Dear Hope4 November 2020
“If you can hear me don’t go/I don’t really feel you now/but I know you’re there…”
My therapist told me I should write a letter to you. It’s been three years without you and I still don’t know how to move on. This year has been the second-worst year ever. You’re so lucky you aren’t here to experience it.
I wonder what you would say if you were here? You always knew the right words for everything. You could always tell when I needed some comforting. You’d make me a cup of chrysanthemum tea and we’d sit at the window seat and watch the birds go by. You knew all of their names. You’d point out the sweeping pinks and purples of the sunset, how the rays of the sun looked like the finest gold. When you were here it was so easy to believe this world could be beautiful.
I don’t remember all the names of the birds. Last year, they built an apartment complex and now that’s the only thing you can see from the window seat.
I miss you.
“I can’t seem to shake it yet/feeling that/things may never change.”
I have switched my major again. I know you would have laughed and said, “make a choice Mari! Commit to it!” But every choice I make without you feels wrong, somehow. Still, here I am, starting from the ground up again. I didn’t give up my writing, if that makes you feel better. You told me to keep writing, so that’s why I keep doing it.
I was at a support group the other day. My therapist makes me go. They were talking about grief, and I kept quiet because how am I supposed to articulate missing you? How do I put it into words? How do I say all of that aloud? I can’t.
It feels like this will last forever. It doesn’t help that this year, we are forced to spend almost all our time inside. Looking at your room feels like looking at a museum exhibit, sometimes. All your things, still on display, because mum can’t bear to throw them out. Gathering dust like old antiques. Other times it feels like you’ve just popped out for a bit. Your room looks exactly as you left it. The bed is still unmade, the clothes still on the floor, the curtains still drawn.
I bet you would’ve said something wise about grief. You always made everything seem like it was going to be okay. You were always the more optimistic of the two of us.
I wish I could still believe in good things.
“It always breaks my heart/when broken parts/ache to heal again.”
Everyone keeps saying you’re “still here in our hearts” or some bullshit. But I have a confession to make; I barely remember you sometimes. I close my eyes, but I cannot picture your face, or hear your voice. It’s like my brain wants to forget you.
But when I dream, I see you—vivid, technicolour, alive—and I forget you aren’t here. It’s always painful landing back on earth. I can’t decide if it’s more painful to miss you or to pretend you don’t exist. My brain somehow wants both.
It’s tiring, being torn in two pieces.
“Read a book on Hemingway/closed my eyes to see/the man himself appeared to say/to write is just to bleed.”
I don’t know why my therapist keeps making me write letters. I’ve written heaps of letters now. My wrists are cramping. We had to read Hemingway in creative writing class today. It made me think of the quote you liked, the one that says “the world breaks all of us, and afterward we are strong at the broken pieces,” or something like that. You really liked Hemmingway.
I can’t stop asking myself how many times the world has to break before we finally get strong. Every day, you turn on the news and something else has gone wrong—the number of deaths keep mounting, there’s another injustice, another disaster. It feels like the whole world is on fire and I can’t put it out. If we keep breaking, when do we put it back together?
My life is starting to look less like the clear picture I had seen all those years ago. Then again, the one thing I hadn’t planned on was you leaving. Who can plan for something like that? Still, my greatest talent has always been taking all the left turns instead of staying the course. I guess I’m what most people call “easily distracted”. You said this was a good thing, made me flexible, made me adaptable. Am I adaptable or just restless? You’d say this was a good thing, too. You always had a way of reframing.
I’m trying to look at life the way you do, glass half-full, through rose coloured glasses. You saw beauty in everything. You’d probably see the beauty in the world now too. I can’t find it. I keep searching but I don’t know where the good is anymore.
“So, I will write it down/and make jagged edges/into something I can hold.”
My therapist said that while I can’t change what happened to you, I can choose how I react. Which, really, sounds very obvious, but somehow this didn’t find its way into my thick skull. I guess I needed to hear it from someone. Even my therapist is tired of my shit.
Maybe you would know about getting strong at the broken pieces. I don’t. I don’t know anything, really, but I know how to write. Maybe that’s why my therapist keeps telling me to write you letters. I can’t change that you’re not here, but maybe I can react differently. I haven’t figured how, yet. I’m hoping that if I keep writing, I’ll find it.
“Don’t wanna lose my way/like dear Hemingway/so I won’t let go.”
I’m sorry, I know you really liked that Hemingway quote, but I think he’s wrong on this one. Maybe the goal isn’t to get strong at the broken pieces. The broken pieces just get broken into smaller broken pieces, anyway. Maybe instead of focusing on finding gold in the rubble, we should take the rubble and build something new. Something different. Something better.
I went to a protest yesterday. I’m tired. The world is tired. We’re all just tired of this shit. I don’t see the glass as half-full. I think it needs to be emptied. We should put something else besides water in there. Or maybe we should stop looking at glasses altogether, and instead try to look at what actually needs our attention.
You knew how to look for beautiful things. Maybe I know how to look for what could be. And if I need a reminder of the beautiful things while I’m busy building what could be, I have these letters.
I still have you, just in a different way.
Song cited: “Dear Hope”, music and lyrics by Sara Bareilles.