The Things I’ve Done

by marinashifrin

When I was in high school, I fell in love with a man named Lucas. He was older than me, wore all black and drove a motorcycle. But I knew Lucas and I would never end up together. For one, I was awkward and scared of anything I thought could get me pregnant and for two he was a fictional character from the movie Empire Records.

Although I love everything Lucas says, my favorite line is, “I do not regret the things I’ve done but those I did not do.” This became a mantra for me. I used to chant it under my breath when I needed to make a decision. Should go to school in Missouri? I do not regret the things I’ve done but those I did not do. Should I take that job in New York? I do not regret the things I’ve done but those I did not do. Should I order ribs on a first date? I do not regret the things I’ve done but those I did not do. Should I move to Taiwan? I do not regret the things I’ve done but those I did not do. So it went.

The first Friday I was in Taiwan, my coworkers invited me out for drinks. I got all dolled up and made sure to wear my super tight skirt which was hard to get into and even harder to get out of — you know — to avoid getting into trouble. But when it came time to head out, a majority of my coworkers had to stay past their shift to wrap up projects they were working on. The problem with working in a newsroom-like environment is news never sleeps. So, if you get stuck with a developing story, you’re also stuck with a later shift. While I waited for the rest of the team, Martti — an attractive coworker, who didn’t speak much English — invited me to see what it felt like to get acupuncture done. I wasn’t too sure I wanted to do it. Not because I am squeamish or anything, it’s just that if I wanted to get pricked by strangers on a Friday night, I would’ve gone dancing.

But, I do not regret the things I’ve done but those I did not do, so I said ‘yes’.

On the ride there, I imagined an old Taiwanese woman escorting me through a tree-lined trail where I’d be greeted by the acupuncturist. He’d probably be a yoda-buddha hybrid and might even tell me my fortune as he gently stuck acupuncture needles in between my shoulder blades.

You can imagine my surprise when we pulled up to a gritty health clinic packed with tired women and small children. It looked like the kind of place that would recycle used heroin needles. Turns out there needs to be something wrong with you to get acupuncture. Through a combination of charades and iPhone translate, Martti and I made up the fact that I was having trouble sleeping (a.k.a jet lag) and breathing problems (a.k.a B.S.). I quickly learned this was not the correct combination of fake ailments.

I watched Martti’s face grow redder as the doctor explained what needed to be done. We were led into a special room with a paper partition where Martti told me that to improve my breathing and sleep patterns, the needles would have to be inserted into my buttocks. That’s obviously where your lungs are located in Taiwan.

“If you need. I’m sit here!” Martti yelled from the other side of the partition.

“No problem!” I looked at my super tight skirt and my heart sank. The only way for me to get needles stuck in my ass was if I completely took off the skirt.

So there I was, lying with my underwear around my knees, as a small Taiwanese lady is jamming needles into my butt. Just as I begin to think it’s not that bad, Martti piped in again. “You feel wave now.”

“Wave?”

“Wave.”

Seconds later, I learned that to catalyze the healing powers of acupuncture, doctors may attach the needles to a small machine which shoots electric waves throughout your body. My muscles seized up. My bones rattled against each other. The shocks were coming in 2-second increments. I didn’t have time to recover. Where was my tree-lined path? Where was my Yoda-buddha!? I was duped!

Afterwards I could tell Martti felt bad, partially because of the look on his face, and partially because he paid for my drinks for the rest of the night. I don’t know if it was the alcohol or acupuncture but that night I slept like a baby.

I do not regret the things I’ve done but those I did not do.

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