The idea for this series came to me last week whilst writing about how social anxiety has affected my life. How my inability to share myself with others prevented me from saying the things I really wanted to say. So, last night, I tore a sheet of paper into 100 pieces and upon each one wrote a name. These names were partners, teachers, acquaintances, ex-work colleagues, family members, old friends and random strangers who made a significant impact on my life.
Each day this week I will draw one of these names at random and then write them a letter.
The only rules for this challenge are:
1) The person will remain anonymous.
2) The letter should include unsaid things I always held back.
3) It shall be written as a sixty minute stream of consciousness. (i.e. no painful seven hour editing sessions, so please excuse any grammar and/or spelling mistakes)
So with all that in mind…[shakes beanie, shakes beanie again, once more for good measure, plunges hand into sea of scrunched up piece of paper, selects, reads name]…okay. Let’s get going.
6 September 2012
Once upon a time, I wrote the following advice in a blog post: ‘Life is a gift! Grab it, tear the wrapping off and play til your heart’s content’. It’s the only line of my blog I’ve memorized, because as you know, I didn’t say it, you did.
Four days. How do I write a letter to someone who I knew for four days some twelve years ago? A woman who carved her name on my heart for all eternity? Your sassy savviness, ——-, was always an inspiration to me so any pearls of wisdom would be greatly appreciated.
In the numerous emails I sent you did I ever tell you that you were the first woman to leave your handprint on my cheek? That I wore the stinging pain like a badge of honor until the imprint of your studded ring faded three days later? If I didn’t, then I am now. If I did, please feel free to chastise me for repetition. Or not…because the only reason I bring it up is to thank you for it.
Since that night, there was only one woman who understood me enough to do what you did. Only they were less sadistic, so did it metaphorically, not physically. You know that was an option, right?
Sitting here, thinking not only of you but the potential people reading this letter, I’m starting to realize how messed up this sounds. There we were, sitting in a pub, drinking whisky, chatting nonchalantly, when out of nowhere you slapped me so hard my cheek was pink for hours! All because I wasn’t telling you what you wanted to hear. They’ll be thinking ‘that’s effing abuse’ or ‘Jesus, she sounds like a right a-hole!’
They won’t understand that it was exactly what I needed. You knew I wanted to tell you about Annie, about my life, about all the things you’d been trying to draw out of me. You knew my anxiety was holding me back and you needed to shock me out of it.
That’s what I always think of when I think of you. Your innate ability to delve deep into someone’s soul and yank out the person that you knew was buried deep within, even when they couldn’t see it themselves.
To my shame, and eternal guilt, I didn’t possess that ability. If I did, perhaps you’d still be alive, slapping anxious men into baring their soul before dancing with them through the silent Nova Scotian streets.
Dammit, ——–! I would give anything to smack some sense into you right now! Why didn’t you talk to someone? Why didn’t you talk to me? Why didn’t you get help? Why didn’t you see just how fucking awesome you were?
When Teri told me what happened I couldn’t speak. I tried to, so hard, but nothing came out. It was like being punched in the chest by a twenty-foot polar bear wearing brick laden boxing gloves. The thought that someone as vibrant, outspoken, intelligent, compassionate and downright sexy as hell could see no way out other than…other than…dammit, ——–, what the FUCK?
Why? Why? Fucking WHY? Do you have any fucking idea how many times I’ve asked myself that question? Teri couldn’t say, she didn’t know, you didn’t tell anyone. No note. No letter. No email. You just walked into the fucking bedroom in the fucking I Heart Halifax T-Shirt that I fucking brought you and slashed your wrists! What? Huh? Fucking why? Was it my fault? Was it because of me? Do you know how many times I’ve asked that question? You were wearing the fucking shirt I gave you, ——–, you expect me to believe that when you caught a glimpse of yourself in the mirror I didn’t flash into your mind? I had a T-Shirt given to me once; an artsy-hipstery green thing with a print of a girl swinging from a tree branch, whilst on the opposite branch a man was hanging himself. Whenever I saw that T-Shirt for months I thought of her! I didn’t even have to be wearing it; just the sight of it in the drawer brought her back to me. So NO, I don’t believe I didn’t cross your mind as you lay on the bed and bled yourself dry over the one present I gave you. I’ve gone over those four days so many times ——–, every second we spent together, every word, every syllable, every dram, every touch, every hug, every near kiss and hip-bump and I can’t for the life of me think of anything I did to make you kill yourself! So please, I need to know what I did! It’s been eating at my heart for over twelve years. Maybe if I’d done this, or that, or whatever, you would still be here; dazzling the world with your killer smile and warped sense of humour. Why? Jesus Christ, WHY? I could have helped you, ——–. Teri could have helped you. Anyone could have helped you. We all loved you! So why didn’t you let us? Why didn’t you confide in us? Why couldn’t you share what was going on? FUCK-ING-WHY? God I want to scream! So many times have those words filled my head. Day after week after month after year. Replaying, repeating, analyzing, endlessly trying to answer the question even though I’ll never know for sure. Ever. Bound to live a life in limbo, hating myself for not sensing your sadness, for not seeing the black dog had taken hold and wasn’t letting you go.
Oh, ——–, I am so sorry for not helping you. For not seeing the pain you were in. For not being a better friend. A better man. Despite the hole you’ve left that will never be filled, I hope, I pray, that you found the peace you so desperately needed. I know…because I’ve been there. I know how you felt when you pressed the knife to your wrist, feeling the blade shake in your hand as you wrestled with the dilemma of a lifetime of pain against the blissful relief. I just wish you’d dropped the knife like I did. That you’d chosen to fight on, like I did.
We’re approaching the anniversary, by the way, not long now before I spend the day celebrating your life. I’ve done it every year for the last eleven years. Last year, I recited Henry V next to a stream in the park I was sleeping in (I couldn’t find a fountain). The year before, I toasted your life with a special treat of fish’n’chips. A few years ago, I even wrote you a story, a crazy adventure about a woman who goes in search of a man named Hope.
I don’t know what I’ll do this year, maybe purchase a studded ring and slap myself hard in the face for old time’s sake! You should know that I’ve never stopped trying to overcome my anxiety. There have been a few times I got close, but without a friend like you to catch me, I just kept falling back.
All I know is that I’ll spend the day locked in the endless torment of the ever-present why?
——–, you taught me life is about seizing every opportunity you can. Of grabbing the world with both hands and squeezing it dry. If you want it, go for it, because everything is possible.
“Life is a gift! Grab it, tear the wrapping off and play til your heart’s content.” Is what you told me once. “Because you never know if today will be your last,”
You were an amazing woman, ——–, we could all see it. I only wish that you could have too.
Wherever you may be, I hope we meet again someday, if only to get answers to the questions that have tormented my mind these last twelve years. If only so I can sit and share whisky with you again, laughing and smiling as if the world was our private ball pit.
Wherever you may be, ——–, I hope you’ve found the peace and happiness you craved.
With love, hugs and hip-bumps,
Other letters in this series:
- Unsent Letter #1: The First Real Friend I Ever Had
- Unsent Letter #2: Swearing Is Wrong and Can Hurt People’s Feelings
- Unsent Letter #3: My life would be empty had you never been in it