Letter to a Bus Driver

metro bus 3

Dear City Metro Bus Driver —

I ride the bus in to work two or three times a week. A 30 or 40 minute ride each way. And I find myself wondering what it’s like to be a bus driver, particularly for a city metro bus.

Because the metro buses are so many, I don’t always have the same driver, but I see you fairly consistently. A young-ish woman, maybe mid-30s/early-40s, black, with beautiful box-braided hair, and long fingernails, and a smile on your face every time you greet a rider or a fellow bus driver. You always say good morning to me when I walk up. You always say “have a nice day” when I thank you for the ride as I depart. And I find myself wondering: how did you become a bus driver? Is it a job you enjoy? Do you have a family to support? I have no doubt you had bigger dreams as a child and young adult, but what about now? Do you still have bigger dreams, or are you content (or feeling stuck) where you’re at?

Most of you bus drivers are black and under 50 years old. I firmly believe it is a sign of the class and race divide in this country. I have no doubt at least one of the reasons you become bus drivers is because you did not have the opportunity to go to college and/or do something else with your lives. But that doesn’t necessarily mean being a bus driver is unfulfilling. What if you enjoyed driving? Didn’t want to be stuck in a cubicle all day? Or are simply happy to have a semi-decent paying job with some level of security? (Because these are city-paid jobs, the salaries are easily found online. I see that City Metro bus drivers can make anywhere between $25-48k depending on seniority, which while not a TON of money, is really not too bad in this city, and is certainly more than I make).

As a sat on the bus yesterday morning, watching you drive expertly through heavy traffic, I imagined you must wake up very early every morning – 5am? 4:30am? I wake up at 6:45am just to make the 8am bus, and you’re probably on your second or even third route of the day by then. I hope the people with early morning routes are not also stuck with late-night routes, because that would be cruel, if you ask me. But I know you’re still driving at 5:30pm during the afternoon rush to go home, because you’ve driven both routes in the same day when I’m riding on at least a couple occasions. I hope you get a break during the mid-day lull at least. I hope you’ve eaten at some great restaurants downtown or in Mid-Town. Any you would care to recommend?

One of these days, I would like to strike up a conversation with you. Ask you about your life, and how you became a bus driver, and if you enjoy it. But every time I think about doing that, I feel awkward. Would it be rude, presumptuous? Or would you be touched that someone has thought to ask you how you feel, rather than just viewing you as another cog in the city public transit machine?

I wonder a lot of things that I’ll probably never know.

In any case, thank you. Thank you for always getting me where I need to be, quickly and safely. I hope you have a good day too.

Silent Sister


To the woman who broke my heart before I’d realized my heart was even that involved:

Photo by Joshua Earle, CC0

Day One:

I knew, I always knew, you were always the more likely of the two us to want to back out, to change her mind. I knew that when I said yes to your offer of a first date. I knew that three weeks ago when you drunk texted me at midnight. I knew that months ago when I admitted to myself that I was already rather infatuated with you. I knew that. And I said yes anyway.

Hope is a dangerous creature. I know that too. Have known that for years. I should have known better than to hope.

My own fault.


Day Three:

I keep replaying everything you said that night. And everything you said in texts and tumblr and emails in the handful of days after. And even in hindsight I feel sucker-punched. No warning. No hint. You seemed so happy on Tuesday night. And even on Friday, though you were anxious, you seemed willing to try.

And then Sunday happened.

So in one day. One bad day you changed your mind. And I know, I know Saturday was bad and the days since have been bad. And no, I cannot picture the exact landscape of that badness, (I wish I did, I wish you would let me in so I can learn that geography) but I can understand the general makeup.

And it doesn’t seem fair. To me or to you. To make that decision in the midst of a bad day. On the tail of what seemed like something worth being hopeful about. Without any warning. Without even an “I need a few days” or weeks. Going straight to “no.” Going straight to “I can’t.” Going straight to “sorry never mind.” No space for me to argue, to make my case, to have a say.


Day Four:

I keep trying to figure out what I want to say to you.  Plenty of things come to mind. Most of which would do neither you nor me any good in the saying.

