It seems like all my life others have been smug with me about how over their head they think I am. When I’ve been directly intimate with them over how I perceive our relationship, they almost always appear relieved and then quickly double back on that vulnerability with sarcasm. I think that’s why I turned to writing at so young an age. It was a safe place where at least I could stick around with my seriousness of purpose to have these more introspective conversations with myself.
Fast forward to today and I’ve become an adult who can’t understand how someone wouldn’t want to be more intimate with themselves and others, even at their most guarded. I’m not sure I’ll ever feel okay about my writing mentor and writing friend Michael, dying. I miss them. And I don’t think I’ll ever get past how my father and so many I care about and take interest in could care less about my poetry practice. They knew their rejection of my art was a way of refusing to get to know me more intimately, and yet they remained at a distance for their own good reasons.
Looking back, my father thought he was destined to fail at loving those close to him, and when he drank himself to near death on nights I stayed over on his couch before heading up to residency, he’d often spill his jealousy of me and apologize for being a shitty father through a bloody drool he’d later lean his head upon and fall asleep in. It was a shame he had to drink to allow himself to be more intimate, and this form of heartbreak eventually swallowed his life.
You can understand then, how, now, when a friend shows me that he doesn’t care about my poetry, which is how I prepare myself for intimacy, really, I can see their self-loathing pouring them another story of how cruel they’ll always be, another current event signifying how humiliated they will always feel about being cowards in the face of their own and other’s mortality.
I wish my poems could tell me how much they will miss me after I’m gone, but they don’t think or feel for themselves, and in this way are kind of like my father, who secretly thought he’d wasted his life seeking privilege and popularity and because of it missed out on his chance at loving and being loved enough. He mistakenly thought that I was afraid of getting angry at others because I secretly didn’t think I was strong enough to deal with the consequences of my own justifiable rage. And maybe he was partly right.
But because he never really knew me more intimately through my writing, he never saw how daily I was already grabbing rage around its little neck and writing in a journal with it. Rage was my pen, and the words I wrote with it reflected the feelings of a dead man with nothing left to lose or run away from. Because a life without a disarming kind of intimacy is not a life lived, but merely passed through, I told myself.
I hope my friends know, that though they love me, or want to, that they don’t know me as well as they think they do, until they take the time to read me. I hope they stop telling themselves there are better, less emotionally demanding places to be than with my poetry.