I don’t know the person I am to you now. What I mean is, I am afraid that every time I pop up again in your mind it leaves a bad taste in your mouth. I think it would for me if our roles had been reversed. I was thoughtless with your friendship, and I squandered it. I lost it to a strange form of cowardice that looks a lot like stupidity. It is not a fun thing, to be faced with a true reflection of your worst self. My worst self came out with you. Was out a lot. The worst pain of it is that my best self was there too. But there is no lie in a mirror, and no lying back to it. The truth is that with you, as with many others, I was at times manipulative; there were times I didn’t share what I was really thinking; there were times that I started conversations with ulterior motives. Sometimes those motives were painfully obvious, sometimes they were almost endearing (at least to the 25 year old version of myself that wishes I hadn’t given up so much of my innocence so young), but they were never forthright. I don’t think that I was ever forthright with you, even at my best. And you did bring out the best in me. It would be wrong to say that if you were ever going to read this.
All this to say here what I wish I could actually say to you: I’m sorry. I could also be finished now, but the weight of things left unsaid is a cruel burden. I’m sorry that I was never forthright with you. There was hardly ever a reason not to be, though I didn’t know it at the time. I was full of fear and full of secrets, of which the most closely held were a mystery even from myself. It’s no excuse though. Being a confused young boy doesn’t get you a free pass to play idly with people’s emotions, treading sand endlessly in the top of an hourglass while the grains trickle inexorably away.
I was told once that I have the capacity to manipulate people. When I first heard it, I didn’t believe it. I was told once that I had hurt people. When I first heard it, I didn’t believe it. I decided once that the greatest sin I had ever willfully committed was the way I had been careless with one woman’s heart. I realized the way I had pulled her towards myself and cut her loose, and I knew my sin. I felt the barest glimpse of what she had felt as I pulled her in and left her suddenly to drift, and I knew the shame of what I had wrought. It hadn’t occurred to me in my dizziest daydreams that I had a pattern. That I had done this before. That I have done it since. The person who blithely kept his secrets, who carelessly sought these connections, who cultivated those connections with such sinister ease, that is a part of my legacy. It might be my largest legacy. It is stretches back over a decade now. It is a part of the fabric of who I am. What’s that line? Hate the sin but not the sinner. Well, that’s tough, when you sit where I am sitting right now, the sinner and the sin are one. One begot the other, the other chose the first in its turn, and the two dance a partners duet to the tune of disappointment. I haven’t known, before today, that this is where I stand. Truthfully I miss the self-deception. At least I can be honest about my cowardice now.
Here’s a first step. I should never send this to you. Or send anything like this to anyone. Ever. The opportunity for healing those wounds is gone now, was gone a long time ago. People are real and their wounds fill with scar tissue. Scenario: you wake up next to your fiancé on a Saturday morning, thinking about what you have to plan next this weekend for your wedding day. *Ding* your phone notifies you of an email. To your surprise, my name is on your screen, the subject line is empty. With a slight frown you open the attachment and you begin to read this letter. How far do you get before the sanctimony and self-pity disgust you too much to continue? How long before my blind sense of entitlement, the expectation I’m thrusting on you, my out of control selfishness leads you to hate me? How many lines could I really expect you to read before the sheer self-importance suffocates even the smallest note of pity you manage to dredge up for me? No. This isn’t a letter meant for sending, it’s hardly even a letter meant for the writing. I don’t deserve to take that wonderful lightness of being that would accompany your forgiveness, and you are certainly not obligated to give it. How do you even begin to make a true apology for a failure that spans a breadth and depth as tremendous as mine? How do you begin to forgive it?
Hopefully for you the scar I left is just the one. Selfish at this moment, all I can think about is the next sentence, the one about the scars I gave myself at the same time. Every one of them. Never to be healed. Because they are not mine to heal any more.