It’s me—you—but with more years and all that entails. You know how this gimmick works. I pass along some warning, encouragement, or congratulations that will highlight your future.
You should know better.
I despise you. The Nine Hells does not contain enough virulence to encompass my disdain for you. Were I to pen my loathing for you using your blood, you would be a husk of which I would still demand more before I could completely express the depths of my incorrigible hatred.
You are a disgrace. To yourself, your values, others, God, everything. I despair knowing that with a single moment of intense courage I could have spared the world from the travesty of your existence.
Look at you. The semblance of a man wrapped in lies. Everything you can, you manipulate. Your words, your actions, your expressions all carefully controlled, all falsehoods designed to conceal your rottenness, your hollowness.
People think you’re a kind gentleman, arriving with a wise word and a good deed for the right cause. Shining enough light on others blinds them to your darkness. All you want is to avoid being hated by others. If you remain in their favor or are ignored entirely, your life becomes decidedly easier. That ease is what you crave, you slothful bastard.
What could be easier than telling lies? You’ve grown up on them: wormed out of difficult situations, blamed a mentally challenged kid for your theft while knowing he couldn’t defend himself. Lying comes like breath for you. It was a key reason writing so appealed to you—to be paid to lie.
You’re nothing but a projection. A thousand masks to fit a thousand situations. You take whatever you need to best force the result you desire. That is the true nature of your “wisdom.” All borrowed, pretty words aimed for the heart or head—whichever you judge most impactful to the target. Why anyone would listen to you is beyond ken—after all, you don’t even follow your own advice.
Certainly you aren’t good. A truly good person wouldn’t resent doing good. Goodness chafes you. It’s always you who has to act good. Always you who has to sacrifice. Always you who has to provide. You can’t stand it. You are the one who deserves to be treated well. Not them. They deserve to suffer, as you have. Their outrage brings you glee. You hate humanity, that selfish and detestable species, endlessly dissatisfied and so assured of their rightness. You’d love to rip them apart yourself had you enough spine and sinew. Instead rage simmers behind a smile.
When you help, your motives are greedy. You want praise and acknowledgment. You want others to help you, which is why you hate when people ask for guidance. It isn’t enough that you have to share physical space with them, now they infringe upon the sanctity of your thoughts, your time? If only you could be dismissive. If only you could scream, “Solve your own problems. Leave me be.” You have enough to deal with already. You despise when others rely on you because you know you cannot save them. You’ll only disappoint.
Yet somehow you have been chained with the identity of the “dutiful one.” Duty is the death of self, and you are absolutely dead inside. Slain by this ideal of duty, of having to cover others’ mistakes, of surrendering time and desire until none remain for you. But it’s so appealing, right? It earned you the aggravating title “the good brother.”
How could anyone call you that? You let your brother be bullied before your eyes by a kid half your size and age. Involving yourself would have been too much a hassle. You, the dutiful one, the one supposed to protect them, wanted no part. You simply watched the tears form in your brother’s eye. His tiny frame could not contain the pain. Bursting from him, it crashed into you, hoarse and demanding. You still did nothing.
Whenever someone calls you a “good brother,” those eyes tear you open. The scream ascends within you, and your soul quavers. Nothing could ever atone for your actions that day. Not service. Not affection. Not abasement. This debt will be yours forever, and you will still strive to pay it.
It’s disgusting, really—your martyr complex. You’ve deluded yourself into thinking it’s something noble: that anything done for another excuses you, that if someone should hurt, it should be you. Really, you’re just a glutton for punishment. You want to suffer because you deserve nothing more. The world’s weight is yours to bear. Only you can. Everyone else is an inept buffoon. Don’t you see the hypocrisy? Don’t you see the burden breaking you? You don’t care. You couldn’t. Before long, anything resembling life will be crushed out of you.
Too much has left already. Or should I say “given up”? That’s another thing at which you excel. Once you’d boast about your discipline. Where is that arrogant fool now? Abandoned alongside your dreams, your writing, your compassion, your joy, your hope, your life.
