subject line: We keep locking eyes

 

Coffee Thoughts

The first time I kissed him was in November, and since then I’ve been kissing other people trying to forget him. I dated someone relatively seriously for months. I never even mentioned I was seeing someone else. I just fell out of his life, small talk as needed, always keeping him at an arm’s length away because I couldn’t quite let go.

So here we are again. I watched him talk to my friends at the bar. I watched his goofy face light up, trying to charm them. He came home with me, talked to my roommate, ended up in my bed. It’s all some type of fucked up whimsy. I don’t know if it will ever lead anywhere. I don’t know if I will be able to consider that a real possibility. He comes from privilege, and I’m fighting battles he doesn’t understand.

But have you ever had someone wake you up in the middle of the night to tell you a joke? I’ve had more dreams about that laugh than I will ever be able to count. I don’t know why the universe wants him in my life, but he is undeniably there. This time I’m not running until I have the answer. There’s just no moving on without it. While I’m still a little skeptical about this whole thing, my heart is so happy to wake up next to that laugh instead of having to fall asleep to hear it.

subject line: exhale

 

Where the broken pieces sit

Is there an opposite to hyperventilating?

I just googled it, and there is. It’s called hypoventilating, and it means you’re not getting enough air because your breaths are too shallow.

The word feels too medical for what I’ve been feeling since April.

I can’t get a breath. Those good, deep breaths that satisfy you and make your lungs puff up and make your brain come alive with that beautiful oxygen. My body breathes but I don’t. There is a constant weight on my chest. I call it depression if I’m being honest and call it “feeling down” if I’m not.

I’ve never been punched in the gut, but I imagine it makes all the air just whoosh right out of you. I have belly-flopped in water and on land, though, and it does the same thing. All the air just leaves, and for those moments you feel frozen. It’s a pause, this giant, accidental exhale. And while your body’s still running on the oxygen it has, while it’s trying to get your lungs to get their fucking act together and breathe again, you kinda wonder... am I ever going to breathe again?

Breathe easy. That’s what I want. The breathing easy. Where your chest doesn’t feel tight, and your heart doesn’t feel like a boulder, and your brain doesn’t feel weighed down, like it’s sinking into your throat. I used to breathe easy and I don’t anymore and I haven’t for months.

subject line: I cried to my therapist today

 

Pittsburg, Pennsylvania

I cried to my therapist today.

Gross. The thought of it makes me want to cringe and scream and vomit, all at the same time. How did I get to so comfortable with the curly-haired woman in the yellow chair that I allowed myself to release actual tears in front of her? I know nothing about her, but somehow she knows everything about me. Gosh, she knows more about me than my mother does. Four walls, no windows, one door, fake pictures, plush pillows, hideous lamps, suffocation…and somehow I managed to become comfortable enough to cry.

And I feel like a failure. God, I feel like a pitiful failure. For seven years, I fought the idea of therapy. I can do this myself. I’m a strong woman. I don’t need someone I don’t know to tell me that I screwed up; to sit there across from me in her polished nails and cat-eyed glasses and analyze my fucked-up life. It’s my damn fault and I’ll fix this myself. But, I guess after seven years, you get sick of the all-too-frequent 2 a.m. crying sessions, and you take your stubborn ass to that four-walled room with the woman in the yellow chair to break down those walls that you spent seven years building up. But, demolishing the walls that you’ve spent a whole third of your life building up isn’t a walk in the park, especially when there’s a sense of pride attached to that closed up heart. I’ve spent so much time cementing my heart shut that allowing it to be opened up is kind of like dropping out of College a week before graduation. In other words, it feels completely pathetic. So, when I let tears fall down my cheeks while staring at that hideous painting of a poppy, I knew that I had officially broke down walls that I never planned to destroy; I had officially chosen to heal instead of just deal.

So this is to you, curly-haired woman with the polished nails and cat-eyed glasses sitting in the yellow chair: your tissues suck, but the taste of freedom and healing doesn’t. Thank you.

subject line: I like my definition better anyways

 

Clinton, Mississippi

Growing up I always though true love was red roses, dates on Saturday nights, little black box that held expensive things, and always knowing what to say. I thought true love was a kiss in the rain, deep explanations, and the perfect story. But now that I am older I’ve realized it’s not like that at all.

