An open letter to long ago

So the other day I officially entered my late 30s. It’s… it’s a complex thing to process. And tends to spark a certain amount of reflection. We’ll get to how I moved from writing about plays to writing about comic books soon. But for now, I hope you’ll forgive me if I switch gears and allow shit to get real for a moment.

Feel free to skip this and come back next time. For now… if you’ll bear with me, there’s an old pain I’d like to try to let go of. An old friend to say good-bye to, even though she will almost certainly never, ever read this. Anyway. Let’s begin.

A long, long time ago

Has it really been nine years since I first saw you? In the parking lot outside the theatre. I don’t know that we spoke. Not for long. But there was something about you, even then. I liked you right away. Not that I told you that. Not that I could tell you that. I can jump out of a plane, I can give a group of people something I wrote and watch them tear it to pieces so I can improve, and time and money permitting I would happily hit the airport and jump on a plane to anywhere with an hour’s notice. But I cannot run a marathon, climb Everest, start a conversation with strange women or tell someone that I like them. Never learned how, and while the process seems easy enough to pick up (just run now and again, and each time try to run a little further, how hard is that), I can’t get past the notion that the training process is going to be savagely unpleasant. Seems so valid when I say it. Never seems as valid when I hear it.

I didn’t talk to you that time. Or the time after, at your coffee shop. But then you were in the show, and I got to see you three times a week. At least. And we’d talk. We’d bond. I liked you the moment I saw you, and I liked you more as I got to know you.

I should have told you.

I should have hugged you when you were sad about being stood up at a performance. I should have driven you home from the wrap party like you thought I was going to. But more than that I should have told you how I felt. We talked until six in the morning one night, I should have said one thing that mattered. The only thing that mattered.

Because you deserved to know. Because hiding it was dishonest. Because keeping it to myself was killing me. The vending machine and the bear. But back then, sometimes it seemed like I was only happy when I was talking to you. Seemed a shame to ruin that by inducing the gut-churning terror of even thinking about telling you I was falling in love with you.

But I should have told you. Before it was too late. And I believe, I do believe that there was a time before it was too late. A time of hugs and hangouts and extremely late-night chats. A time when I could have taken you out and gone for the kiss and I think I might have succeeded. But there was most definitely a time when it was too late. And a time when it was way too late. And that’s the time I picked.

And now you’re gone. Far away. Not too far, a person could drive there in a day if they started before dawn, but it feels farther than it is. Because it’s not the physical distance. It’s the fact that I can never talk to you again. Over four and half years later and it still stings sometimes. I wish I could call you. Text you. Visit you. Know how you’re doing. But I can’t. And I have no one to blame but myself, my own cowardice, my own failures.

I don’t think of you often. Not every day. But sometimes. And I miss you when I do. I never wanted things to end this way, with sudden silence and a farewell you’ll never see, and yet somehow I managed to do everything necessary to make sure it couldn’t end any other way. And if our friendship had meant something to you, and I think it did once, then I took that away from you.

So I’m sorry. I’m sorry for lying, if only through omission. I’m sorry for hiding behind excuses. I’m sorry I didn’t give you the respect you deserved. I’m sorry that I hurt one of my best friends enough that I’ll never see you again. And I’m sorry that I couldn’t even be bothered to learn something from this and did it all again two years after I lost you forever.

Some regrets haunt you, kids. Some regrets haunt you and you’ll never really be free of them. And it’s the things you didn’t do that really get to you. Guess that’s the moral.

Next time something fun, I promise.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *