i dont know why im writing this except for its midnight and you always liked this hour best. dylan is asleep in the other room and sometimes when he snores i swear it sounds like you. it burns my lungs to listen to it, because when i close my eyes, i can pretend youre here and that in thirty seconds youre going to groan and throw your arm over my waist and sleepily nuzzle my neck like you always did.
i cant spend many nights awake because of it.
i cant believe im telling you this. you are such a bastard, you know that? youre the only person in the world who eats up my heart like its candy. i gave you everything, jared. absolutely everything. and you took it all without looking back. what am i supposed to give dylan now? i have nothing left to give.
If you don't know why you're writing, I sure as hell don't know why I'm writing back.
How is he? Dylan I mean. I think of him all the time--yesterday I walked through Armory Square after supper and watched a mother and son ice-skating on the frozen pond. They looked like you.
Everyone looks like you now, you know that? You may feel a flame ignite inside you when you notice my cough in the other room, but I see you at all hours of my life.
Noon at the park. Summers at the beach. I even see you hiding in the girl who delivers my morning paper. There have been times when I was convinced her hair was a wig--that it was you spying on me. Once, I ambushed her and ripped a chunk out.
You could start by giving me the fifty bucks you owe me for that ticket.
We could make a trade, yes? Your fifty bucks for all of the possessions I have of yours. You know, high-school style. Or better yet, we could mail each other, like we're doing now.
That sounds good. Just slip a fifty in an envelope, and I'll return your dingy, stuffed bear I continue to sleep with every single night; the perfume I spray it with to remind myself that you're still alive inside of me; the ticket stub to the movie we saw on our first date together.
Do you remember what it was, Mel? Titanic. Remember? My heart will go on? We mimicked that scene for days following the movie, but in truth, I've mimicked it for years.
I just want you to kn--ugh.
Damn it all, Mel.
Just damn us both straight to Hell.
you werent supposed to write back. you were supposed to tear that letter apart like you did with us.
and not that you really care, but dylans good. he spends most of his days shacked up in the room. i dont know what he does in there. video games, books? i dont know, but i know when he comes out his face is gaunt and his mouth is tight and its times like that when he doesnt look a thing like you.
because even when you were tired your eyes were bright, overbright, so bright it hurt to look at them. looking you in the face was like spending an afternoon staring into the sun, id walk away dazed and confused, stumbling into walls and going boneless in the knees. maybe that was our problem, i never could keep my wits around you.
youre just too much, jared. i cant handle it! you always demanded too much of me. you werent happy with crumbs, you wanted it all. i never fell asleep, i passed out. you wrung me out, you bled me dry. i wasnt breathing unless my mouth was on yours.
dylan, oh, my heart breaks just thinking about him. dylan deserves so much better than this! i cant give him anything but this empty husk because youve hollowed me out. i go through the motions and i can feel him slipping farther and farther away everyday.
i hate you for this.
I tore us apart? I'm the one still keeping us together!
I want you to look at my handwriting and dare you to tell me you still don't lose yourself in my smile. I dare you to find a reason not to reply to this letter. You may have started this chain, but I'm the spark that fueled your arm. I'm the sigh that overpowers your song.
Don't lie to me, Mel. Don't lie to yourself.
Go find our son again. Wait until he's melancholy--until his cheeks are wet with rosacea and the subtle crevasses beneath his lashes reveal me. Grab him by the shoulders and stare. When he asks you why you're doing it, stare.
When he asks you what's wrong, stare.
Stare until you want to breathe again. Until my face becomes wavy and damp. Until you crash down on your knees.
Then, look at the stars. Wait for my favorite hour, and look to the right of the Moon. There you will see garnet, turquoise, diamond. Gemstones. I do not claim to know what they are called, but I do know that's what they are to me.
The first night I noticed them was the night I left. You never would believe me--why would you? Your friend, Dominic, had all the answers. I'd kill him if I saw him wandering the streets. It's the least he deserves for ruining my life.
I fell asleep at Heritage Park beneath the ten-foot slide where Dylan broke his arm when he was six. Do you remember? I fell asleep there after piling the soil and wood chips and night crawlers on me, desperate to survive. When I woke, they were the first things that crossed my line of sight.
Since then, I've been an astronomer, finding and naming constellations. That one, just to the right of the Moon, I named Tiara.
Do you want to know why? Do you?
It wasn't because it looked like something Miss America would wear, no--it just reminded me of you. The earrings you wore the night I proposed, glistering in the dim ballroom as we waltzed to Chopin.
