I never sent this letter to J– because it wasn’t written for him. I wrote it for S–, for me, and for anyone else searching for healing after a bad romance. People like J– say one thing but do another, and that leaves you constantly searching for how they really feel.
In the time I’ve known him, J– has never had the guts to face his feelings. In one of our first conversations, he told me, “I just don’t have emotions. I don’t get them.” When he was dating S–, he’d call him his “friend,” his “guy,” and, rarely, his “boyfriend.” But he’d say it all sarcastically, with air quotes, and his face would flush at the shame of admitting to feeling something. After they broke up, J– suddenly referred to “you know who” with a name instead of a euphemism. The death of his affection restored his power, but it broke what remained of my trust.
I wondered, did S– ever know that J– avoided using his name? How would that make him feel? How did the break up feel for him? How was he handling the broken dreams?
Many poems feel intentional, but this one did not. I don’t remember which parts I wrote first or why it felt so necessary for a second voice to crisscross the poem. But I distinctly remember the alchemy that happened in my heart during the hours I spent spilling out the words, cutting them back, and rearranging them. As I began writing, I felt angry and hurt, but I finished it feeling hope for S–, for myself, and for all of us searching to heal from toxic relationships.
The friends I’ve shared this poem with always ask, “how am I supposed to read this?” And I always say, “I have no idea.” After they sit with the poem for a while, some people see what I found by writing it; others don’t. I hope you do.