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Creative Nonfiction Coming of Age

This story contains sensitive content

Warning: This essay contains descriptions of sexual violence, self-harm/suicide, mental health, and substance abuse.

2012 (Freshman Year of Highschool)

Dear Dad,

I’ve discovered that I am better with the written word rather than the spoken one. Maybe that makes me a coward, to hide behind a sheet of paper, but it is easier for me to speak the truth like this. I know my candy and small gifts today will never make up for the other 364 days of effort you put into making me grow up into a good person. But I appreciate you. Everything you do is for us and we notice and we can not thank you enough, but sometimes too stubborn to show it. You are my rock for everything, from extreme breakdowns to just a bad day, you always are concerned about my well-being. You are the strongest person I know, even if you don’t think so. You push me to do my best because the amount of faith you put in people is inspiring. I remember sitting in the hospital, the anger I felt towards you was enormous. I thought you brought me to hell and you didn’t care about what was happening to me. But I was blinded at the time because whether I was mad or not, you saved my life. I can never thank you enough for that. Even though it’s Father’s Day, please read this when you miss me or you feel down because I want to be there for you as much as you are for me. I want to be your rock. You taught me to be strong and confident. You make my life mean something, I love you dad. 

Love Your Daughter, 

M

2013 (Sophmore Year of Highschool)

Dear Whoever Cares To Listen,

i do not want to write anymore. i dont want to talk about sad things anymore. but my life is simply made up of sad things so i’m not sure how to mask that anymore. i do not like to be sober, not for the thrill of a high or an excuse to make a drunkenly-sober thought speech. i like to be intoxicated mentally. to be full and overwhelmed, not empty. i don’t want emptiness. intoxication saves me from such. i don’t have to slump on sad things, i don’t have to ask questions i don’t want to know the answer to. i want to be happy, i want to be busy and not waste time pondering my own choices and others’ that have affected me. i don’t want to think about the abuse or the hardships or life curve balls. i am not an alcoholic or a junkie. i am just a weak human being trying to put on a strong front so i don’t upset the one’s who love me. i don’t want people to worry about me or think they have to protect me. i want to protect them and love them, not have all of our time on this earth wasted by correcting the uncorrectable. just leave me be, enjoy me. i want to make you happy, overlook my flaws, overlook my mistakes and enjoy me. i want to enjoy you. i need to enjoy someone or something, i need to pretend to be happy for a little while. i just wish it was for longer but i don’t deserve the “x” amount of time i desire. i just hope you don’t leave me without knowing this. this simple emotion that means the world to me, that all i’ve ever wanted was to make you proud. make you want to love me and show me off but you can’t do that. because i am not the person i am so built up to be. you have to hide me, i am your shame. i am my own shame. i don’t feel shame anymore though. i don’t feel anything for that matter. i feel the last drop of my drink, i feel the touch of a kiss from a boy who i know will only enjoy for an hour, i feel the smoke overwhelm my lungs, i feel tears roll down my face and i feel the knife race over my skin. but i do not feel love, i do not feel happiness, i do not feel sad and i do not feel regret. i feel numb. but i need this numbness, i wish i didn’t but i don’t see any other way. i am sorry. i want to be what you want but i am not. i am worthless to you and myself and others. so what now? just live on in radio silence emotion? live in numbness? is it even worth living? 

– M

2014 (Junior Year of Highschool)

