A Letter Of Loss: My Fictional Protagonist.
I came across a hand-written letter I’d scribbled over a year ago in anger to my ex, saying Goodbye.
I was saying Goodbye to a beautiful character. A tortured artist. The hipster type. A type I’d read about somewhere before and continuously nurtured in my memory. It was stuck somewhere under my bed, beneath the space that a full-sized mattress could carry and the clutter that an almost finished book could foster.
The letter kept popping up in places. The beloved and confused character I knew was, in reality, nothing like the individual I had only met a handful of occasions; to do drugs, to have sex. And to be tortured by.
But the folded paper had been used as a bookmark, a piece of reading material, as a script to obsess over. To study again and again and again, and later, to memorize and to forget. Only to never be completely thrown away.
I’d hide it, tear it up, but just at the edges. I would throw it on the ground, where it slowly wafted through the air and silently landed on the wood panels of my room.
Of course, I had intended to send it, but I didn’t know the address. I had never been to his apartment. That part I chalked up to emotional and physical child abuse; he didn’t want me to know where he lived.
It didn’t excuse the fighting and the melodramatic mind games, but I accepted it for what it was: a relationship with meaning that made little sense.
Things ended, and they ended badly. But the letter wasn’t a reenactment of that. It talked about what he might be missing. The character. And how he’d be missing these things over time. How he’d be missing me.
The future I had read about us having. The future in my dreams with this unique protagonist. He understood me. Saying No to us being together now really meant Yes in the future.
The letter would change his mind. It would change his depression. It would make him realize that I could help him. Life did have some merits.
I read a beautiful piece in the New York Times not too long ago that we’re all lying to ourselves constantly. And that a lot of the times, we’re lying to people we love about none other than love or the things we love.
Is it so wrong to think that a person can change into something they’re not? To blossom into something more mature and essentially more beautiful? The movies chronically paint these kind of love stories. It is possible in a fantasy world.
In my experience, it has never been this way for me. Of course, you can train a man to take out the garbage, but you can’t get him to love you if he just doesn’t feel it. Some things will just never be that way.
Characters will grow and change in a movie or in a book, like the character I had concocted in the relationship I was living in, or pretended I was part of, this past year.
In the passion of the letter I wrote and that I still have, I sometimes remember the person I had believed he was and I can see him with me as we used to be. There were moments of happiness that might have naturally come with being together, not just the character I had created in my mind.
The person you fell in love with 20 years ago is no longer the man you married. Or is he just now showing his true colors? We may never know.
After all, enough pretending can become a reality.
Kathleen Lees is a New York writer and performer whose creative work has appeared in Thought Catalog, Reductress and other publications. Some of her work featuring science journalism has also been featured on HuffPost Live, Intelligence Squared and the Children Nature Network. Visit her other workings at her website or Twitter.