I Wanted To Tell You
You sat on my front porch, thin and clenched arms and tight shoulders, body language of a person who feels the need for protection. You smiled, guardedly, at me when I stepped outside to say hello. It was warm and sunny out, but you sat as though you were cold, inner arms and wrists pressed tight against yourself. I wondered if you were hiding scars or fresh cuts. I had heard through the line of family gossip that you were doing that recently, self-harming.
Back when I was your age…
Last time I saw you, you were still a little girl. It was at a birthday party, I believe, maybe it was yours even. I had gone with my parents to your house that day, the one you lived at with your mom and dad. Things seemed normal enough back then. Your mom and dad had been married for years then and you guys were a family. You were short and your hair was in spiraled ringlets. You didn’t seem so worried or closed off back then, just a goofy and slightly obnoxious kid. This must have been only like 5 years ago. So much has changed since then.
You are a member of that club of people who have lost a loved one to narcotic addiction, “lost” in the sense that they became inaccessible from it, not dead, but still gone. This type of loss is debatably as bad or maybe worse than putting your loved one in a box in the ground, because they are still around. They still can talk to you and invoke your love when you see them, but it is not really them standing there. I have one of those too. I love her but I know every word she says to me is a lie and an angle and so I have cut her out in what seems to be a cold manner. It’s not. I think of her every day and I can already feel the flood of regrets that will hit when I get the news one day, that she is gone, for real now. I miss her.
Your parents drifted apart shortly after this gathering and your mom drifted to drug abuse. Your family went from a fairly traditional structure to a broken home, and over these past few years, I hear stories about you and all the bad you are getting into. As I walk out onto the porch to say hello, these things cross my mind. I already have hid my own medication bottles in the house because I don’t want any problems. My own pills, my own possible path to addiction. I hope every day, in my own health issues that I too do not lose myself to addiction. I hear that is how it begins for many people.
You don’t have the energy of a bad kid. I don’t think you are, although I believe you can find your share of trouble and I wonder what kind of choices you will make in the near future. Your eyes are not those of a predator. Your eyes are those of the prey, if anything, and I can sense that the bad things you do come from a need for survival, protection, and self-soothing. Who else could do that for you? It seems like no one has cared how you have been feeling for a long time. Like they hadn’t bothered to take notice.
There are so many things I wanted to tell you but knew it wasn’t my place. I feared that if I tried, your need would suck me dry, from my soul to the marrow of my bones. I realize this is some kind of failure on my part too. I’m sorry. Add me to the list of people who have failed you.
I wanted to infuse into your mind something like Cliff Notes for loving yourself, on how to forgive your parents, and how to realize you are not to blame for what happened. It took me years and years to understand that my parents were flawed people and that their shortcomings did not have to be the heart of my own life story, and the road to that realization was devastating and confusing. But it was also freeing because it was when I realized that their problems were not my fault. How could I make you understand that in an hour, one sunny afternoon on my porch? I couldn’t. I believe this is where people go wrong with their attempts to give advice or emulate information. They fail to understand the true scope of their mission. It’s about them and their need. They are too pleased with hearing their voice spreading the word to realize it will never sink in unless dispensed in exactly the right manner at the right time. I didn’t want to vomit my life lessons up at you, cloaked in the guise of helping you, when it was really a way to ease myself somehow. That’s not fair.
We talked about menial things and made jokes. You drank your Mountain Dew and told me how you can’t wait to get your face pierced in many places and you bemoaned your acne and how ugly you think you are. I wanted to tell you that you don’t have to have a perfect beautiful face to be worthy, nor must you adorn what you do have with piercings and tattoos to somehow make it more acceptable, which is what you seemed to be saying between the sentences. And anyway, your face is fine, and only a small part of who you are. But I didn’t.
Sweet, dear girl, who I am too afraid to get too close to for fear of your impending catastrophes, I know I failed you a couple weeks ago. It’s selfish that I can’t risk getting involved in the car accident type of drama that comes from involvement with drug addicts or their forgotten children. It’s not enough that I am sorry, but I am. I am so sorry I am afraid to reach out to you because I think you require it.
Your parents’ stories are part of yours, but they are not the sum of your story. You can have a totally different life in a few years. If you love yourself and understand that you can forgive yourself, you can have a different life, a better one. But isn’t it hard to love yourself when one of your parents has turned away from being your parent in order to be a more effective drug addict? How do you reconcile within yourself that it is not your fault that your mom left your family in order to chase addiction to drugs and terrible people affiliated with them? I can’t even imagine trying to do that, to be honest. Despite my mom’s flaws and mistakes, I always knew she loved me. So I don’t even know.
That day, you said your dream is to get a good job and make money so you could help your mom. You said that you knew you couldn’t ever give her cash because she would use it to get high, but you dreamed that someday you could buy her things to take care of her, get her in a house, make sure she is ok and safe and has the things she needs to live. File that under “Truths That Break Hearts.” You are not yet old enough to drive but you know this lesson already, that a junkie will put all resources to feed their addictions. This has remained with me for the past weeks, since that day. It has troubled me quietly. I imagine what it is like to live with that being the thought in your mind daily, the foundation of your goals and dreams. You want to keep your mom ok but in the hope that with enough love and happiness, the addiction will wither and die eventually. I think this is the end you want to see. I know that it is an unlikely conclusion.
You are better than what your story has been. You can do amazing things with your life. You can take your pain and you can save someone, you can be a light in the darkness for another lost soul. Your life is not over yet. If you can find it in yourself to love you, and to believe you deserve more, you can have it. It will be hard but you can make this happen. You never deserved to be a throw-away. Ever. No kid deserves that, but it happens, a lot. You are not definitely doomed to following the path your mother blazed for you. You can blaze your own.
These are the things I was dying to tell you when I saw you last. But I sensed that it wasn’t my place, that the words would either alienate, or reveal me as the confused and duct-taped soul my life has turned me into over these years. I am no fucking beacon in the dark either, my dear. But I have had some shattering experiences too, and I still feel it within myself to love and forgive, and progress. I want this for you more than anything else. Faith, resilience. In evolution, the trait which determines a species’ ability to survive and evolve is the ability to adapt to difficulty. That is the bottom line. You don’t need an amazing lineage or a perfect face or body or soul. You need to adapt and overcome, and you can. This is what I should have said. Maybe someday, it will seem right to say these things, and it will sink in, or maybe you are going to find these answers in your time.
I’m sorry for my polite small talk and my light laughter that day. I was trying to mind my place. I was afraid to be honest. I have been thinking about you since. I truly hope to hear things about you succeeding in life as the years go on. I love a good comeback.