One thing I think (I hope) is worth saying is this: I understand and even, to an extent, appreciate, that you are trying to spare me by backing out before this, whatever it was, had a chance to really turn into a relationship as it were, before either of us had become too invested, too involved. Sound logic in its own way. I hate to break it to you, but, unfortunately, I was already pretty damn invested. And have been for quite awhile. Not your fault. Nothing you could do about that except stop being yourself, which is impossible. So.

If… If in a few weeks or a few months or a year from now, you find that you feel more stable, more safe, more capable, and find that you want to try this again. I need you to promise to tell me.

But if you feel pretty damn certain that that isn’t going to happen, that when you crawl yourself out of the dark hole you find yourself in now, you are pretty damn sure you WON’T be interested in trying again, then I need you tell me that. Because of I have a very bad habit of waiting. Interminably. Doing myself absolutely no good. Hoping for things that are never going to happen.  A little warning, this time, would be appreciated.


Day Six:

No warning. No fight. No irreconcilable differences. Just fear. It wasn’t a break up. It was an ambush. A kamikaze attack.


Day Six (Pt 2):

But, of course, its not really about me. All the platitudes about the fact that I shouldn’t have to take care of you, that I deserve someone or something better or whatever… You may be well-intentioned. I’m sure you at least partially believe it. But let’s be honest, this isn’t about me. This is about you.

If you aren’t ready, or capable, or stable enough… if you aren’t in the right head space to be getting involved with someone. Fine. I may not be happy about it, but I understand it. You have a right and even a duty look after your own mental/emotional well-being, and if part of that includes not getting into a relationship with someone, fine. I have to respect that. I have to deal with it.

But don’t dress it up in lines about sparing me, about me deserving better, and so on and so on ad infinitum. I know I’m younger than you, and I am painfully aware of my own inexperience, and I am not the bravest or the smartest person around, but I am an adult, and I am perfectly capable of making my own decisions about what I do or do not deserve, about what I will or will not risk.  So don’t make this about me.


Day Eight: 

You will laugh at me, probably, and I have laughed at myself often enough, but it has taken rather a lot of willpower not to use the word ‘love’ here. I guess infatuated (besotted?) will do. Certainly, I was already farther along than you probably imagine, and had been for some time.  I don’t think even I realized HOW far along until that Sunday night. And I felt like I’d been kicked in the ribs. And I keep having to run away to hide in the bathroom and cry. I feel like a wounded animal. I feel nauseous. It makes me angry that I should feel so hurt, so wounded, so miserable over three dates. THREE DATES. But here I am. Because, frankly, for me, it wasn’t just three dates.  It was colleagues becoming friends for more than a year, then surprisingly close confidants, culminating in a movie where I paid, a movie where you paid, tea and intimate conversation, you cooking me dinner, me cooking you dinner, all while still technically being “just friends”… Frankly, in a way we had been cautiously dating for a couple months. And I know that technically isn’t true. But emotionally, it feels true. And I feel sucker-punched. I feel abandoned.

And seeing you being miserable on Twitter and Tumblr doesn’t help at all.  Because on top of everything else, I am sitting here worrying about you.  And I try to avoid reading your posts because I am just TORTURING myself, but I can’t seem to help it.  Was it really the right decision? Maybe I don’t have the right to ask, but I can’t help but wonder. Was a decision made in what feels (to me) like blind panic, a decision that seems to be hurting us both, is it the right decision? Isn’t there some middle ground here? Not a ‘no,’ not an ‘I can’t’… A ‘let’s wait and see’… On Tuesday, when you asked, “what next?” and I said “we give this thing a try,” you said ok. But bailing four days later. That isn’t even the beginning of an attempt.  Is trying not even a possibility now?

Because… look, I don’t believe in true love or soul mates, but I do believe that some people just click. Fit. And I can’t help but feel that you and I could be amazing. Perhaps with effort, perhaps with struggle, with TRYING, but all the same.


Day Nine:

And then again. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I’m just not the right person for you. Maybe it’s really as simple as that. I don’t know.


Day Eleven:

You made me brave. You made me stop worrying about what they thought. I wanted you to know that you made me brave. That was you.  That is one of your qualities.  You inspired that in me.


