If I Were a Better Person by Preston Jones

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If I Were a Better Person

on Facing Up to Lost Chances & Lingering Regrets

I was preparing for an online Vietnamese language class with a teacher in Saigon when my mind drifted and took me to Nha Trang, where I had been six weeks before. Overrun as that beach city was by Russian tourists, it was possible, briefly, to forget that I was in Vietnam. The Vladimir Putin t-shirts sold by street vendors added a curious touch. I wish I had bought one.

On a certain street, a middle-aged prostitute set up shop. I walked that way often. A few times she appeared beside me and described her services in rough terms. I wasn't in the least tempted, but, not wanting to be rude, I pointed to my ring and said, "I'm married." The third time around, she anticipated the response, grimaced, grumbled "I'm married," pinched my rear, and walked off.

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Preston Jones teaches history at John Brown University.

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