This letter that I could never send was written in August 2014. Sharing it tonight with gratitude for life, and all of those I share it with.
Hi you. I’ve been drafting this letter for days, putting off sitting down and telling you what I need to say.
To start, did you know that Robin Williams died? I imagine you do. Through the miracle of Twitter, it took me 36.4 seconds to learn that 1. He’s dead, and 2. He killed himself. It was like a punch to the stomach. All I kept thinking was, “But he made me LAUGH!”
In the week following, you kept crossing my mind. To be fair, you crossed my mind often enough anyway. Most ex-boyfriends can be tracked down via Facebook without much of a to-do, but you’d remained a mystery since I finally said “enough”, and shut the door on us.
I needed to do that, by the way. I’ve wrestled with it time and again, the way that I cut you out of my life with an app that would block your messages. We’d had that last horrific night, where we slept in separate rooms. Or more accurately, where we occupied separate rooms, both wide awake and fighting the inevitable that would come with the sun. Around 5:00am, a friend of mine responded to my texts, the ones I’d sent between choking sobs the night before to tell her that I was still there, still stuck in your apartment, and stuck in your grasp. She told me to get my things, and walk away. I tried. My hands were shaking, but I slipped my shoes on and closed the door behind me, trying to make it quick.
I got about halfway to the elevator before you followed me out, asking if I was just going to walk away like that. And there we were—tears in your eyes, and streaming down my face. I shrugged, and followed you down the hall, back through the door. And until noon, we gave it the old college try. We tried to put a happy face on goodbye. You were going to drive east to be with your kids for the summer. I was going to get on with my life. And it was for the best, you kept saying. Somewhere on some intellectual level I knew you were right. You were too old, I was too young. You were sad and lonely and missing your babies. Me, I wanted to have babies someday, and you were not interested in becoming a father again. You told me I’d find some amazing guy, and it would become clear to me that we were never meant to be. My brain agreed, but my heart was broken. You were my first love. Did you know that?
You told me that morning that you’d always be grateful for the time we spent together. That of all of the acquaintances and friends you met on the west coast, I was the only one who knew you, and soon enough, the only one who’d know you were here. We decided we’d remain friends.
After three days or so of being friends, I realized what you’d always said was absolutely true. We were like gasoline and a match. I’m not sure who was who in that scenario, but it was perfectly accurate. We couldn’t just be friends. Not then, anyway. And every text or call that passed between us, as well as my first visit to a counselor confirmed it: I had to make a run for it. I had to break away, or I just wouldn’t survive it. Loving you was this gaping wound, and there was no keeping that wound clean long enough to heal unless I just let you go. So once again with shaking hands, I sent that last text telling you that I needed my space. You replied with an, “ok kid- I understand”, or some equally gracious response and that was that.
Looking back now, and only now, do I realize the impact that choice must have had on you. I was your best friend, your confidante, your person, and I shut you out. Please understand that I don’t beat myself up over this, or hold myself responsible for the pain you felt. But I am sorry you had to feel it. I understand fully, as I know you did then, that it was absolutely what I needed to do. That I was too caught up in you to see my next steps clearly, if I could see them at all. I don’t feel guilty, but I am sorry. I’m sorry that no one else was there when I couldn’t be.
As much as I (still) hate to admit it, it turned out you were right. You were right a lot. I guess with your advanced age came wisdom. I’m not going to put a smiley face here, but I think you’d sense my inherent wit here. Once you were not an option, healing came in like a hurricane. It was as though God said, “FINALLY!” and poured blessings all over me, like He just couldn’t wait another day to get my life moving again. The right friends, the right job, the right experiences—they all just showed up. And then, one day in late September, the right guy showed up too. And it was just like you said. There were no fireworks, no flashing neon to alert me, but I knew. My searching was done. Driving home from my first date with Ryan, I pulled over and prayed. I thanked God for putting him in my life, even if I never saw him again. But all along, I knew. He’s everything you told me he’d be. He’s my best friend, and my partner. We share everything good that I had with you, but, well, better. He dreams with me. He fights with me and for me. You were my first love, KAG, for certain. But he…he’s love I never even thought to ask for. Just like you said he’d be.
We got married on March 16, 2013. You weren’t there like you said you’d be the day I saw you last. Which come on, what a cheesy thing to say—we both knew you’d never be at my wedding. Holy shit, how awkward would that have been? Anyway, we had a gorgeous wedding. I’ve never felt more love in a room. We’re navigating marriage, and after a trip to Europe in the fall, I’ll be looking to have those babies I want so badly. He’s going to be an amazing dad.