See because true love for me is ugly snapchats, and peeing while you’re on your phone. True love is kissing at 6 am despite morning breath and singing at the top of your lungs. It’s saying all the wrong things at all the wrong moments. It’s sarcasm and being honest even when it hurts. It’s late hours of the night when it’s been a long day and it’s no make up and bad hair. It’s tears from laughter, and tears from sadness and it’s nothing like any story book you’ve ever read. It’s never running out of things to talk about, and being comfortable in the silence of things. True love is watching the Notebook though you swore you never would. It’s getting mad over stupid things. It’s “you’re and idiot” and “ you’re a little shit” me knowing you’re so lucky to hear those every day. It’s spilling your feelings at 4 am when you should be asleep. It’s that song your hear on the radio that always makes you smile. It’s the worst story you could imagine, but thank God it worked out anyways. True love is never losing the magic. True love is not leaving when things get hard.

I liked my definition better anyways.

subject line: double j

 

Somewhere in the South

Dear Double J,

I’ve never had someone treat me like you do.
You’re ready for anything. Even the simple things.
And you always listen to me and tell me that you love it when I tell you the random things going on in my head.
You want to watch Alice in Wonderland with me because its your favorite movie and you want to me to love it as much as you. It makes me pretty happy that you want me to experience the things you love.
I feel pretty spontaneous with you. I’ve never been really spontaneous before. So even the simple things like you convincing me to go get Subway for lunch when I already packed a lunch, is a pretty big deal.
You make me laugh too often and I’m pretty sure that makes the teacher mad, but that’s okay.
You make me try new things, like that stupid dance everyone is doing nowadays. And I’m starting to not mind looking silly in front of you.
You told me you’d teach me how to use chopsticks, I’m not sure why you would take the time out of your day to do that, but I’m glad you will.
Thanks for asking me to ride with you to lunch when I was having a bad day.
Thanks for showing me my new favorite song when we were at your sister’s party.
And thanks for rolling down the windows and showing me how to feel free.

Sincerely,
the girl who likes riding in your Jeep.

subject line: I can't say it.

 

Oregon

I’ve been in love with my best friend for over two years now. We’ve been friends for a long time, since we were little, but it took me forever to admit to myself that I love him.
And now I can’t tell anyone. I don’t know what to say.
I almost told my other best friend the other morning. We were messaging one another back and forth like we normally do, talking about life and food and the colder air, and I just wanted to write it to her. “I like him,” I wanted to write. “I like him so much it hurts.”
But I couldn’t. I must have typed that line every five seconds, but I always deleted it. I never sent it.
I almost told my older sister tonight. We were standing in the kitchen and everyone was so happy and I knew they all just wanted me to be happy too. I wanted to whisper to her, “I think I love him.” I wanted to ask her what I should do. I wanted her to smile and get excited that I was finally in love.
But I couldn’t do it. The words just stayed, silently written on my lips.

subject line: best friends for life.

 

The PNW

I’m sitting at my kitchen table and my coffee is all cold and tastes like shit because I can’t stop thinking about him. We’ve been best friends since we were thirteen years old, and he’s never made a move. Over a decade later, he’s never made a move. On anyone. I don’t get it. We grew up together. Penned letters and emails. Sat at the same cafes. Went to the same Bible studies. Had the same friends. He’s seen me laugh and cry and lie and betray and cherish and come together and fall apart. He’s seen the curve of my back. He’s driven me miles further than any other guy. If anyone could love me, it’s him.

subject line: to everyone who says, "Just tell him."

 

Richmond, Virginia

Do you know the worst part of being in love with one of your best friends?

Never telling them because you’re scared you’ll ruin the friendship.

You’ll be the one who thinks the most of them but could never quite say it in the way you want.

You will always want to be a little closer then you should, hug a little longer, hold a little tighter.

You will overanalyze everything because maybe, just maybe they love you too.

You will have to listen to them tell you they love you, but know it’s not in the way you wish it was.

You will have to listen to other friends tease him about other girls, and wish they would tease him about you that way.