Day Eleven (Pt 2):

I never expected to be the brave one in a (I guess hypothetical) relationship. But here we are. You made me that. You just seemed worth the risk to me, but i guess that feeling wasn’t mutual.


Day Fifteen:

How do you just turn that off? That laughter, that excitement, that somewhat-surprised joy. How did you turn that off? And if you didn’t (I know you probably didn’t. It’s never that easy. I’m being mean. I know I’m being mean, but) then… What?


Day Seventeen:

There’s nothing wrong with needing people. There are always levels, of course. Being too dependent. I have that impulse in me which i have tried my best to resist all my life. But… (And I keep trying to learn this for myself  as well because I’m never good at allowing myself to rely on others…) But we are communal creatures and we are creatures who live best when we have people around us that we care about and who care about us, people we can lean on. It’s not just about me trying to take care of you and you thinking I shouldn’t have to, and you feeling like you’re just using me or relying on me too much. It’s about people taking care of each other and also encouraging us to take care of ourselves.  It’s about both taking and giving. And I can be very good at both, when I’m allowed. It’s terrifying, and it’s dangerous, and there is so much risk for injury on both sides. And I have been afraid of being hurt all my life. Not like you, I know. I have never been through a divorce or an abusive relationship. But I have watched my mother live through both and absorbed her fear. I have watched several friends live through both, and learned caution. My own brands of hurt were small and young and naive in comparison but they still marked me. I understand fear. I have been afraid of so much all my life. And I will never deny the danger, the risk, but it seems to me that there is little else, and sometimes it is worth it to try anyway. And the only thing that makes it bearable is someone to share the risk and terror with.  I know I am making a lot of big grand statements for someone who has never really done this before, and for someone who only got three dates. But I left those dates anxious but also exhilarated because I felt that I was willing to try to take the risk with you. For the first time in years and years I thought I’d found someone who was worth the risk.


Day Eighteen:

Am I being mean? Am I being unfair? Probably? I don’t know. Calling it fear is so… dismissive. I know it’s more complicated than that. Or, part of me knows its more complicated than that. Another part of me just feels like you ran away. Did you? Is it running away? Did you panic and run? Maybe that’s not fair. I don’t know.

Frankly, I’m not sure I really care right now.


Day Twenty:

I can’t help but wonder if the problem is simply that you don’t think you deserve to be with someone, or be happy. And then I think that must surely be the height of arrogance on my part. I don’t know. I might not be the right person to MAKE you happy, but I can guarantee you one thing: you definitely deserve it. You deserve to be happy, you deserve to be loved.


Day Twenty-Three: 

It would be so much easier if I could hate you. But I’m just sitting here worrying about you and missing you. And wondering how I can miss you so much already when we didn’t ever see each other in person that much anyway. But between tumblr, twitter, Facebook, texting, and in person conversations, we were in contact rather a lot after all, weren’t we. And now I feel too awkward and sad to say anything on twitter, or email you. Which makes it even worse that my brother showed me some really funny YouTube videos and the first thing I said was “can you give me the links? Jen would love these.” Only now I’m not sure I could send them to you.

And that’s another thing. You said you didn’t want to lose me as a friend. And I swore to myself I wasn’t going to let this ruin our friendship. But… But.


Day Twenty-Five:

I guess I’m wondering if I need to keep all of this to myself if we are ever going to be able to be friends still. Maybe sharing all of this would make that too difficult, too awkward. Of course, I can’t decide if it would be more awkward for you or for me. I don’t know.  If I shared any of this, even the smallest bit, with you… would you feel too guilty, would you censor everything you did and said, would you SAY we’re still friends but stop visiting, stop talking, stop actually BEING my friend? And if we CAN remain friends… perhaps it will be easier for ME to put a happy face on it, to behave normally, to be ok or pretend to be ok, if I don’t have to worry about how much you know, or can guess, about how I really feel.