I named it Tiara because you were my queen. You're still my queen.
Look to the sky, see your reflection in the stars. Know that you're all I see. I won't buy you flowers, but I'll give you the Milky Way.
I beg you: breathe deep once again.
i cant, i cant! dont you see, jared? youre killing me! i cant look at you because i will only see her, i will only imagine cheap red lipstick stains on your collar and dominic at the front door with his hat crushed in his hands.
that man saved me that night, jared. when he told me what hed seen, i ran down the street sobbing and collapsed on the pavement. it was raining, dont you remember? it was raining and i was wearing the shorts youd bought me because they matched my eyes. it was dominic who picked me up and took me home.
i cant live off of stars, they burn too bright. im not strong enough to hold the constellations in my hands, theyre too heavy. my arms need to be empty to cradle dylan because you arent here to carry him upstairs. i have to be strong because you arent here, you arent here, you arent here.
i waited for three months and seventeen days for you to come back. i stayed up every night waiting for you to walk up the driveway. i put on your favorite perfume and let chopin fill the air so i could waltz you back home. to bed, to family, to me.
but you never came and i cant live off your words anymore.
you cant promise me air when im suffocating.
promises arent enough.
Even after all this time, you still don't know.
There was never any slut, floozy, bitch--whatever Dominic told you! The day I left, I gripped your face in my palms and swore yours were the only cheeks I'd ever traced my thumb over. I swore to you, in front of God, that you were every other beat in my chest.
I swore to you then. I swear to you now, one decade later. Why would I lie about that, even after all this time? What do I have left to hide? My skin's licked bare. I was kidnapped by another man's ambition.
Fuck him. I knew from the moment he took you to that Christmas party he wanted you. Who wouldn't? You made whoever you were around a better person. Made them more focused. More secure.
Think about what you're saying, Mel. Remember me, please. I am pleading with you. Remember who I am.
Remember that you only wore tropical Chapstick around me, simply because I wanted to see the natural sheen of your lips. Because any shade of red was artificial, and I believed that you were better than that. Because we dreamed of the Caribbean together, even though it was a pipe dream. We never could afford to go.
That night Dominic told you I betrayed your trust--your love--I had started a job down on Erie Boulevard. Third shift. Meat processing. Guts and vomit and a stench wrought with decay. I wanted to save up what little I could and take you on the honeymoon we never had. You, and our little boy, Dylan.
I only ended up working there one night.
I'm sure you can guess why.
You can call me a coward for not coming back. Hell, I call me one every day. But, please, at the very least, understand why I didn't. Why I couldn't. Understand that just because I didn't come back doesn't mean I didn't want to.
I still want to. It's been ten long years, Mel, and I have learned to survive on my own.
Problem is, for me, surviving doesn't mean the same thing as living.
I'm willing to bet it doesn't mean the same thing for you either.
i am living without lungs and youre trying to have me swim underwater.
how can i trust you? i saw the way shelly draped over you at the christmas party. i saw her follow you around with champagne-smile and drunk-fingers and how can i not believe that you didnt notice ten mile legs and a two inch skirt? when dominic told me about you two at the thai restaurant (our place, jared, how could you?) how was i supposed to respond?
and then you never came back, you never showed up, not a call or a letter, oh hell, not even a smoke signal. it reeks of guilt. and jared, how can i just pick up where we left off? its been ten years, i have a son, i have a life!
its not much of one, but its all i have. i started dating again, jared. his names leo. and hes kind and funny and listens when i talks and kisses me on the cheek when he drops me off at home. he took dylan to the zoo last sunday and took me dancing the saturday before that.
this life i have is taped-together and crude but its all i have left, jared. and you want to come back and rip it all apart again. you want to leave me dehydrated and gasping on the floor. more than worry for me, how can i risk dylan? hes just accepting the fact that his dad didnt want him anymore.
i cant let you let him taste the cake before you smash it under your foot.
oh, and for the record, i wear red lipstick now. leo says it makes me look sexy.
Who are you trying to fool? It must be Leo, because you sure as shit aren't fooling yourself, and you definitely aren't fooling me.
Sure, I'll admit I noticed Shelly, but who couldn't? Apparently you noticed her too. Does that mean you wanted to fuck her brains out? Huh? Didn't think so. Making such a hasty accusation like that against me not only hurts, it's insulting.
And you're relying on more hearsay from Dominic! The man is a liar, Melanie. There was never any girl. There was never any goddamn Thai escapade!
As for Leo, I feel sorry for him. I feel sorry because I know with all of me that you will never love him the way you do me. I can see it in the way your O's are looped on the page. The way you've reverted back to your hybrid cursive-print font you used to write my birthday cards in.