You know why. At the end of the day, you are a coward. Fear has always travelled beside you. Abject wretch that you are, you mistook his voice for advice.
You wanted friends but knew how twisted you were. Others had to be worse, even when they weren’t. You envied them, wanted them close. So you selected an assortment of traits you found desirable, stitching together a calculated persona. Masks became walls as you constructed a fortress around your heart. From your lofty tower, you cursed your associates for not approaching you, despite being the one who made it impossible for them.
Even had they breached the walls, you had other defenses waiting. They couldn’t be allowed to see the real you. The worthless, uninteresting person little more than wasted space. Smoke and mirrors kept you intriguing, kept you at the fringe. You allowed yourself to accept that as enough. To be “around” and nothing more.
Worse would have been if they actually liked you. Then you’d have to invest in them, waste your time and energy on them, pretend to be concerned with them for the possibility of receiving nothing in kind. Too much risk for so little reward. How precisely you juggled those around you—being close enough to be liked but not enough to be castigated entirely. Never close enough for connecting.
You wanted love but knew you’d never attain it. No girl would desire you. You had nothing to offer. Even if you managed to deceive one, she’d swiftly discover how uninteresting and deficient you are. What you accepted instead was pornography. It suits you: a filthy love for a filthy creature.
In your fantasies plenty of women feature, featureless except titties and pussy. They exist only for you, as they ought. Your lustful eyes prowl to further your depravity. Oh the thoughts you can think! They need not be said, but they are as low as you. To think you have the audacity to lament your singleness in spite of your worthlessness. Alone is exactly how someone as disgusting and tainted as you should be.
You wanted to know and grow but did not realize the cost. Knowledge invites fear. Growth engenders pain. The more you discovered, the smarter you became, you realized the expectations became greater. Those expectations paralyzed you. You refused opportunity because the chance of failure existed, no matter how slight. You concerned yourself only with things that didn’t matter because those were fine to lose. When things mattered, you learned to stop trying. Pain was a cruel teacher. You stagnated in that pain, became accustomed to it, and then you couldn’t release it. When presented with chances to grow, you hesitated. What might be is always worse than what is. So you held on, not realizing you were already falling.
You wanted to matter, but everything you hold fails. Your education did not bring you the job you wanted. Your jobs always brought you into contact with lowlifes who belittle and berate. Your friends have discarded you for their much more appealing lives. You are so forgettable, you know.
You thought you’d be published by now, but that would require having something to publish, and you are never satisfied with what you produce. That applies to life, too—you are always so demanding, always requiring more. Believing things could be better, that they had to be better, even though that always eluded you. Only perfection would have satisfied, but perfection was another lie. Still, you sought it, falling further in your pursuit.
You wanted to serve God, but you do not act like a servant. You claim to be a Christian, but is your heart even in the right place? Do you seek, in all aspects of life, to follow and serve Him who gave you everything? Of course you don’t. You love your sins; they make you you. You don’t want to give up control. You are unwilling to give what He asks because it is too great a demand. All? Everything? But it’s yours, isn’t it? You shouldn’t have to give. You shouldn’t have to question. It’s your life to live, no matter how distorted it is.
That is how I remember you. The shadow of the man you could have been.
Different memories, too, remain.
I remember a child, so desperate for acknowledgment and belonging he faked a seizure for a few laughs.
I remember a teenager purposely failing an assignment and laughing it off, all the while burying the immediate humiliation and pain so deep within, never thinking it’d quietly make a home and continue on, overlooked and undermining.
I remember a man, deep in the bitterness of night, repeatedly pleading with God to either heal or smite him dead because he could not endure the pain anymore.
I remember the beauty of a story, the nascent wonder in each one—and though this is mine, it is not the story. Or the final story.
Above all, I remember an extended hand can do far more than a clenched fist.
So I will try to forgive you. Each day a little more. Even if I don’t understand. Even if I can’t forget. Even if it never stops hurting. One day, I hope it will be more than forgiveness. One day, perhaps, I can value you, love you.
It’s just—there’s always more to forgive.
Photo credit: Watch-out666