But that’s the thing. I always keep my mouth shut. I always swallow my words and my feelings and internalize everything. I can ramble on endlessly about all kinds of ridiculous things, things I love things I care about things that make me angry tv shows and books and movies and politics and fashion and music forever and ever and ever. But the important stuff, the emotional stuff, the stuff you (at least somewhat) seemed to share with me so easily…. I keep that stuff quiet. I keep it inside. I let it fester in my throat and my lungs and gut.  Because… because so often it seemed to become only a burden to those around me, and often it becomes something that is held against me later.  Again, I’m a coward. Or I often am, anyway. But how many times have I missed out on something because I didn’t speak up? I don’t know. I’ll never know.  I can think of plenty of times when I really did make the right decision, the safe decision, by keeping my mouth shut. But sometimes… sometimes it has to be worth it to say something, right?  And I’m so damn tired of keeping my mouth shut, of biting my tongue, of swallowing my words. I have swallowed whole mountains of anger and sorrow and pain and hurt and embarrassment and want and need and desire. I have swallowed mountains whose peaks break apart in my lungs and my throat and tear at the lining of my stomach. I have swallowed mountains and cannot speak.  And I am tired of swallowing mountains.  So perhaps it would be better (though probably not smarter or safer) to just put it all out there. To just have the words out of my mouth before they break my teeth and have done with it.


Day Twenty-Six:

But just because it might (and only might) be better for me, doesn’t necessarily make it better for YOU. And yes, despite your (no doubt) protests, I am still worried about you, and how any of this might affect you. I can’t help it. This is what I do. I have spent my life taking care of people. My mother and brother and grandparents and my friends.  I have spent my life keeping tight control over myself, my reactions, my behavior, my voice, my feelings, because I have absolutely no control over any of the things other people have decided for me, or put upon me.  And yes, I am tired taking care of people who take and take and take and then take away my decisions from me, who take away my voice, and then claim I have been the burden. And yes, I would like now and again for someone to take care of me for once in my life.  But at the same time, I am very good at taking care of people, and I have always taken joy from caring for the people who deserve it, and who care for me in return.  I have said this already but I do believe in the end that you have to be able to do both – give and take.  And some people are very bad at learning to take and accept what is given.  I should stop talking. I should stop writing this stupid little notes.  I will probably never be brave enough to send them to you. And they are probably not doing me much good. And in the mean time, they just fill up my phone and my iPad and my laptop I don’t know what to do with all these words that should stay swallowed up inside me.


Day Twenty-Seven:

That saturday, the night before you called me and ended this before it had really gotten started, I had a dream about you.  We were in your little house, and I had agreed to model my kimono for you.  I don’t know if you know this, but I have a kimono, a beautiful formal hand-painted silk kimono. In my dream, I had finally finished collecting all the necessary pieces to wear it correctly, in the traditional fashion. And I emerged from your bathroom wearing it.  You were sitting on your little sofa. And you sat there for a moment, and stared, until finally you stood and walked slowly toward me, and said: “how quickly can we get this off you without injuring the fabric?”  Until you reached me, and put a hand on the obi and began to slowly unwind it from around me waist and said: “screw quickly, I intend to enjoy this. Like unwrapping a christmas present…”  I laughed, and then a cat woke me up.


Day Twenty-Eight:

You’re tumblr is murdering me right now. My tumblr is murdering me right now. The entire existence of the Internet is murdering me right now. Why do I do this to myself. I close the window. I turn off my iPad. And then I come right back later. Again and again and again.  I hate everything. Fuck this shit. Nice to see you made the first break. I’ve been avoiding reblogging you for days. Don’t even ask me why. It felt too much like an admission to my online stalker status maybe. I don’t know. Everything hurts.


Day Twenty-Nine:

Maybe I’m romanticizing you? I don’t know. Maybe? I don’t think so. I suppose that’s part of what the whole dating thing is supposed to help you figure out.


Day Thirty:

Last night I dreamt that you showed up without warning during my move tomorrow.  That you showed up as we were loading the Uhaul, swept out of your blue Yaris, swept up to me, said “I’m sorry. I panicked,” and then grasped my face with both hands and kissed me in full view of my mother, my brother, and the two or three people there to help out.  I am embarrassed by the very cheesy rom-com-worthy scenario, of course. But… But it made me happy for a second. And then I woke up.