I wonder: Have you noticed it as well? Or is it so embedded within you that our conversations now are as natural as back then?
Face it, Mel. I'm it. What if we're as good as it gets?
You don't love him. You need somebody who is a pain-in-the-ass, who brings out the worst in you. Who can make you seethe, just so you know that you're still human. Just so you know you can still feel. How can you feel if you're numb with lust?
We had our rough patches, sure. We've fought--I've sworn that your father was the meanest son of a bitch ever to walk the planet; you've slapped me so hard across the face, the bruise looked like a gunshot wound--but what mattered was, at the end of the day, we still knew what love was. We knew because we'd lived it hundreds of times over.
Love is not a kiss on the cheek or a Saturday dancing! Love is everywhere you do not look: cooking bacon and eggs for brunch; skipping a day of work to have swing contests at the playground; picnics in the August breeze amidst cattails, daffodils, and the airplanes taking off just above our heads.
I still love you, Melanie Sarah Harris.
And, whether you like it or not, I will love you until the day you steal back half my pulse.
You love me too. I know you do.
Something made you pick up the pen and start to write.
PS: Leo only says red lipstick makes you look sexy because when you have it on, you look like a Shelly-kind-of-woman. Fake. Artificial. Phony.
PPS: You're still better than that. I still believe in you.
oh i hate you, you arrogant bastard. if i could cut your throat with the tip of this pen id leave you bleeding on the floor. id let you know what it means to be waterlogged and dehydrated for years on end, id let you know what it means to lose your spine, your liver, your heart, your everything. id leave you there and id laugh.
because for once you selfish ass, you might have some small fraction of empathy.
and you know whats the worst? the worst is i still dream of you. i still find you tangled together in every thought. because you arent weaved in the fabric of my life, you are the fabric. because if i could be slapping you across your face, id take it over getting roses in the morning from leo.
because hating you makes me feel alive. because you drag me down and beat me up, you tear off my skin and make me new. i dont care, i dont care. i don't care about shelly or decades or anything. i just know i cant go another minute with taking another sip of water. i cant keep pouring bleach down my throat and expecting to wake up refreshed.
i cant live without you anymore, jared.
come home. come home. come home.
I'm sorry it's taken me so long to write back. It's only been two weeks--I'm sure of it--and yet it feels like a millennium. Two weeks on Earth is one thousand years in my mind. If that's the case, then the time I've gone without your touch is equal to what? Two-hundred-sixty millennia?
No, that can't be true. It feels like even longer than that.
You've stained my sense of time.
Don't you see? You dream of me because you are me. You're me, and I'm you. There isn't a fabric--I'm not your fabric! The string you've cocooned yourself in is only our memories. First dates. Slides. Ballroom waltzing. Living room brawls.
Our newborn child.
How do I know this so well? Because I'm the same way. Because I'm you. You're me. Your memories are my memories. Every letter up until this point should bear testament to that fact. If you asked me to right now, I'd recite every event, major or minor or insignificant, that's ever affected our life together.
I can only do that because they are the thread cradling my dew-kissed infant body as well.
They say our memories outlast us. That everyday, we all make our mark on history. That we will be remembered after our bodies fail us for the last time, and we're ushered underneath the silt and clay, embarking to whatever lies beyond this world.
Imagine the legacy we've already left behind! It's true that we may never be leader of a country or taught in the halls of universities, but that doesn't mean no groundwork has been laid. We've paved the surface better people walk will upon.
People like our son. A parent's job is to teach his child, to watch him grow into his body, his mind. To watch him question, gain knowledge and then wisdom. To learn the intricacies of a woman's body, to appreciate her curves. To realize she has strengths a man can never know. To be okay with the not knowing.
My son is a better man than I am. But I still want to be there to help him along at the times he's unsure of where he's going in life--unsure of the path he walks on. In times like that, I want to look into him--not his eyes, but him--and tell him that it's okay. That he'll always have us to fall back on.
Because the path that he walks on is ours. That we'll take him wherever he needs to be taken.
Someone once told me that we like a person for their perfections, but we love them for their flaws. I believe that wholeheartedly.
I love you because you're you. And I know now, more than ever, that the whole package--the days you wake refreshed and grinning, to the days you wish to beat me with a rolling pin.
I take you. I take Dylan. I take our life, for better or worse.
I now know what that means, and I'm ready to live the rest of our lives showing you that I'm here. I'm coming home.
Knock, knock, Mel.