Dear Dad,

Dad, out of everyone in my life I have taken you the most for granted. I constantly apologize and lie and apologize again and it’s not fair to you. You have never doubted me even at my lowest points, even when you were tired of cleaning up all the messes I had made you supported me the whole way. I can never thank you enough for the sacrifices you have made for me. I want a better relationship with you, and Mom too. I know I keep fucking up and making stupid mistakes. I’m not trying to blame it on the fact that it is just “teenage things”. But I’m young and hardheaded, but you already knew that. I do learn the lessons and I listen to every word you say and every shred of advice you give me, it’s just my own fault to be careless sometimes regardless of the consequences and I know that scares you and mom, my problem with consequences. Aside from being punished which is never fun, I truly don’t like consequences because I always just want to solve the problem right there and then and move on because I’m embarrassed for being so stupid and I always feel so bad. but unfortunately, I know you have to do the time if you are going to do the crime. I don’t know why I make these dumb decisions, they don’t mean anything to me, and they are never worth the punishment. Maybe it’s because I’m stubborn or a teenager or it’s in my genes or I’m just defiant, I don’t know. But I promise that every time disappoint you, every time I see how upset I make you in your eyes, it kills me. I want to make you proud not ashamed. I will change, I promise. Boarding school will really help me find myself and become a better person for myself and everyone around me. I don’t know who I am, but I know this is not who I want to be and I don’t want to go in the wrong direction just as much as you don’t want me to. I know you are looking out for me, and I’m sorry for pushing you away for that. All the small things you do for me like riding bikes in the morning or cooking breakfast for dinner or singing songs in the car as loud as we can, I love them all. It kills me to realize that I have never thanked you or even remotely treated you the way you deserve and I’m sorry for the past but all I can do now is appreciate all you do for me and let you know how much you mean to me. You are the one and only man I need in my life, I am such a daddy’s girl and all I’m saying is that I am going to try better to achieve the nice loving relationship I want to have with you. Because all you got is family, and you are the best family I could ever ask for.

Love Your Daughter,

M

2015 (Senior Year of Highschool)

Dear Daughter,

Please sign the contract I have prepared below ASAP. You must sign this if you want to go to college. 

Contract for Life:

I recognize that I will be faced with many difficult decisions. Throughout my college experience, I may encounter issues such as alcohol and drug use, HIV/AIDS, risky sexual behavior, date rape, impaired driving, abusive relationship, and many more challenges. By signing below, I have entered into a contract in which I agree that we will always attempt to choose the best option that considers my own well-being, health, and safety. In addition, I will help friends whom I see making destructive decisions find any assistance they need. When I find myself in a situation that makes me uncomfortable or that I feel unequipped to handle, I will discuss it with someone I trust. 

By signing below, I am acknowledging the terms of this contract are not negotiable and violation of the terms will result in loss of benefits and support provided by the family. 

_X______________________________________

From,

Dad

2016 (Freshman Year of College)

Dear Whoever Cares To Listen,

sometimes sorry isn’t enough and whats done is done. what do you do? you are so trapped and overwhelmed, you have no way out yet you desperately screech to take it back, a do over. No whats done is done. Is there a way to start over? to clean the dirtied waters? do i even have a chance anymore or is it over? even if it is over, what does that mean. what is over? you are leaving me? you are giving up on me? i won’t give up on myself, i know i am not this person. i know it. if i can change, will you stay? will it even matter if i change or is it too late? the water is already too dirty? okay, i understand. I can’t complain, it’s my fault. but whats done is done and i can’t give up just yet. I can’t just quit on myself. even if it doesn’t matter to them, it matters to me. i know i changed. i know i can do it, i can become the person they want me to be, i know it. i just don’t know what my first move should be. I’m trapped and overwhelmed and i don’t have that much fight left in me. not much at all.

-M

2020 (Senior Year of College)

Dear Dad,

I am so exhausted with writing you letters and you ignoring them and not changing; they not only take up my time and emotions, but truthfully I don’t think you have ever written me back, or even a letter at all. Over the past 6 or so months, I have written and rewritten this letter to you nearly a hundred times. Truthfully, I reached a point where I gave up and almost tried to forget it altogether. But I can’t and I won’t for many reasons, the main one being that I need to have an honest relationship with you, something we haven’t had in over a decade, something I want very badly in my life. I want, more than anything, to be close and have a good relationship with you, but there are a few issues between us that cause me to recoil and distrust you. 