Day Thirty-Two:

How long? How long til this doesn’t hurt? I need to know.


Day Thirty-Five:

I hope you’re okay.  You said I shouldn’t have to take care of you.  But I hope SOMEONE is.

Silent Sister

I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m drowning

Jacob Walti, CC0
Jacob Walti, CC0

An email written 5 years ago, and left to linger in my Drafts folder. Has not been edited or altered in anyway except to redact names.

Dear J —

I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I tried to sleep i always try to sleep but I lied about breaking bottles in the backyard today. I wanted to. I needed DESPERATELY to. To break something. Anything. Bottles. Plates. The fucking windows. My own fingers. ANYTHING. But I was worried that if I broke bottles in the backyard the glass shards might get lost in the grass and the next time S– mowed the lawn a piece would blow back and cut him. Or the dogs would step on them or try to eat them. And I thought about just throwing some on the kitchen floor, but then I was worried about chipping or breaking the fucking tile floor, because it’s a rental and mom can’t afford to be replacing the damn floor. So I sat there on the floor with three shots of vodka mixed with a little ice tea and stared at the glass bottles we’re saving for recycling hating myself because I AM SO FUCKING RESPONSIBLE I CAN’T BREAK A FEW FUCKING BOTTLES. and i am so fucking tired of being responsible, of being contained and controlled, of being whatever everyone else needs me to be. Because I wake up in the morning hating it and dreading it and wishing to god I never had to wake up again and I lay there and refuse to move so determined to just keep my eyes closed and then THEN I feel GUILTY and force myself to get up and get out of bed because I have to take care of a five cats and two dogs while mom and S– are working, and I have to take care of a 16 yr old cat which is like taking care of an infant or a really sick old man, and my god i can’t lay in bed all day because SOMEONE has to do the dishes or the laundry or clean the bathroom and SOMEONE eventually has to make dinner, and BY GOD I’m supposed to be writing a chapter proposal for an academic book and I NEED to finish that goddamn incomplete SOMEHOW. But I can’t I can’t I can’t I can’t there is nothing in my brain and just moving HURTS and I feel like I’m suffocating and I don’t fucking care anymore, and I even writing fiction is painful and slow and almost not worth it and the only thing that works is writing Allen because living in Allen’s brain is really just living in a slightly different shade of my own because he’s broken and he’s alone and he’s shaking and everything else around him is still as a corpse and he’s got his fucking finger on the FUCKING TRIGGER and the only really difference of course is that he just WANTS to be needed, whereas I wish to god everyone would STOP NEEDING THINGS FROM ME mom and S– and my students and the fucking school and my dad who never calls but will guilt trip me forever if I don’t fly out to visit them, and of course I made sure Allen has real legitimate things to be broken about – all his friends dead and he’s crippled and suffering from severe ptsd OF COURSE he’s allowed to be broken no one is going to begrudge him that and DEAR GOD IN HEAVEN I wish I pray I beg on a nearly daily basis that something horrible would happen to me, a mugging a car crash cancer ANYTHING I DON’T CARE – Every time I’m in the car with mom and she’s getting angry and driving recklessly and I know I KNOW some day she’s going to crash and I close my eyes and wait for it, WAIT for it, and dear god it would be A RELIEF because then THEN I could point to it- this wound this sickness something VISIBLE something PHYSICAL that people can see and touch and understand and BELIEVE and SAY: SEE! THIS! THIS RIGHT HERE! IS WHY I HURT AND WHY I’M SCARED AND CRYING AND ANGRY AND BROKEN! AND THEY WOULD UNDERSTAND BELIEVE ME AND I WOULDN’T HAVE TO DEFEND THIS FUCKING PAIN BECAUSE IT WAS REAL INSTEAD OF THIS GHOST IN MY BRAIN THAT WON’T STOP HAUNTING ME. THERE IS A HOLE IN MY CHEST THE SIZE OF THE SUN AND NO ONE CAN SEE IT BUT ME AND IT IS SWALLOWING ME WHOLE. I AM DROWNING EVERYDAY OF MY FUCKING LIFE AND I MY FINGERS ARE SCRABBLING TO GRAB ONTO ANYTHING AT ALL AND NO ONE EVEN NOTICES AND ITS TOO HARD TO SCREAM AND SOMETIMES IT IS JUST EASIER AND LESS PAINFUL TO SIMPLY STOP. AND SINK. I want to just stop. I lay in bed and wish I could find someway to just STOP MOVING. Stop breathing. Stop everything. Just never exist. Ever. And I think how easy – my GOD do you understand HOW EASY IT WOULD BE to just STOP. But I don’t. And I don’t because of the same guilt that gets me out of bed in the morning. And GOOD FUCKING CHRIST HOW IS THAT A GOOD REASON??? How is guilt the only thing that’s keeping me alive on most days? HOW IS THAT ANY WAY TO LIVE? I know you don’t really understand and I’m SO GLAD that you don’t understand. I would not wish this feeling on the most evil person in the whole of history. And I want you to understand REALLY REALLY understand and not just in that sweet nodding “oh she’s speaking metaphorically of course” way that you LITERALLY saved my life when I met you junior year of high school. IF I HAD NOT MET YOU I WOULD NOT BE ALIVE RIGHT NOW. I am absolutely a hundred percent certain that I would have slit my wrists before the year was over. I know it I know it I know because I have come so close so many times. And I am so grateful to you and I love you so much and I will never be able to properly express it but by god there are days when I almost wish I had spared myself the last ten years because what a fuck-up I’m making of this whole shit deal. PLEASE GOD SOMEONE MAKE THIS HOLE IN MY CHEST GO AWAY. IT WON’T GO AWAY and I am drowning.

