My Hidden Lives // Prose

101. about a letter I will never post

 candids from a past life

candids from a past life

Cher Maître,

I know this letter is long overdue. I’ve fiddled with its syllables, rearranged its sentences a thousand times over, edited out the bitterness then poured it back in. I’ve been writing it sad, then writing it manic, but most of the time, I’ve been writing it drunk. Although the final product is short, the patience it took to pen this was equivalent of writing a Proust novel. You know me, I tend to over-analyze.

I don’t know how this will find you, but I hope it finds you well. No, this is not a mere courtesy. It’s how I feel, what I wish, for you.  All of the time we were together, I thought ‘If only he could be happy, then my own happiness would follow. Let him be happy, please.’ But now I’ve realized, I was the problem all along. My insecurity. My self-loathing and the pathological need for comparison. For order in a world that has merely invented the word as a term for a non-existent, ideal state of being.

I shot darts through my camera – you’d see them if you looked through some of my work, I swear, I wanted to kill you for not being as in love with me as I thought you ought to have been. But I could only see my side of the story then, from behind the viewfinder, and the filter was a high contrast, black and white, one. Through the many portraits and the candid photos I wanted to assassinate you with (also, keep you intact – perhaps as evidence), I never even noticed you were always smiling at me from the opposite side of the lens.

Our arguments unsettled me and made me question the very foundations of what I perceived as our similarity. It hurt, irrationally, when I realized you wanted something other than to be together, because what I read between the lines was my own inadequacy and not your healthy ambition. When being with me became an obstacle to doing this thing you really wanted, with a passion I thought you had reserved for your work alone, with an urgency you never kissed me with. You said you were thinking about moving away, but thought you would miss me if you did. I wanted to make your choice simpler so I left instead.

And see, I’m lying again. It’s not that I wanted to make things easy for you. I only wanted not to be the one who’s left behind.

I can see it more clearly now – that I’ve gone, and you’ve gone on without me.

We were always happy. It wasn’t the sort of happiness I’d known existed at the time: it was quieter and much subtler than what one is taught to appreciate. I didn’t know I could be happy in that sort of way, and I needed to be unhappy  to look for whatever it was I told myself I needed to find. So I called you callous and materialistic, I said you were cold. Through all of my judgement and recrimination, you didn’t fight, didn’t defend yourself.

You only said, in the end, I’m sad to hear you’ve felt that way.

Here is my final capitulation.

It was right how it was, for when it was and for those persons concerned, which in this story, were you and I. We pushed each other further, perhaps too far on some occasions, and what was true then is also true now. Everything we did, we did out of love for ourselves and each other, the love for the world we’d inhabited during that long year (longest of my life so far) – an isolated universe consisting of a small smoke-filled bedroom and a shared bathroom, a closet with your clothes and my clothes hanging conspiratorially side by side, a whiskey stash and a wok pan for when we were feeling adventurous.

It was a world we both loved in our different ways, because – more than anything at the time – it was a world we’d hoped could become our art. And it did.

I’m sorry if this takes you back to someplace in your mind you don’t want to visit, or if it makes you sad. I’m sorry if you miss me when you read it, out of nostalgia or that remnant of love that always lingers behind for people who played a part in transforming you into a person you wanted to be. These are not my intentions. You know me best, I think, or better than most. I believe in giving credit where credit is due. And all my successes, along with a few failures, have inevitably been because, or in spite, of you.


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