You will want so badly to tell him how you feel, you’ll write out a text at least 29 times and delete it over and over.

subject line: moments

 

Toronto

I have these ideas about what love should be.

Waking up to you playing my favourite songs on the guitar Sunday morning, paired with cinnamon eggo waffles and bitter black coffee in bed.

A tub of Ben & Jerry’s in the middle of Trinity Bellwoods Park when it’s raining. Sharing wet kisses and then running home and sliding into your oversized sweatshirt.

Sitting on your deck with a bottle of wine, and looking up at the stars. Making crazy, stupid love under the Big Dipper.

When these moments happened, I was convinced that each of them meant something because they were so perfect. But I have the habit of falling in love with moments that I read as forevers because they fit my idea of love. I have the affliction of being most in love with the beginnings of things, when the amount of beautiful possibility that exists is just overwhelming.

I’ve been in love with more boys than I can count, but none of our fairytale beginnings led to anything long enough to be considered real.

subject line: will the waves ever stop knocking me over?

 

Holly Springs, North Carolina

I started online college classes this week, and now I’m applying for disability support.

Disabled. The word hits me like a brick in the gut each time.

Reality really hits when you have to email someone and say, “I am physically and psychiatrically disabled.”

I don’t want it to be this way. I want to exist and function and succeed. I want to be okay. I want to be able.

I know all the right answers. If only emotions listened to reason.

I feel like the waves of illness and loneliness and darkness and joyless-ness will never stop breaking over my head. I want to stand on the water in faith, but I’m so afraid, and the waves keep knocking me over.

The fear is almost more overwhelming than the pain.

Because I’m scared that, like the ocean, the waves will never stop crashing.

subject line: definitions

 

Colorado

i’ve always been a pessimist when it comes to love.
in my head, love is a never-ending choice - you wake up in the morning, and right then you decide if you choose that person today. that’s why i’ve never believed in the convention of the one - the prince charming, rides in on a fucking majestic horse and saves everything. no. that’s why i’ve always valued someone who chooses me, all over again, every single day.
but what happens when you stop choosing them?
i tried to stop choosing you. two years we’ve been together and all of a sudden something went off inside of my head. that it was impossible for someone like you to choose me, every single day. that’s why i shoved you away. because i am little scraps of sunshine and rain pasted together by late nights listening to pink floyd. and you, you are solid and steady like mountains and everything i wish i could be. so i pushed you, as hard as i could. a part of me needed to know that i was strong enough to.
one of my friends flat out believes in the idea that he’ll find his one and only. i was talking to him the other night and he called my definition scary. he said that he didn’t want someone to have to pick again and again, because he’s not perfect. and he’s scared they’ll leave.
so am i. i’m terrified that you’ll leave. but even when i pushed you, you stayed steady. how many relationships are ended because someone feels like they are not good enough? i feel lucky not to have to count our story as one of them.
i still don’t think there is a ‘the one’. i think that if the world is a matrix of possibilities that love is no less complex and endless. but it’s beautiful that way. and little by little, i think that i understand love is more than the choice you make in the morning. love makes the choice before you wake up. love is why i roll over in the middle of the night and wish there was a text from you, but still am happy because your face lights up with my phone.
you are strong and solid and everything i wish i was. but somehow, because i love you, you make me strong too.

subject line: married people parties

 

Vancouver

last night i looked around the room at a going away party for loved ones and realized it was a married people party. the wives were having a dance party in the kitchen. the husbands were playing a golf game on their phones. and then there was me... and you. the only unmarrieds in the place, and i felt a little lost but a little like it was meant to be. like this on-and-off crush i’ve denied and accepted and denied again for the past 2 years could maybe someday end in being married people at a married people party. and i wonder if you noticed too? i wonder if the glances-across-the-room and looking-away-when-they-notice-me-staring-moments will ever become more than just glances. and i wonder if you wonder, too.

subject line: I didn't sleep at all the night you kissed me

 

where the music plays, Winsconsin

It’s funny, how often I think that I’m not that girl: not that girl who gets swept up at a music festival and kisses someone she just met, not that girl that a guy sees in the crowd and just starts talking to, not that girl who stays up all night with butterflies in her stomach, dancing around the lead weight of wondering if I should have just gone for it.