Silent Sister

A jigsaw-shaped hole in my chest

I have a habit — I suspect I am far from the only person with this habit — of writing letters or emails or texts to friends and then never sending them. Sometimes I delete them, but often I save them in my Drafts folder, or somewhere on my laptop, for some unknown reason – just in case I get brave or stupid and decide to send them? Or maybe just to torture myself.

Letters or emails or texts that are full of the desperation, or fear, or anger that is tormenting me at that moment. Confessions of guilt (such as the Letter to E I posted on this blog a couple weeks ago). Rants and ravings that make little sense (often written at 2 or 3 in the morning when I haven’t slept in several days and everything is hateful and hopeless). Maudlin, angsty, whiny things that fill me with embarrassment, but also grief.

The letter “Dear E–” that I posted a couple weeks ago was a very long text message I wrote and then nearly deleted, pasting it into my Notes app instead, but never sending it. It was not edited or changed in anyway. The letter below is the content of an email I wrote to my best friend a couple years ago, and then saved in my Drafts folder without ever sending it. I deleted only a couple sentences with identifying information. Everything else is exactly as I originally wrote it (gratuitous use of ALL CAPS included).

Dear J —

Do you ever feel like you’re drifting along with a million half-formed ideas ricocheting in your brain like a million crazy atoms ready to go nuclear-fission on you?  Like you KNOW somewhere in there is some brilliant idea – some fantastic poem or short story or theory or insight, some great epiphany that is just waiting to coalesce in your head and if you could just get everything to STAY STILL long enough you could pick it out with tweezers and show the world, show God, show YOURSELF that for once you actually KNOW something, you actually KNOW what the HELL you’re talking about and everything that’s happened  – all the craziness and uncertainty and sleepless nights and silent-internal-screaming – would all be WORTH it?

“Biffy Clyro – Puzzle”. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia

I read something or I just sit and look at the water or the sky and feel something just on the edge of consciousness waiting, taunting me.   Something I cannot begin to articulate or even understand.  Something telling me I should be doing something.  Something other than THIS.  Or maybe THIS, but better than I’ve been managing to do it.  Like I’m missing some vital piece of information, or some vital piece of life, or more likely some vital piece of MYSELF that I simply cannot see or find.  There just out of reach.  I guess really I just feeling like I’m missing SOMETHING – like there’s a puzzle piece (or two or three) that got lost somewhere and I have these odd, jigsaw shaped holes in my chest waiting to be filled by something that’s never going to show up, or I’m never going to be able to go out and find.