When I called you on the phone genuinely worried someone had committed fraud on my credit card account when I noticed a $35,000 total sum reported as personal debt on my credit report.  I began to look into these loans and your emails over the years, and honestly, I became even more stressed out and confused - only one of the six loans was unsubsidized, so there is nearly 1,500 in interest already attached to the majority of the debt, which was not covered in the contract at all. I worked endlessly at night after work to figure out what was going on with MY finances, MY official debt, and MY credit score; and when I called you a week or two later to discuss it all, you said you had been too busy to even look at it.  I collected over 50 pages of bills, receipts, emails, and notes surrounding my own college debt as it racked up daily interest, and yes the pandemic put a hold on it, but what was your plan if it didn’t?

You manipulated and lied to me about everything involving my college experience. You utilized my ignorance and confusion surrounding college in general as a weapon of control over me for five years. You sabotaged my financial freedom, just so you could say “I told you so.”

Every time I read, or even think about what was said, in the “Contract for Life” I feel victim-blamed, shameful, misunderstood, and objectified. The contents of the “Contract for Life” tells me a lot about how you viewed me in the past, and the fact that you refuse to apologize for it in the present just tells me that your view hasn’t changed. I can’t tell if it makes me angrier than sad, or vice versa, but it does make me confused, self-doubtful, and feeling somewhat hopeless. It makes me feel like you blame me for everything that happened in high school.

I have come to terms with the fact that I cannot change you or influence you into becoming the man I need you to be, so I have to reach out and try again one last time, and if you do refuse to hear me out and change after this, then you will never see my face again. 

Your Daughter, 

M

2018 (Sophmore Year of College)

Dear Whoever Cares To Listen,

 It started off so innocently, I thought. I could’ve sworn I only had a couple shots. It was a random party in the neighborhood; teenagers were nearly pouring out of the house and onto the streets and the golf course, which made up her backyard. I ran into an old friend I used to work with at a summer camp; I was 14 years old so I couldn’t really get my hands on alcohol, or at least the good kind. So when he offered some rum and to sit with his friends I almost felt honored - he was two grades older than me. His friend was kinda cute and as we sat and drank the spirits on the carefully mowed grass, shortly after my memory began to slip. 

I was flailing around and I couldn’t control my body. My head started spinning, but I was confused because I had only had a few sips. We heard the cop sirens zoom down the street and pull up to the front of the house so people started to scatter, I don’t remember how I ended up laying down against a tree. He was on top of me, pinning my wrists against the sticks on the ground. He was kissing my neck and I was confused for a second. I didn’t even know who it was. My body was paralyzed under the weight of alcohol and his long body lay on top of me. I felt my pants being taken off, and I started to ask politely no no I’m a virgin, I don’t want to have sex. I remember him whispering in my ear it’s okay and not stopping. I tried to move my arms, but he was holding them down. I tried to thrash but he was too big. I tried to cry, but it wouldn’t come out. I started to scream, no no no stop, please. I could feel him inside of me, I wanted to puke. I don’t know how long it lasted. I began to remove myself from my body. I woke up in a hospital bed. My neighbor found me against a tree unconscious with my pants still off. He tried to carry me home, but the cops stopped us and they determined I was way too intoxicated to just go home. They brought me to the ER and gave me fluids and called my dad. I left my body again. I woke up in my room with a massive headache and a hospital wristband. I walked into my father’s room that morning after and began to weep and beg for forgiveness. I kept repeating  I’m sorry, I’m sorry. He thought I was apologizing for getting too drunk. I don’t know why I was seeking forgiveness, I had no control. I was the victim. But as years went by, I was the one begging God to help me, I was the one crying every night, and I was the one who had to move schools my senior year because I saw his face every fucking day in the hallway that year. I was the one who needed therapy, I was the one who tried to kill myself and ended up in a psych ward later that year. I was the one who couldn’t trust men, can’t trust men. I was the one that began to disrespect my body because it was all that I knew. He is the one with a girlfriend and a home and a nice dog and a car and a job. He is the one who doesn’t give me a second thought before bed. He is the one who doesn’t even know my name. 

-M

February 21, 2023 02:22

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1 comment

Kandi Zeller
01:41 Feb 26, 2023

What a powerful story! I loved the way you used letters as fragments to show the layers of this story. Well done!

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