From the Diary of Your Unlived Life

by Andrew Ridker Read author interview June 23, 2014

Kayla-E1

HAD YOU FLOSSED MORE

You would have fresh breath and better overall dental hygiene. At first you would forget to floss all the time but eventually the act of flossing would become a non-event. The days you forgot to floss would become more significant than the days you remembered. Your colleagues would note your improved oral cleanliness and general well-being. “Is there something different about Dr. Solomon?” they”d wonder. “He seems better somehow.” After a while, your gums would toughen and never bleed.

(See also: Had you taken better care of yourself, physically)

Kayla-E2

HAD YOU TAKEN BETTER CARE OF YOURSELF, PHYSICALLY

You would be more willing to participate in outdoor activities. You would invest in your own health and accordingly cook more meals, learn to cook more meals. Your son would emulate your enthusiasm. He would come to you on his own accord and ask to join a non-contact team sport. At work, you would earn your patients” trust. You would tell them with confidence that there is no substitute for diet and exercise, take you for example. (See also: Had you enjoyed swimming; Had you gone to the Bensons” lake house)

Kayla-E3

HAD YOU MADE FAMILY PLANS THAT WEEKEND

You would have taken your wife and son to the movies. You would have bought tickets for one movie and, when that movie ended, lingered outside the theater door and slipped into another. You would have watched one full movie and the second half of two others. During the second half of the last movie you would have rested a hand on your wife”s leg and done a 5-4-3-2-1-digit finger-tap across the thigh. Both of you would have thought about dates you went on years ago, to the movies, when you finger-tapped the same way. Your son would have fallen asleep. After the movie you would carry him to the car, your wife walking ahead and opening the necessary doors.

Kayla-E4

HAD YOU MADE VOCAL YOUR ANXIETY ABOUT WATER-SPORTS

Your wife, keeping this in mind, would have suggested a hike, or perhaps an hour or two of sunbathing on the dock. She and her new friends, the Bensons, would have chosen sunbathing (they had been hiking just the day before) and, exhausted from a busy weekend of recreation, fallen asleep. Your wife would have returned home with a funny story, her face burnt pink.

Kayla-E5

HAD YOU LEARNED TO PLAY CHESS

You would have more in common with your son. You would be familiar with a new set of rules and ways around them. You would know the meaning of KNIGHT TO A-7. You would have an after-dinner activity. Your son would not be playing against a computer. The house would not be so quiet. (See also: Had you been a better father)

Kayla-E6

HAD YOU PAID ATTENTION AT DINNER

You would know that Bill Benson accepts offers for a third drink. You would know that Liz Benson self-describes as “a reformed party girl” since “the college years” while smiling at her husband and expressing little genuine remorse for whatever that part of her life was about. You would hear endlessly about their sailboat. “A boat, some booze, and you”re in paradise,” you would remember hearing from one of them. You would, however, also have seen a glimmer of what your wife saw in them—a lust for life, a guiltless stab at middle age—and consider what a weekend in their company might be like. (See also: Had you gone to the Bensons” lake house; Had you been friendlier to your wife”s friends)

Kayla-E7

HAD YOU, IN YOUR RESIDENCY SCRUBS, KISSED SOPHIE, ALSO IN RESIDENCY SCRUBS

Young, overworked, and lonely, you would have felt a surge of relief that would mistake itself for love. It would grow into love. You would have married Sophie. She would have had daughters. You would all have lived far from any bodies of water.

Kayla-E8

HAD YOU BOUGHT THE CAR

You would have felt pride in returning to the hospital parking lot at the end of each day and seeing it, one of the last ones left, at the higher end of the spectrum, value-wise. It would remind you of your professional accomplishments. You would delight in showing it off, as you would feel you”d earned it, and correspondingly you would have made the effort to drive your wife to the Bensons” lake house. Bill would have made a kind remark about horsepower, and, thinking he was all right, you would have decided to stay the weekend after all. (See also: Had you gone to the Bensons’ lake house)

Kayla-E9

HAD YOU KNOCKED ON YOUR SON’S DOOR, THIS NIGHT OR ANY OTHER

(See: Had you been a better father)

Kayla-E10

HAD YOU GONE TO THE BENSONS’ LAKE HOUSE

You would have taken a tour of the house, noted its beauty. You would have considered a similar place for your family; made conversation; ate hors d”oeuvres; had a cocktail (one, to be polite); boarded the boat; noted Bill”s fumbling with the equipment; noted the weather; noted Liz”s concern; noted the wind; noted the swing of the boom of the sail; heard it connect with your wife”s fragile head; done something, done anything, you would have.

About the Author:

Andrew Ridker is the editor of Privacy Policy: the Anthology of Surveillance Poetics, forthcoming from Black Ocean. His writing has appeared in Boston Review, Guernica, and elsewhere. He is the founding editor of Nat. Brut.

About the Artist:

Kayla E. is an artist, editor and designer. She has been the Art Director for the Harvard Lampoon and has exhibited work throughout the United States. She works as the co-editor in chief of the online literary and art magazine, Nat. Brut and is illustrating a serialized graphic novel called Lazy Eye Stories.