Writing this is difficult for me . . . Please forgive me if my style is not up to its usual standard. I am having difficulty catching hold of the pieces of plastic lawn furniture blowing around within the squall line crossing my mental landscape, the pieces of a mostly-forgotten past that have taken flight during the storm. The storm that was unintentionally birthed by an e-mail from an old friend.
How, oh how, do I respond?
The longer I wait, the more severe the storm becomes. The longer I wait, the higher the bar over which I must jump. The longer I wait, the better the response much be, as she’s wondering WTF. The longer I wait, the more dishonor I do her, a dishonor she in no way deserves.
How, oh how, can I respond when all I can do is shelter in place?
We spent our high school years in neighboring fishing villages turned white-trash meccas on an oceanic bay in the American South. Kindred spirits in adolescent angst, we partnered against the world to the best of our immature ability. We were a duo too intelligent for our own good, far more maladjusted than we could understand, and creatively self-destructive in our desperate search for the cosmopolitan we knew must lay outside our redneck environs.
So many years later, I now know what fueled our different but compatible brands of insanity, but at the time we propped each other up in sisterly affirmation that everyone else was the problem. She was the first woman with whom I fell in love, and finding out that I was the same for her would not surprise me.
She went away to college and broke my heart. My road trips there and hers home only strung out the heartache. Even though I was in the bridal party, I don’t remember if she married before or after graduation. I just know that the last time I saw her was at my mother’s wake 13 years ago. I knew at the wake that I was leaving my youth behind. That was another heartbreak – Saying goodbye to my mother and to my dear friend at the same time.
She has since divorced and “come out”, I’ve been diagnosed with a handful of sleep disorders. So many things explained, a world of wisdom opened to me.
I tell you these things so that she can see us both in these words. So that there is no possible mistake . . . So that she knows to whom I’m really speaking.
So long ago that I can’t remember when, I made contact with a mutual friend of ours. “What the hell ever happened to you, anyway?” she innocently asked, “We all thought you were going to be the next Great American Writer.”
The plain speech that made me love her so when we were young was now an innocently-shot arrow through my sense of self. I’ve not been able to bring myself to speak to her again . . . And this is a large part of why I can’t speak to the one I need to now.
There are reasons I haven’t achieved the success we thought I would. I could describe them, but they taste like excuses that my pride forbids me to offer. I feel like a failure because I didn’t turn into the person that I envisioned, and the most difficult part of this is offering that knowledge to a person whose opinion matters, dear God, more than it should all these years later.
I think her judgment still matters so much because we dreamed those dreams together, because she was so much a part of why I aspired to who I aspired to be. Failing just myself is bad, but realizing that I haven’t lived up to the expectations one who was so much a part of me opens a new dimension of horror and shame.
Her letter recently arrived. I waited as long as I could, then wrote a few noncommittal words in return. And then nothing. For weeks. She deserves better.
All I can offer is this post in way of explanation, in way of apology. Forgive me.