Dear High School Friend,

A little over two years ago, we became friends again. Way back at the end of our teens, we stopped talking. After dating for two years and me repeatedly hurting you, I hurt you for the last time. But only because I had to let you go. You represented a past that made no sense to me. A past where I was unable to connect to any emotion and I was supremely unhappy. It was like I could not stay away from the only person that genuinely cared for me. Sometimes that care drew me in and I found myself disoriented and unable to disconnect myself from feeling emotions with you. I cared too. But caring made me feel too vulnerable. When I felt you get close, I had to escape. I had to protect myself from ever caring too much. I am sure that sounds crazy too, like how can a person care too much? But for me, caring meant pain. It meant rejection. And it meant distance must be inserted. And so my constant pattern of pulling you close just to push you away caused you too much pain. You gave too much of yourself to me, who was not deserving.

I’m not trying to put myself down or even invalidate that I had my reasons at the time. It’s more of acknowledging that there were reasons beyond me simply being an uncaring asshole. And talking about those things two years ago was therapeutic for both of us. I apologized for the many ways in which I hurt you, you accepted that apology, and then the questions started.

I needed to know what you remembered. And those things astounded me. You said I never seemed to want to go home, that if we were apart for a long time I would come back cold and distant, that I was grounded often, that you knew nothing about my past but didn’t want to pry, that you could tell there was deep pain inside me and so you gave me a pass on so much. You didn’t even know that I was not born in the city I lived in before I moved to your town. You had no idea I actually moved closer to where I was born and where all of my extended family lived. You barely knew my extended family. I kept you at an arm’s distance from all of that. I needed that space. I needed you to be separated from all of that.

Then you had questions. You wondered why the push and pull, why I didn’t want to go home, why I was so distant sometimes, why I would randomly stop talking and stare off into the distance lost, what my parents said about you, and why did I invite you to that dance at college and push you completely away one week later. I gave you all the answers. I told you of the severe emotional toll I was dealing with at home, about my repeated sexual assaults in my previous town, the pain I felt from growing up around the domestic violence at the babysitter’s house, the coldness of my home, and how my parents told me every day that I was better than you, you were unmotivated, and that you weren’t good enough for me.

You took all of that so well. You were gracious and gentle in your follow up questions, not wanting to pry, but wanting to be a good friend who understood what had happened. It hurt your heart that my parents were so mean to you without you even knowing. You felt betrayed by how fake they seemed because they were always nice to you to your face. And through us sharing and answering these questions for each other, so much healing took place. We both started to understand that being young and me being so guarded hindered any real connection. That although none of what I did was intentional or even personal, that real pain was inflicted. We both knew that we still cared and could be friends. We alluded to more recent troubles but treaded carefully to avoid getting into too much. Neither of us wanted to be disrespectful and inappropriate. You didn’t know how bad my life was or that I was making moves towards a new life. But we both felt like the time and space that came with the quarantine of 2020 gave us an opportunity to move forward from the past. It was incredible to drop that load from our shoulders and finally settle what had existed between us.

You updated me on your family. You told me about your brother’s ex-wife and daughters. And how one of those daughters was actually born a boy but knew she was a girl from a very early age. That conversation about your niece started me on my own similar journey. That’s another reason why you and I never would’ve worked out. I didn’t want to see it back then, although I was still vaguely aware that it was in me. I wasn’t so far removed from the point in time when Little Zander was put away and buried. I could feel him pulling at my soul sometimes, telling me to not give up on him and not let go of him. But I couldn’t tell you that certain things made me uncomfortable and that I felt weird about intimacy and that’s why I dumped you on Valentine’s Day that one time. It had nothing to do with you. It had to do with thinking it was weird to get flowers and chocolates and a bear from you. It was uncomfortable for me in a way that I couldn’t explain.

I am standing here today, prepared to introduce you to Little Zander very soon because I know you will be supportive and kind. You will be someone good to tell, not only because you will get it and not judge, but also because every time I say it, it feels a little easier. It might be weird that you would be in a circle so close to my center, but you are someone I know who won’t betray my trust and tell everyone else. You will stay kind and friendly and you won’t let it turn you around in your life. You will understand that this has nothing to do with you and everything to do with what’s inside of me. You will get it, I am sure. Thank you for trying to understand who I was before and being kind to who I am now. You were a much better friend than I deserved back in the day and a good friend now.

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