I wrote earlier in the year about an anniversary that was coming up. The date has passed and since "unpacking" that piece of baggage, I've been far less affected by its existence.
Recently, I was going through old boxes of papers stored in the attic, little bits of memory. Old letters, report cards, photos. The kind of box everyone has with remnants of their past they cannot seem to be able to part with inside of it.
Within this box, I found a padded envelope. No postmark, no address. Only "pictures of Jen" scrawled upon it in pencil.
I knew then where the envelope came from. It was a collection of photos I'd given to my old boyfriend which he had kept for an unexpected amount of time, considering we'd broken up when I was sixteen and he had returned them all to me when I was 29. And in turn, I had put the envelope into a box and hadn't looked at it until now, at 38.
Inside, it was as it claimed to be - a small pile of photographs of
me, maybe 10 in all, stretching from baby pictures to mid-high school.
One of my middle school honor passes was in there as well.
There was a stray sheet of folded notebook paper inside as well. I unfolded it, not sure what it would be. To quote my favorite line from John Travolta in the classic film, "Look Who's Talking", - 'Could be lunchmeat, could be peaches. Who knows?'
But I knew.
The top of the page held the date of that anniversary for all the world to see - 3/3. And then, the opening paragraph.
The remorse was a good plan, as openers go. Hell, after reading through it, I almost feel bad for the guy. It goes on like this for a little while.
And then, we close with this:
Charming. No time for a signature, apparently. Not that I wouldn't know who had written it.
There are so many sick things wrong with this letter, not even mentioning the fact that it was written to begin with, or the events that inspired its writing.
You could point out that it reads like abuse itself. It starts out innocuous, apologetic, sorrowful. Genuinely remorseful for what happened. Then it moves on to blaming the victim. And then, the threat.
In retrospect, this letter is the best summary of what that relationship was like. What I thought I wanted in life, what I thought I deserved.
Part of me wonders why he wrote it to begin with, but more than that, why he held onto it for close to fifteen years without giving it to me.
It makes me wonder what kind of sick partnership I was involved in for so long. Such a sick relationship I was only able to completely walk away from a handful of years ago.
I often felt unworthy of love when I was younger, and I fell prey to it when I started dating This Charming Man. He saw that in me and used it. It made me try all the harder to be worthy of what he called love. To try not to do things wrong. To be better. To be prettier. To be thinner. To look more like the girls he always cheated on me with.
Walking away for good was one of the hardest things I'd ever done. There was still a part of me, years later, that felt some tie to him. No matter my anger, my sadness, or how what I had suffered in the past manifested in me, I still struggled with that connection. Even though we were never "together" again, there was still this sick, weird "friendship" between us. Some unexplainable tie, some reason I felt responsible for him.
Had I read this "apology" twenty-two years ago for my public beating, who knows how I would have reacted? I'd like to say that I'd have rejected it out of hand, walked away and been done with him forever. But I know better. Honestly? I think if I had read this back then, I'd have gone right back. I'd have been swayed by his words and the fact that he said he loved me. I'd have eaten it up and thought it was romantic.
And probably, I never would have seen my 38th birthday.
So I guess the point of all this is that, despite the years it took and the convoluted way I got there, is that I did find it in me to walk away. That I was able to finally say "fuck you" to the bullshit connection I had felt. To know that I was worthy of far more than This Charming Man would ever have been able to give and that he was far sicker than I had previously given him credit for.
This letter, this horrid piece of paper, is a road map for me - of where I've been.
And how very, very far I've come.