To read the hand written letter click here.
Saturday 11 August, 2012
Why did I sleep with you? I have had this question burrowing into my head since the reunion. And I’ve been trying to work it our ever since. I keep my guilt buried deep within, away from Rebecca, afraid of the damage an indiscretion will have on our relationship. I have come so close to confessing to her but I don’t want her to feel betrayed and hurt, broken by my actions.
Each time I come back to the question of why we slept together, it only raises more questions. The most barbed question is this: Who are you? You’ve drip fed me breadcrumbs of information when you could have presented me with a feast.
You declare intentions to avoid the reunion then turn up, cloaked in secrecy and darkness. You spent your working life undercover, hidden behind personas and disguises, physical and emotional, mental and metaphorical. You said that when you were with me that night, naked and exposed on the floor, was a time you could be you, without masks, without barricades. But how am I supposed to know the real you from a distance of twenty years?
You have lived the past twenty years without me in your life, a simple memory of earlier times.
We slept together, caught up in an adolescent fantasy of who we were twenty years ago. I gave in to a temptation, a fantasy, a memory of the girl I knew so many years ago. I was enamoured by the reminisces of a past, a flirtatious wink and nudge as over the past eight months we thought about the “what ifs.”
What if I kissed you?
What if that kiss caused you to stay?
What if we had slept together back then?
Would you have really stayed?
Would Piper’s Reach have kept you grounded?
I doubted you. I doubted your connection to this place. I doubted I could offer enough to you.
I saw the weight you carried with your mother’s background and I didn’t think I could heal it although I wanted to. One night during the Trial exams we were studying at the kitchen table. We became so absorbed we forgot the time. But before that I watched you from the kitchen as I made us cups of coffee. I looked at you as you chewed on the end of my pens (you made them all fuzzy). You appeared calm and focused but only days earlier you were a wreck of emotions.
How could I heal that inner hurt I didn’t understand? I cherished our friendship and yes I wanted more, but at what cost? So I did nothing and cherished the memory of you for the past two decades.
My perspective is shaped by a memory of the past, who we were back then. Is slept with a twenty year old memory, rekindled by the fantasy and flirtation.
I was being selfish and I think you were too. We wanted the physical connection for different reasons. I consumed your body to fulfil what we never did while you gave yourself to feel whole, to fill something in your life. We spent ourselves on each other but there was no other choice but to leave without a word.
My infidelity to Rebecca is as permanent as the scar tissue on my knee. I touched your scars but cut myself in the process. While I was in the shower at the McCracken’s on Sunday I believed the heat and warmth of the water would provide an absolution. Even when you joined me and we took in each other again the water rinsed away the guilt even during the very act.
When I was done I knew I had to leave; the sweetness of passion turning sour in my stomach.
I gave you my work address because even from the beginning I felt like I was doing something wrong. Letters were innocent, harmless, flirtatious, an honest enquiry and an inviting come on.
But what do you want from me? What do you want me to be? I gave you what you wanted 20 years ago; what I wanted, 20 years ago. But this is now.
You said you would have stayed in Piper’s if only I’d asked. You could have stayed of your own volition; you didn’t need my permission. You had to leave. You had to pursue your own goals, your own dreams, driven by the hurt of the past.
What are you waiting for? Someone else to fix you? For me to fix you? You could always fix yourself. I was the sounding board.
You left twenty years ago because you had somewhere else to be, something to do, fears to chase after, pursue and bring down.
You speak of betrayal, abandoning you to the bus depot and abandoning you to the things you faced in Sydney. You slept with the surfer dude in our final year, selfishly satisfying your need above our friendship. You never would have stayed in Piper’s forever.
And now I’ve betrayed Rebecca and the kids.
And so what if my father said to you I was an idiot? I knew you visited him because he told me that week when I went to see him. He loved you like another daughter.
We were sitting out in the courtyard enjoying the last of the afternoon sun, sheltered by the wind. When he mentioned you visited I felt my stomach twist, afraid you’d confessed to what we’d done. He looked at me quizzically when I started but said nothing except you had visited and you had broken down in tears. I almost confessed to him then and there, but kept it in.
He asked my why I never followed through on my infatuation with you when we were kids.
I told him it would like flying a kite in the middle of a gale. As much as I would remain grounded, there were forces beyond my control to keep you attached. At some point the tether would snap and as fast as I chased, you would hasten further and further away. And I would be unable to catch you, left with only a memory tethered to my hand.
“So why didn’t you simply enjoy flying the kite while you had the chance?” my father asked.
“Because I was afraid of the loss, afraid of the pain, afraid of the sorrow,” I said.
“Jude, you’re an idiot,” he repeated.
I left you on that day at the McCracken house because I had to, because of the betrayal to all. And I cannot fix that. I cannot change it. I cannot be who you want me to be. I can only be me.
Are you waiting for your real life to begin? You bedded Zeke as a supplementary offering? Giving yourself because it gave you a sense of self?
I went to The Point last night, stood at the place where you stood the night of the reunion, the place where I first took you, touched your arm and yelled. I yelled into the darkness, watching my breath condense in the night air, cut by the arc of the lighthouse beam. I screamed into the abyss of the churning sea below. The wind simply scooped them up and crammed them back into my throat, choking me on my own anger and guilt.
I licked the salt from my lips as I walked back down the hill and scraps of Sunday School memory verses: if salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything but to be thrown onto the rubbish heap.
I licked my lips and then my fingers in fear of the salt leaching out of my body, thinking it had leached into you while we kissed the sweat off each other, when I came inside you.
You are who you are and I am who I am.
Monday 13 August
Sitting in the office early in the morning going over what I wrote, rereading your last letter.
When I said “I’m sorry I was not your always and ever” I meant I could be what you wanted me to be, then or now. In high school I held fast to the strength of our friendship. I could count on you for anything.
There was a time, and it was nothing spectacular. You were leaving one afternoon. We finished our homework. We embraced at the front door and it was perfect. Somehow that moment encapsulated the strength of our friendship, without flirtation or innuendo, just strength of one another.
And now it’s gone. Gone because of conflicting perspectives tangled in the twists of nostalgia.
And one day I will have to tell Rebecca what happened and how I betrayed her.