Why is it that everyone around me can be so brilliant and so sure of themselves and so content in what they’re doing and who they are?  And I can barely keep myself going from day to day, and all I do is second and third guess myself and I feel like I’m not who I’m supposed to be?  And why is it the more I question my faith, more I lose my sense of God, or at least a merciful God, the more I find myself examining the expressions of faith and doubt in others – in every poet and author and critic I read – as if I’m expecting to find the answer there, as if I’m expecting someone to tell me this is natural or unnatural and this is what I need to do to fix it.  Is it just inevitable the more intellectual you are, the more you study and examine and question, the more natural it is to lose any sense of God as a reality?  All I can see are people – people who do stupid cruel things, people who twist every admirable thought into something they can use against others, people who live weighed down in chains they don’t even know they have.

Silent Sister

Dear E–


Dear E —

I’ve realized something about myself recently that makes me ashamed. It isn’t nice or fair to you, and I want to tell you something, but I want to explain it as clearly as I can, which is difficult. I swear that it in no way diminishes me friendship with you, or the fact that I trust you. I know you understand me more than most ever could how I feel and how hard things are, and I would probably share these things with you regardless. And this is not in any way a reflection on you, but only on my own secretive preserve nature, but:

I realize that in the back of my head one of the reasons (but not the only reason, I swear) I’ve been so open and honest with you about my depression and despair is that you don’t know any of my other friends or family, and so there was never any risk to me that if I said something that really worried you that would be able to tell anyone else about it. And that is completely not fair to you, I know. Not fair for so many reasons because it implies that I wouldn’t have trusted you not tell others even if you did know my other friends. But also because if I did say something that really genuinely worried you, you wouldn’t be able to do anything about it, and I know how horrifying and heartbreaking that feeling is, and I don’t meant to put that potential fear on you but there it is anyway.

And I’m saying all of this right now because I wanted to tell you something I can’t tell anyone else for exactly these reasons, which makes it even worse. And it’s such a horrible thing to do to a friend, and I’m so sorry. Because I’ve started cutting again and I don’t know why I should want to tell you this, because it’s the kind of thing I keep staunchly secret except that telling you is still pretty much keeping it secret, and see! That’s a horrible thing to think. And I’m sorry. I’m turning you into this repository for things I know I shouldn’t say or do because I know you can’t do anything about it. Because here’s the thing. I don’t want you to stop me, or tell someone else so they can stop me, because damn it, this is mine.

Silent Sister

Secret War

U.S. Air Force photo, Staff Sgt. Nicholas Phelps
U.S. Air Force photo, Staff Sgt. Nicholas Phelps

Daddy, don’t you know
you’re fighting a war?

You stand on a battlefield draped
in razorwire like Battenberg lace

Where are your wire cutters?

Don’t you see the barbed wire
wrapped round
your wrists
your ankles
your throat

ready             and             willing

to squeeze?

Forge ahead toward the trenches

tight are the defenses
yet no hymn of bullets
no galloping war cry

Why are the trenches silent?

The concertina wire is tight round your throat
waiting to slice the veins
at the slightest sign from me

but my voice is still

my fingernails are radioactive green
a grenade is lodged in every tooth
but I do not claw
I do not bite

and you don’t even know you’re being


cut the wire
throw a grenade
it would be easy to overrun the perimeter
but you don’t even know we’re waging war

I fight myself for silence
more fiercely than I fight you

I grapple with a tedious mousy fear
with a complete inability
to show my face
shoot a bullet or two

and tell you to
go to hell

I’m a silent bystander now
in my own war
watching the executioner cart my will away

But I know
I’m not a prisoner
And you? You are not my executioner

I know

You don’t even know what you’re doing

Winning. Losing.
It hardly matters when

What you want and what I need
Are two entirely different things

You can’t have my love
Just take my pain and be content

And this? This is war!
But it’s supposed to be poetry
not a criminal charge

I’m not supposed to condemn you
but bury your faults in teasing smiles and easy charm
when all I want to do is bury you

where you can do no more harm

Silent Sister