Mostly it’s funny because apparently, sometimes, I am that girl.

And I wanted to thank you for letting me be. For seeing me in a crowd of thousands and pulling me into a wobbly, side-of-the-hill dance and then stopping to pull me in a little closer. For laughing and joking and admitting your love of Star Wars and Robert Jordan novels, for the second Jurassic Park movie and that lantern project you made in high school spanish. Thank you for raving about your high school teacher in a way that, as a high school teacher, made me think, yeah, this is one of the good guys (because no one talks about a teacher like that unless they mean it and, frankly, it was adorable).

Thank you for holding my hand and walking around the campgrounds and teasing me. For pulling me into the wet grass in the rain and pushing me a little farther. For stopping when I got nervous and being patient when I wavered. Thank you for letting me go with a kiss and then getting dinner with me a few nights later.

And thank you for not texting afterwards, even, for letting me have one perfect, fun, easy memory of being that girl for once. I’ll never forget her or you.

subject line: dear 6 year old me

 

Richmond, Virginia

Dear 6 year old me,

Please don’t be mean to the little boy down the street, who says he has a crush on you. It’s not weird, and he’s so sweet

and one day it will be ten years later, and he will have grown up to be the most incredible guy in the world.

And he might look at someone else that way, or you might not know how he feels about you. You will think back to times he asked to hold your hand, and the times he would ask you to dance with him and wish that you had. That you could now.

My dear six year old self, be nice to him. You’re going to fall in love with him one day.

subject line: keep writing

 

by and by

To the Email Writers:

I’ve been reading all of your emails - all the personal struggles, the secret thoughts, and the hidden feelings. I appreciate your honest words and your bravery in sending them. They remind me that there are hurting people in this world. Real people with real hurts and heartaches.

It’s true - I don’t know who you are. You might be the lady next to me in the check out line at Walmart. Or you might be someone walking down the street of a town I’ve never even heard of. But you’re out there. And you’re hurting. And all I can do is say a prayer and ask God to wrap His loving arms around you + remind myself that people are in pain everywhere. I’ll remember that next time I’m tempted to be frustrated with that grumpy lady who never smiles. Because, truth is, she could be any one of you.

Thanks for the reminder.

- An Email Reader

p.s. Things will get better. By and by.

subject line: to my ex-boyfriend's wife

 

Tennessee

I’ve heard a lot about you, I’ve seen a lot about you, and I’ve stalked pretty much anything I could find on you. I’m your now husband’s ex girlfriend. You know, the one he dated all through college, the one who stood behind him as he lived out his dream, the one who cooked him dinner and cleaned his apartment, the one who loved his family, and the one who thought that ring on your finger would be mine.

You have yourself a handful. I dated him for almost 2 years, I should know. He is needy. He likes double fries at Zaxbys with ranch, his baked potato cut up just like his mama always did, he is the pickiest eater, and the one person who is impossible to shop for. He likes being the star while you sit back and watch him shine.

Did you know we talked almost every day up until that ring was placed on your finger? Did you know he CALLED me the morning that ring was going to be placed on your finger? Did you know up until that point I still had hope he would break up with you and be mine again? My guess would be no.

I stalked y’all’s wedding pictures through his sister’s Facebook. I saw everything. It was the wedding I dreamed of. My heart stopped when I saw the picture with this wedding ring on his finger. His smile, his eyes, his tall frame and those hands waiting for you, not me. We talked about our wedding so many times. We talked about our future babies, what they would look like, what their names would be and how we would spend holidays with them.

You didn’t meet the one man he looked up to the most, his grandfather. You weren’t there the summer he was dying of cancer and I was lucky enough to meet that sweet man and be there to love and support my best friend as he watched his hero go to Heaven.

Do you know about me? I know a lot about you. I might seem bitter, but in 6 short months you stole the man I thought I would spend forever with. I had my life planned out. Even after we broke up, we talked. Every. Single. Day.

Do me a favor and hold him tight, kiss him on the forehead and cherish the feeling of being in his arms. Congratulations on marrying my old best friend. Look over at him and just stare, that’s what I used to do. He’s pretty amazing, and you must be pretty amazing if he picked you. Take care of him for me.