Bad karma

_____,

Many people would tell me that I shouldn’t waste my time writing a letter to you; after so many years, I want to do this, if for nothing else, to take care of some emotional housecleaning.  Back then, my parents hated you, while my brother thought you were fairly entertaining, and my friends thought I was a doormat where you were concerned.  You knew all of this, and didn’t care – all that you were concerned with was how you were going to punish me for telling you that I wasn’t seeing anyone else, when I had been. My only defense was that we weren’t in an exclusive relationship; you were angry because I wasn’t honest, which was valid, except that you carried your anger to the extreme.  What you didn’t understand, or didn’t want to understand, was that the others were simple distractions, until I could see you.  You should have said good bye to me, and gone back to your girlfriend.  Instead, your plan was to hurt me to even the score. I stayed with you because I thought that if I did, it would prove to you that I really loved you, no matter what you did to me.

I slowly began to realize that nothing you ever did would be as bad as what I did to you, in your eyes.  And when I asked you that question, you agreed.  That was when I began to figure out that you never wanted a real relationship with me, and finally worked up the courage to leave you.  Do you remember our last conversation? It was on the phone, and it lasted five hours.  You had moved in with someone else, but still wanted to see me.  I laid out exactly what I wanted, and you said that it would be impossible.  When I hung up the phone with you for the last time, I felt as if someone had taken shackles off my hands and feet.

I’m writing to you now, because it’s been twenty-five years, and the memory of you is still like a cold chunk of metal in my heart. I can’t take it out, but I can admit that it’s there, and by writing it out, I can lessen its weight.  I allowed you to be cruel to me, and never did anything to you, because I thought I deserved whatever it was you gave to me.  I took your abuse, tolerated other women, and let myself be insulted, demeaned, and humiliated by you in front of everyone; I still have the scars, inside and out.  I would bet my house that even now, you’re still an arrogant piece of work (and believe me, there’s another word I’m dying to use; I’m sure you’re still a smart guy,  you know what it is), and even though it amused you to have the girl that you moved in with fight with me, I hope she had the common sense that I lacked for so long, and got as far away from you as possible, as quickly as possible.

I have no good words or kindness or good wishes for you – you damaged me beyond repair, and my only wish is that karma works for you in the way that it worked for me – I’ve paid for a lot of mistakes, one way or another; if you haven’t done so yet, I’m sure the invoice is in the mail.

J.

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The first crack in the heart

______,

I know you weren’t expecting this letter, but here it is, and maybe you weren’t expecting to have this place in my life, but here it is as well…it’s been over thirty years, and I thought it was about time to write this to you, to get it down on paper.

The last time I saw you, it was too late to say anything to you.  It was at a gas station in Long Beach; I’m still pretty sure that you saw me, since you jumped in your car and drove away like you’d seen your own funeral.  I didn’t see your face; you had gained weight , which is probably why I didn’t recognize you at first. I think I must have been about 26, which would have made you about 32.

Do you remember the first time I saw you?  It was at Scherer Park, about ten years earlier; I was playing Frisbee with my brother and my friend, and you and your buddy pulled up and jumped out of a beat up station wagon, and ran all over the grass. You were a friend of my brother’s, and I couldn’t take my eyes off you; long ponytail, and energy that didn’t quit. When we were all piled in the back of the station wagon for the three block ride back to the house, you pulled my hair (it was long, way past my waist) and said, “You should make rope out of this!”  I was a goner, and you  knew it.  You were way too old for me, and I thought that was fine.  I think you were the template for all of the men who have had a large part in my life since then; life of the party, a little dangerous, and enormously fond of lots of women. The last part made me hate you for a little while, until I finally understood that it had nothing to do with me.

There are an infinite number of reasons why relationships don’t work out, and ours was doomed from the very beginning, for a number of reasons close to infinite. The last time I spoke to you was on the phone, and I remember hearing my heart crack as I hung up. It’s said that in any relationship, one person always loves more than the other one.  I loved you more than you loved me, I’m sure about that. I was an option for you, while at the time, you were everything to me.   I even tried to reconnect with you last year by sending a message on Facebook, just to apologize for whatever it was that I might have done, and to see if you would answer; turns out I had the wrong guy, which is kind of symbolic, isn’t it?

So I’m writing to you to tell you that you were the first one to discover and map the uncharted regions of my heart, and the first one to leave a mark.  I’ve spent a large part of my life discounting the relationships that were important to me, and it’s as though I’m discounting who I am.  You were important to me, even if you didn’t deserve to be.  Much of who I am today has a lot to do with you;  I can’t seem to escape that fact.  My mother said that you would always have to work very hard at whatever you did; I hope that’s not true, and that you still have some of that same funny, crazy guy in you that I knew thirty years ago. These are probably the two most generous wishes I could give you –

Julie

Letter to my father

Dad,

I am writing to you now, even though you have been gone for over ten years, and it’s strange, because this may be only one of two letters that I’ve ever written to you in my life.  I found the other one while I was cleaning out the house that you and Mom lived in (as you may know, Mom passed away in July; I like to think that she’s with you now, along with Steve, Naomi, Asia, and Uncle Paul).  It was a letter that I wrote to you and Mom when I was about 19, in which I apologized for my bad behavior, and promised that I would be better. I think I finally did get better (only took about twelve years), and I know I got worse in the meantime; sorry for that, Dad. I want to tell you what you meant to me while you were here, and what you mean to me now.

When I was little, I remember you and I playing baseball, and basketball; I remember your teaching me how to spell when we would be waiting in the car for Mom to leave work.  You taught me how to play poker, blackjack, and roulette (all of the games that little girls should know how to play, of course), and took me to see movies like “Bonnie and Clyde” and “Bullitt” on Saturdays when Mom was working, because you wanted to see them.  I remember sitting in the theatre with you, and thinking that I was having a great time, not realizing that “little girls shouldn’t be seeing movies like this.” All I knew was that I was hanging out with you, and it was fun.

Then I turned thirteen, and “discovered” boys, and you were thrown (confession time, Dad; I discovered boys when I was five. I’m pretty sure what freaked you out was that you saw that boys had discovered me).  You and Mom did your best to try to keep me in line, but I have to tell you now that short of locking me in my room, nothing was going to keep me from doing exactly what I felt like doing. You and I fought a lot, mostly because I wouldn’t  listen to you. I really can’t blame you for anything, Dad.  I thought I knew everything, and what I didn’t know, I was going to learn on my own.

I’m sorry for many things now, Dad: for the yelling, and for the silences; for not asking you more questions about life; for ignoring you when I should have been talking to you and finding out about your life, instead of trying to piece it together like a detective after you’ve gone.  I have your journal from when you were in the Navy during World War II,  your paintings, old photographs, and newspaper clippings of you when you modeled men’s clothing for Walker’s department store  in Long Beach in the ’50s – clues to a life that I’m still learning about, because to know more about you is to know more about me.

I’m not big on wishing these days, Dad; it seems kind of useless to spend time yearning for something impossible.  I guess that’s why I’m writing to you here; maybe somehow you might be able to know finally that what you did mattered to me. Being your daughter is a gift that I am only now beginning to appreciate, and even if I can’t bring you back, I can remember you, treasure your life and how you made mine better.