Letters | About the Project
I recently started a letter-writing project to help me deal with some shit from my past (like this one I wrote to my 11-year-old self).
Here’s why: We all (blessedly) get over some stuff in our lives without putting in too much effort. And some stuff is harder to let go of. So, I’ve been writing letters to people who I can’t get out of my head, no matter how much I want to let them go. The letters mostly live in my journal, but I thought I could share this little story of high school heartbreak here.
Here’s goes –
So, to be fair, I probably should have seen all the red flags:
- Your name in Spanish class was Domingo, which, okay, I loved, but also, c’mon.
- At the beginning of the dance, you showed me the grape-flavored condoms you had brought for the all-girls + you sleepover you were going to that night. Yeah.
- You and your tag-along not-girlfriend made me feel stupid for not knowing how to grind up on a guy, which was bullshit, but still makes me feel like a stupid prude when I think about it too hard.
What’s worse is that –
I wrote an essay about you and the way you made me feel and submitted it to the University of Portland a few years later and they wait-listed me. So, the pain you caused me (and the personal essay it inspired) couldn’t even get me into college.
What’s worse-worse is that I know you don’t remember me because guys like you never remember girls like me, and I wish I could forget you the way you’ve forgotten me. I mean, I’m not crying over you anymore, don’t get me wrong, but still, you got off fucking easy.
Since you don’t remember, I’ll tell you what happened:
I went to the dance with a guy friend who later started low-key stalking me, but that’s another story. I made it clear to the other guy that we were going to the dance together as friends, but now I know that dudes don’t usually listen to that. He bought me a corsage and had his aunt pick me up at my house before the dance. She took pictures of us that are probably still up on Facebook now, ten years later: my lilac Target dress, his leather jacket, my hesitant smile.
But after I agreed to go to homecoming with him, I met you. In Spanish class, naturally, where my name was Madelina or something, and you were, of course, Domingo.
You looked high all the time, like you could never look straight at me, and that never turned me off. I was drunk on your attention. Guys like you never looked at me. Guys who could be with almost anyone. We started spending lunches together, sitting outside school on the concrete steps, away from everyone. I can’t remember a single conversation we had. I only remember being electrified by your presence. I had dated guys before, but, honestly, you were the first one I liked back.
I wrote poetry about your gray “November eyes,” and back then, I thought they were a good thing.
I liked the coldness, the distance. Red flags, right? I think about your eyes and, ten fucking years later, still think I might take you back, even though I’ve done so much work trying to learn to respect myself, trying to feel like I deserve more.
We “dated” for two or three weeks, spending lunches together out on those steps. And, like, a minute in, my just-friends plan for the dance with Future Stalker Dude started to look like nothing. Honestly, I don’t feel bad about hurting him because, again, stalker. But I do feel bad about giving you so much power before you had really given me anything. I felt that your time was so precious. I was so grateful for every second you spent with me, looked at me, each minute that you (maybe) thought about me.
I gave without thinking. I trusted without knowing what you would do to me. And (spoiler alert) you hurt me. Duh.
You showed up to the dance late.
You had never been on time before – why start now? But everything in me buzzed when you texted me, casually, as per usual, that you were there. We were indoors, in some second-rate wedding venue with no discernible theme, but the air changed when you got there.
I looked up from your text to a pissed-off date and his best friend. His best friend (who I, incidentally, used to date) started going off on me. “Why would you come here with him, just to blow him off?” he said. I didn’t fucking care, to be honest. I tried to go to the dance with this guy as friends. And friends want what’s best for their friends. And “what was best,” of course, was supposed to be you.
You know what I learned? That sometimes no one in your life is best for you. Not you, Devin; not that guy I went to the dance with; and no, not his friend who I used to date, either.
I felt everything I was supposed to feel when I saw you.
The good kind of anxiety. The warmth. The wanting to sit next to you for hours and know everything about you. But the feelings aren’t everything. Here are the facts: When I said I didn’t want to grind up on you, you pulled me closer, moving my hips against you with your hands. When I acted like you were the only person in the world, you told me you were spending the night with every girl at school but me.
And, of course – and this is the really sucky part of the memory – you left without saying goodbye.
And then, your not-girlfriend – just barely inside, ready to slip away, cool hair, knows how to grind – approaches me. And, in slow motion, she says some shit that will stick with me forever for some reason: “Devin has to go.” I don’t think I said anything back. I couldn’t.
Then she, too, slips out, probably to that grape condom sleepover party everyone else is going to. You’re behind her, I know it, just past the physical barrier of the building, but still, I know it’s the last time I’ll see you. Until Spanish class Monday morning, at least. That will be awkward, won’t it? We weren’t anything, but whatever we were is over. And you didn’t even say goodbye.
And you know what?
I let myself believe it was my fault. I wondered, Why couldn’t you tell me yourself? and What did I do wrong? instead of asking myself why this fuckboy meant something to me in the first place.
Maybe you’ve changed –
and put a ring on some girl you actually love. And maybe you’re having a baby in March, and everything is different now. But I can’t help but think that maybe you’re still the same lost boy, sticking your dick in it when you can and hunting down girls who’ll fall for your gray November eyes like I did.
And Devin – to be honest – I pray to every fucking god, that they don’t. I got over you, but no one else should have to.