I hope this letter makes sense. It is from the future, from you at thirty, from a land far far away. 2019 sounds impossible even to my ears, like spaceships and dystopia. Did the letter get warped in time travel? Maybe the words ran together, like ink on parchment, held out into rain.
If you can read it, scratch your thumb so it bleeds just a little, so you have a second scar next to the first one from when you fell off our bike in fourth grade, then I’ll know you read it (Also my life will be different, suddenly, and then I’ll know you received it, or maybe you will just branch off into a new timeline, and exist in a parallel universe with two scars on your thumb and the ability to fall in love). I’m weird, but you get it?
From my old throne, I see you now with a long-held gaze, through rose colored glasses, with condescension, with hope. When we were sixteen you wrote a letter to me, asking me questions you did not want answered but secretly hoped would be revealed, answers you were terrified to know. I don’t know if you want this, really, I don’t know if it’s right, or fair, or if I will break the space-time continuum. But I don’t care right now, because I’m a bit fed up with life and I think this shit started then, age sixteen.
You are going to succeed. Become a doctor, make lots of friends, travel the world. You are still writing, still full of imagination, and you are still too hard on yourself.
We had sex! It took way longer than it should have, for reasons I’ll try to explain. Before that, we had our first of many kisses, and yes, lips are like squishy frogs. Are we almost normal? Almost like those other people, our friends and people on tv who have first kisses and first loves and get married, whose hearts are open, who fall in love like breathing?
No, not quite yet. True love is still a foreign land, across two deserts, through a haunted forest, on the other side of the world, and you have not seen it. Gosh, I am telling you this for your own good. Because I am beginning to understand.
At twenty-two, you went to Paris with Mom. She searched your luggage and read your journal, and she found out you were queer, and cried and never forgave you; she still hasn’t yet. You wanted to tell her, I haven’t even done anything wrong yet! Well, your queer enlightened higher self gives you permission, to tell her off, to accept yourself, to accept her.
I am telling you this now; because sixteen was when you started wrapping yourself in a cocoon, and decided love was not for you. You made yourself a self-contained system. You did not realize you were doing it, but you vaguely wondered why you couldn’t tell your crush that you liked her after the school play, why you couldn’t date boys or girls in college because when they got close you felt suffocated, why dating in your twentiesfelt like a strange, empty game. You were not even curious what love really looked like, outside wistful, romantic movies, involving your own skin in the game. It was fine, you were chill, with aloneness. I see you now with such tenderness, and exasperation.
Even when you date girls, it will feel impossible to connect. Dating triggers strange, obsessive thoughts, spirals of dread (she is not real, I do not really like her, I will ruin my life and hers, I will never be happy). It all feels impossible, like this is not in your blood. You avoid the fears that have been building since you were young.
But then we met a girl I wanted, to like, to love, at age thirty. Yes, a girl, the kind you dreamt about at night. In the future, you go on dates with people you’ve only met on the internet, people like her. No worries. Shewas a Scottish writer, in town for one week. You thought it couldn’t be that stressful, you couldn’t get in your head, if she was here one week. Too bad she was perfect. You, and her, it was out of Before Sunrise, some first-kiss-in-a ferris-wheel-shit, some quoting Auden in the Viennese dawn shit (the headlines of my newspapers would say An Angel Has Descended from Heaven! God is Real! Should We Let Her Stay on Earth?). And she liked us. She wanted to keep in touch, actually date me, saw a future on the horizon. And it happened again, like it always does, that I got overwhelmed. We don’t think of futurewith someone else. What are we to do, we wonder?
She was a sorceress who stood wide-eyed before all the knowledge in the universe. She was a master at wicked puns, had green eyes like glowing orbs, and was a far better writer then you. She whispered new phrases into my ear, and I swooned and then, panicked, felt the old, biblical dread rise. You’ll think you can solve this problem. Maybe she wasn’t perfect, maybe the next person will be. Maybe you had a few wires crossed in your head. She was a rose. She was a real life person, with her own rich inner life, and I wanted to be able to let her stay.
You are alone, on fire, in your bedroom. And I want to tell you a secret, right now, you do not have to shut out intimacy to remain intact. Or actually, you will crack, and shed your skin. You can share your deep down, hoarded joys with someone. Not letting yourself want, not feeling loneliness, is not a strength, it is nothing, a nothing space inside of you.
You have had many precious things you have kept to yourself, like your aspirations, your revelations, your goddesses, your orgasms. You’ve watched sunsets and sunrises alone from your window, in foreign countries on lonely walks. You’ve written pages like these and not spoken them out loud. You can just start here, one step with me, unbutton the top of your shirt, and show me your glowing heart. You can share your weird thoughts, you can risk yourself, you can go against your wiser instincts. This is a love letter to you, the one you needed all along, from me to you, doll. Shed your skin.We are romantics after all. And next, we can write a love letter to her.
Zebib K. A is a psychiatrist in NYC. She has published on The Rumpus and Counterclock journal (under Zebib K. A.). She likse to explore the imaginative and psychological associations of identity, memory and pop culture, and her queer/black/immigrant background, in her writing.