To be honest, because I learned early on to always be honest with you, this is not the letter I intended to write. But my mind has been filling with all of the things I never got to say to you. So I wanted to, you know, get you caught up.
Now that you’re caught up, back to Robin Williams. He’s dead. Killed himself. You should just SEE Facebook these days. Everyone’s just heartbroken about it. I’m a little heartbroken about it too. It made me sad that someone who brought such joy to so many could feel such pain.
And then I thought of you. I thought of how sad you’d get when you’d come back from visiting your kids. I thought about the hurt and bitterness you felt toward your wife, your parents. I thought about your medicine cabinet and all the ways you tried to kill the pain. I realized I never knew the extent of it. With those thoughts came the same curiosity I’ve felt about you for years—wondering how you are, what you’re doing, if you got a new job. The same curiosity came, but with a twinge of dread. So I typed the keywords: Your name and “obituary”.
(Well, crap. You know, I thought by this point in the letter I’d know what to say here)
All that digging for information answered one question, and prompted a million more.
I won’t ask them. You can’t answer them. Even alone with my own feelings, I can’t quite bring myself to be angry with you. I always thought that if someone I loved took their own life, I’d be blind with rage. But I’m not. I’m also, unfortunately, not terribly surprised. So, great—I know what I don’t feel. What I do feel is another animal altogether.
How do you mourn someone you thought you’ve already mourned? I grieved the loss of YOU in my life years ago. I felt every stab of loneliness, the MISSING that comes with losing someone significant. But while I didn’t have you anymore, I had the hope that somewhere you were happy, and you were safe. I used to think we’d run into each other at an airport someday. Why an airport? I don’t know, don’t ask questions. We were going to run into each other in an airport. You’d be with your lovely and age-appropriate second wife, and I’d be with Ryan, perhaps adorably pregnant or maybe with a cute little toddler in tow. We’d hug, share some quick catch-up small talk, make the necessary introductions, etc. And then we’d share a glance, just the two of us. Everything we wouldn’t say in front of our spouses would pass silently between us: “We had something great…I’m so glad you found something better for you. I am so happy you’re happy.” We’d share that glance and a smile knowing that even though we’d moved on, those memories and that sweetness still existed somewhere in time and still belonged to us.
THAT is what I’m mourning now. I’m grieving the comfort of believing you could be out there and thriving. I’m staring down reality in the form of a brief, graphic news article telling me how your story really ended.
And I’m sad. There! A feeling! SAD. I’m so sad for you, my old friend. I can’t believe you were alone. I can’t imagine what was going through your head, other than darkness I can’t fathom. I can’t believe you pulled the trigger, though once you’d set your mind to something, that was usually that. I can’t believe you were found by a stranger, and mourned by so few. It is so spectacularly unfair that I just had no clue. You were this force to me—you showed up out of goddamn nowhere. You shook my hand, and shook my life. But when you took your leave from this world, it just kept on turning. You MATTERED to me, SO MUCH. I’m so sad and so sorry. I’m sorry that my world didn’t stop turning for you, even for just a moment. I’m sorry I didn’t get to go to your funeral, if there was one.
I could go on for hours, but more than anything, I’m sad and sorry that you will never get to meet my babies and my husband in the airport. That you’ll never get the second chance at happiness I always wished for you. But if you don’t mind, I think I’d like to keep hoping for that. I don’t know if you’re in Heaven. I don’t know if you’re free.
But I hope so. Because beyond all the sad and sorry, I need you to know that I am thankful. I’m thankful that you pursued me and you loved me better than anyone before you. I learned what being lovers AND friends could look like. God, you made me laugh. You just…got me, and I hadn’t yet met a soul who read me like you did. You knew enough to know that you weren’t it for me, and you pointed me in the right direction. For all of your dark, you shared your light with me.
I am thankful, to say the least.
So since you ditched me here, I’m going to keep going. I will, God willing, get older. Older than you will ever get to be. And I’ll see the world, love my husband with all I have, and rock my babies to sleep. I pray I’ll die a wrinkled old woman, with a lifetime of memories and unshakeable faith to carry me to the other side. And even then, I’ll be grateful for you.
Anyway, sorry about all the rambling, though it wouldn’t surprise you much. It’s just that you are woven into my heart, into the stories I tell. I needed you to know that. You have not been forgotten. I will always love you. I will always know you were here.
So Goodbye, You.
All my love,
JDP (formerly JDR)