I got your letter on Saturday. I would have written to you sooner, I just couldn't. I guess you've probably been dreading this letter a little too, wondering what I would say. It’s all right, I'm not angry anymore. I think I'll divide this letter in two. First I'll tell you how I feel, because I know that's what you'll want to know first. Then I'll tell you what I think. Here goes.
When you said you'd gotten the job in the record shop and met this guy John, I knew what was coming sure as shit. And then I got to the line where you said you'd "gotten it together". Come on. What you mean is you fucked him. The way it was written sounds like you maybe locked the shop door for a while and fucked in the back of the store. I keep trying not to imagine how he got you to do that, even if it didn't happen that way, but the image won't go away. It kills me. I was really sick in heart and body for the last three days. The day after I got your letter I had to call in to work and tell them I was sick, and I never call in sick. Being heartbroken is a different kind of sick, because you can't just lie around in bed watching old movies. It's a fever that makes you get up and walk around and go outside and wander the streets picking fights with people you meet. If I'd been smart I'd have written it all down in my journal so I could write about it in a story some day, but I was messed up. It must feel what it's like for a junkie giving up his jones. You just throw up all the time. I ate bananas. So I don't know if it pleases you or not, but I was too sick to move. I read your letter over and over and thought about you and John in the back of the record shop, doing it.
So that's that. I believe you didn't want to hurt me, I don't think you're like that. But before I go on, the chlamydia infection we thought was gonorrhea? Did you take care of that? I'm glad it turned out to be something sort of innocent, a couple of big pills from the doctor and I could pee again without it hurting, but for you it’s different even if it doesn't hurt. It can stop you from getting pregnant someday if it isn't taken care of. You have to get that fixed. It was hard calling you on the pay phone that day to tell you what the doctor said. I didn't even tell my mom. Were you fucking John by that time? Make sure he knows too so he can get checked.
That's what I feel. Now on to what I think.
I knew this was going to happen. Okay? I knew that the minute I put my underwear back on in the back seat of Dad's old Mercury cougar that first night, after we were done and you were crying. You said you were crying because you thought you hadn't made me come. I told you were wonderful, you're a good lover Dana, I hope John tells you that, but that wasn't what made me know you were going to let me go. I'm too young. I'm a year older than you, but I'm too young for you and you knew it even then when I was climbing off of you. I'm not what you need. You never told me what John looks like or what kind of person he is other than that he's "very together".
Let me describe him to you.
This man John, who, in a little while after you finish this letter and guiltily stash it out of sight, is going to pull your t shirt up, and make you lay down or maybe stand up and will slip in his dick where mine was only a short time ago; this man whose hips you will hump against yours and maybe whisper "You're beautiful, you're beautiful." as you did for me in the back of dad's car, that man is going to be an older man than me, and certainly older than you. He will be older by a few years at least, and his personality will be much older than mine. Manly and commanding. He tells you what to do. He tells you to shut up sometimes. Maybe he hits you. You think it’s not what you want, but it’ll turn out to be what you want. He doesn't have that stupid mental disease guys like me have that make us think if we're nice to girls and always do what they want us to do, they'll like us more. Girls like to have guys like me as best friends, we listen to them complain about the way their dumb boyfriends fuck them, we listen the way a dog listens, but nobody ever wants to fuck us. You were my first. That's why I'll never forget you. You were the first who gave me a chance even though I was found wanting. You're too young too. Timing is everything. We were both born too early for each other.
One more thing before I go. I'll be leaving Georgia soon. I don’t know where I'll go yet, but the doors are all closed to me here. You can tell when you’re not going to stay. I might go to Minnesota where dad is and see if I can go to college there. If college is out of reach I might go to the west coast where DeEtta is going and maybe she can put me up until I can find my way. Minnesota would be the easiest.
If I go there, or if the future finds a way, I want you to know something - Put aside all this stuff about love and saying I love you and all that useless shit. I hate the way it turns out people are so phony with that shit anyway when you think they mean it. Everybody says it, but it’s all bullshit in the end. Dana, listen. I really LIKE you. Okay?
Love gets thrown around a lot. But liking is different. You can love someone and not like them, the way you said you feel about your dad. But I really like you. I still do, no matter what. You were always my good friend, back when we were just friends. I always liked talking to you and listening to your ideas and you seemed to like it too once. I'm not good at remembering faces. It may be the next time we see each other we'll be strangers with common memories, but that's okay. If you see me coming down the street or the supermarket aisle or anywhere - come up to me. Don’t be afraid. Remember, I like you. I want you to come up to me. My future self, who will be closer to the man you need right now instead of me, that man will want you very much to come up and look him in the eye and say "I used to know you." Please - please do that Dana. Or if there's a way for people to find each other in the future through technology or something - find me. Even if you marry John and live happily ever after - find me. Say hi. I promise I'll be happy to see you and buy you coffee. I'll have a story to tell you. I’ll want to hear your story too.
I want to thank you for something you did for me - I'm free. I'm only nineteen. Just a dumb kid, as you know too well. But I'm not going to marry you now like we'd planned. I'm not going to get a job and get settled down in one place and get old with you the way other people do. I’m free now.
I’m scared. Nobody wants me anymore, so I have to figure out what to do with myself. I can go anywhere and become anybody. Until you dumped me I didn’t know this is what I really wanted all along. You get John. I get me. What do we know about what we really want?
I have my future back. What do I do with it? I’ll think of something. All I have to do is try out my new wings and watch out for the cats.
Remember me. I'll become a writer someday. Just so you'll see.
College Park Georgia
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Even though we spin clever lies as our chosen trade and artful dodge, I just want to be up front on something. The above is a kind of autobiographical historical fiction. Everything is true, the names and events, all of it. Just the letter isn't. This is the ghost of a letter I would have written way back then, if I'd only known how. My timing has always been bad. Garce