The Yearbook Office
Writings on staying alive

January, 2013

Dear Holly,

I am writing this letter from twenty years in the future. If I remember January 1993 correctly, you’re not doing too great right now. By now you realize that Mom is more than just mom-level crazy, but you don’t have a name for what’s wrong. By now you realize that you have to break up with your boyfriend even though you love him enough to hold on a little longer. By now you realize that you’re not going to make it to college. By now you’re just passing time until you graduate.

You think that you’re going to get the fuck out of town and never see any of those assholes again, but I have to tell you that it’s not true. You stick around for a year (so do some of them), others quickly come back. The parties look the same as they have for the past four years. You don’t know anyone else. You can’t meet anyone new. You think that once high school ends the bullying will stop, but I have to tell you that’s not true. They stop calling you a nerd and a dyke and they start calling you a slut. Your heart gets broken too many times. You finally move away and it’s only the other side of the state but it feels like a good start. Twenty years later, you’re still there.

I want to tell you that it gets better, but it doesn’t. Not for a long time, anyway. It just gets different. I want to tell you that the bullying stops, but you marry a bully. You love each other, in your ways, and it’s not all bad. When you’re twenty years old, you’re poor, you’re pregnant and you work at a Friendly’s inside of a mall. You run into the homecoming queen and when she asks, you tell her what you’re up to. A micro expression of pity flashes over her face. You cry on the bus ride home. You’ve never seen her again, but if you do you want to tell her that it all worked out okay.

Sometimes you go back to the town you are from. There are holidays, and weddings and funerals. Attempts to reconnect, but you always feel like a tourist in a town where you never felt comfortable in the first place. You never refer to it as “home”. You don’t go to your five year reunion. They don’t hold them for ten and fifteen. By the time twenty rolls around, you decide that you don’t care any more.

It is now 2013. You know what happened to all of your high school friends. Some of them have stuck in your life, some have gone and returned. Some just got weird and you keep in touch because you feel like you should. You wonder if anyone thinks of you like that.

When you are thirty eight, your friend contacts you. You haven’t seen her in more than a decade. This entire time, you have thought that she was keeping her distance because you are too much. You’ve always been too much, but you’ve learned how to tone it down. You thought she was keeping her distance because the last time you saw each other you told her everything. You told her how they had finally diagnosed your mother and how your brother won’t take his medication and how your sister can’t hold a job and how much you miss your dad. You told her that you thought that your marriage was a mistake but you were trying to keep it together for the kids. You told her that you loved her and that you missed her and that you hoped that even though you lived on opposite coasts that you could keep in better touch. For the next eleven years, every time you thought about her your heart hurt because you were convinced that you drove her away. You’re too much, and you know it.

You meet for breakfast and you talk about your jobs and your families and people that you know in the town that you are from. You try to apologize for the time that you backed up the crazy truck and dumped your life on her. She tells you not to apologize. She tells you that you used to inspire her, and that you were her rock. You don’t know what to say, because you can’t believe that anyone would ever have thought of you that way.

I am writing you this letter from twenty years in the future, because if I remember correctly you are not doing too great right now and you need someone to tell you that you have value. To tell you that the things that are happening now are not throwaway moments in your life, but are other people’s memories of you. That sometimes things come back that you thought were lost. Love yourself.