. I could almost see the mom as she got everything ready, all the hard work she put in, and how proud she was. Then Charley never showed up and broke all of her trust. Heart wrenching. Well done! (I came to your page after you commented on mine. Thank you so much for takin...

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Elsa jude Gazzea
20:06 Jul 06, 2020

Haha, I know that it's a Sinatra hit (My Way), but while I was writing this I was actually thinking about the Elvis cover in Miami. Thanks for your kind words, and how much emotion you have invested whilst reading it. And the pleasure was mine, about your stories, because they were phenomenal!! I don't know why more people haven't read your stories, because they were 1000000000000000000% fantastic

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Forrest Gump
21:06 Jul 05, 2020

Great story! Sure sounds like the classic you mentioned in your key. I really enjoy all your stories, and this one was a nice read!

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Elsa jude Gazzea
09:24 Jul 06, 2020

Thankss!!

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Kathleen March
15:26 Jul 05, 2020

This is a very disturbing story. Not the usual pattern, from bad to good. Or maybe the narrator was always bad? Of course my sympathy goes to the mother. It hurts to have children, sometimes. Lots of times.

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Elsa jude Gazzea
21:31 Jul 05, 2020

Of course. Thanks for stopping by!

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Jessica C
14:14 Jun 23, 2020

I read your kind, kind comments on my story, and I have to say, I am honored and humbled that such a strong, vivid storyteller would like my writing. This story is so lovely, so simple, so profound...well done. Very well done.

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Elsa jude Gazzea
14:53 Jun 23, 2020

Thank you!! Your writing is amazing!

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Rebecca Holland
20:29 Jun 18, 2020

You know - I could see this as being a book or a series of short stories. And the way it made me feel - I would call you an emotional pot stirrer!

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Elsa jude Gazzea
20:57 Jun 18, 2020

Pot stirrer? I like it! Thanks!!

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Kelly Vavala
13:33 Jun 16, 2020

Well done! Nice description and read well. Would you take a moment and read mine? Ashen Tears

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Elsa jude Gazzea
13:35 Jun 16, 2020

Thanks! Of course!

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Felicity Edwards
17:03 Jun 15, 2020

Very emotional story. You conveyed the pits well done. One point though, I think you meant professors plural, not professor's genitive. Keep going, well done.

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Elsa jude Gazzea
17:04 Jun 15, 2020

Thanks, yeah oops, I know, that was completely accidental XELsa

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Christopher G
14:25 Jun 15, 2020

Very well written! You conveyed the emotions of the character quite well, and kept me reading and enjoying every sentence. Great job!

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Elsa jude Gazzea
18:09 Jun 18, 2020

Thank you!

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Batool Hussain
13:14 Jun 14, 2020

Outstanding Elsa! I love the way how you have described everything so well. Keep writing :) Also, it would be great if you give me a follow as I'm new. Thanks^-^

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Rody White
06:33 Jun 14, 2020

Hey Elsa, I read this story there last night and let it wash over me before responding haha. Very nice! A very flowery, descriptive, and poetic read I thought. A few typos but that can be overlooked because the story was so good haha. The only thing I guess I would say was about the ending, it happened very fast and I felt like it needed a bit more closure to it you know what I mean? I mean I would have liked to have known what happened to him, did he get his act together, that sort of thing..apart from that, I loved it. Nice one!!!

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Elsa jude Gazzea
07:26 Jun 14, 2020

Thanks, Rody! Yeah, I know what you mean... I guess I wanted to set a few scenes at the end, to show how his life went on, but I decided against it. They just looked even worse against the story. I also don't think this was one of my best stories, but that happens in every writer's journey. Thanks again!!!

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Fumi Ersan
02:20 Jun 13, 2020

I like it, Maybe for extra impact, have the mothers description at the end parallel her description during the graduation. Except instead of her endless pride for her sun filling her face, it was just disappointment. Maybe have a couple lines between “when I went to run away from it all.” And being greeted by a full fridge. Cause running away and going to your fridge don’t feel like very intuitive things. So maybe a line stating how he had an empty stomach or something after not eating caused him to head to the fridge. Maybe he went to...

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Elsa jude Gazzea
09:14 Jun 14, 2020

Hello Fumi, Glad you liked it. Thanks for your suggestions! I mean, there are probably a lot of better options for word choice and etc., but I guess I always end up sticking with what expresses me most as a writer!! I did have some people tell me that running away to the fridge wasn't very relatable and sounded kind of odd and off-putting, but I just tried to imagine myself in the scene (sounds kind of weird, I know) and imagine what I would actually do! I agree with and value your feedback, so thanks for taking a look at my stuff!!

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13:48 Jun 11, 2020

Hello Elsa, This is a great story. My only note would be to check for typos, but I only spotted one (it should be professors instead of professor's). Also, make sure you italicize thoughts. Otherwise, everything worked beautifully. I loved the characterization, dialogue, description, and story line. It was poetically written and flowed quite nicely. Well done. Keep writing!

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Elsa jude Gazzea
13:54 Jun 11, 2020

Thank you!! I will next time italicize my thoughts, and check for typos!! XElsa

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14:03 Jun 11, 2020

❤️

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Joan Kearney
21:03 Jun 10, 2020

Very good explanations of emotions, made me want to know more at the end.

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Elsa jude Gazzea
21:07 Jun 10, 2020

Thank you for your feedback!!

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19:43 Jun 10, 2020

Very emotionally charged. Good!

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Elsa jude Gazzea
20:03 Jun 10, 2020

Thanks

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Elsa jude Gazzea
15:47 Jun 10, 2020

Hello Reedsy friends!! This is my story for this week. I'm just writing to say, that the title of this story was from a line in a song (My Way, Elvis Presley version) 1979, was 2 years after Elvis's death, and his death still hung heavy. Having that said, this story is dedicated to Elvis Presley. XElsa

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Such a great story! I love how you made everything sound real, so perfect! Definitely a story I'm not going to forget. 💗

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Elsa jude Gazzea
15:27 Jun 10, 2020

Oh, wow, Thanks!!!

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Rhondalise Mitza
21:05 Jun 09, 2020

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️Five starrrrrrrrrs!

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Elsa jude Gazzea
21:23 Jun 09, 2020

Aww! Thanks! That's one of the nicest things that has been said to me so far on this website!! XElsa

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12:02 Jun 09, 2020

Absolutely beautiful!! I love how you described the camera, and in no time how it was gonna be old fashioned.... That same camera which made other mothers jealous at the time of the character's graduation!! So lively and sweet and realistic. Kudos!!

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Elsa jude Gazzea
12:10 Jun 09, 2020

Thank you!!!

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