Dear K

In response to https://kaitmauro.com/dearbrittney/2019/12/13/letter-no-4

Dear K

An ocean apart and I can feel your pain as if it were my own. The feelings you describe are too familiar, too close to home. Yes, I do talk to my dad – every day, sometimes in my head, sometimes aloud. He talks to me too. Sometimes I hear him saying, “Alright precious?” and I feel him squeeze my hand. Not in any kind of psychotic/delusional/hallucinatory way: it’s just an occasional fleeting moment of pure goodness and love. When I talk to him I find myself apologising a lot. “Sorry Dad, I’m so sorry.” I am apologising for lots of things, too many to list here. Mainly, I’m sorry for being a mess, I’m sorry for doing drugs, I’m sorry I didn’t protect you, I’m sorry I phoned an ambulance and put you in the hospital. But he always says, “It’s alright, princess, I forgive you.” He always forgives me.

Dear K

I don’t know if it’s a “thing” in America to make a wish whenever you see the clock read 11:11. It’s totally stupid, of course it is, but just one those superstitions that was ingrained in me since school. For years my wish at 11:11 was always “Don’t let Dad die.” Still, when I notice that it’s 11:11 I automatically wish for my father. But instead of wishing that he doesn’t die, nowadays my wish is just “Dad.” 11:11 = Dad. Always has been, always will be. What am I wishing for? That he’s safe and happy and not in pain, that he’s proud of me, that I’ll see him again.

Dear K

When people told me “it does get easier,” I didn’t believe them. I am here to tell you that they are right. It does. You miss them every day but somehow you continue living without them. Which seems awful and criminal and impossible at first. But in the future you will wear one of his old jumpers and listen to his favourite song and raise a glass to him without crying: you will do it with a smile. I promise you. I promise. But for now: grieve like you’ve never grieved before.

Dear K

I asked my boyfriend to buy me Little Weirds for Christmas. I’ve been struggling with it: the writing seems almost manic to me, like every page has a nervous energy that, in turn, makes me really nervous. Some of the long sentences aren’t too dissimilar to things I have written before, which is perhaps why I criticise it. The next book on my list is In The Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado. You should read Her Body And Other Parties by Machado if you haven’t already. I think you’d really love it.

Dear K

When my Dad died, my brother and I found a diary of his. I think it was 2007, the year he moved out, when I was angry at him for leaving us, for leaving us with mother. We flicked through the pages. On some days he had written “T 3.5 hrs” or “T 5 hrs” or “H 20 mins.” Unbeknownst to us, he had been keeping note of how often my brother (T) and I had visited him and how much time we’d spent with him. My brother was there a lot that year. I wasn’t. T spent hours with him every week where I popped in for 10 minutes to ask for money for vodka. The diary was a shock. I cried so hard. The guilt. The shame. I know I more than made up for it in all of the other years (in fact, as I became closer to my Dad, my brother distanced himself from him for a while, but Dad had stopped making notes by then) but it hurt so much to know that seeing his children meant so much to him and I was too much of a stroppy teenager to bother. All those precious hours that we can never get back. Or in my case, minutes. Time is all we have until, one day, we don’t.

Dear K

I wonder what it is like to be a wife. When asked, I always say that marriage is “just a piece of paper and a party” but that’s not what I think, not at all, that’s just the flippant remark that girls like me are meant to give. Marriage is confusing to me. Is it everything or is it ultimately nothing? What does it mean to you? You talk about feeling alone, which worries me, and also counters what I’ve always believed marriage to be: never being alone. I hope that you are not isolating yourself out of choice–we both know how dangerous it can be to live exclusively in one’s head, although what you describe (being alone in a city with no friends and lots of time to oneself) is my dream, is exactly what I want in life right now. I just want to be left alone.

Dear K

It’s difficult that my Dad lives in a cemetery so far away. I’d visit all the time if I could. I worry about his grave being untended and people assuming that no one cares about him. I guess that you don’t have a grave to visit that’s nearby either. But I have a photo of my Dad by my desk and I wear his t-shirts and read his books and talk about him all the time so it’s sort of like he’s here in north London. Perhaps you could buy a new plant (something that’s impossible to fuck up even if life forces you neglect it, like a cactus) for him and look after it and tend to it and it can be your little tribute to him that you can see every day. (This idea sounded far more magical in my head than it does on paper, but I think you will know what I mean).

Dear K

It is 2020. I feel strangely optimistic. I have quit drinking for Dry January and I am scared and sad but also excited. My Dad would be proud of me for doing this. I am proud of me for doing this. I’ve been obsessing about all of the people around the world who start a new diary on January 1st and vow to write something every day, a page a day or just a sentence a day, and they have these perfect new notebooks and they write on the 1st and 2nd and 3rd, maybe keep it up for a week or a few months and then one day they don’t write anything because they forgot or they were busy or they didn’t feel like it or they had nothing to say, and then the spell is broken. The diary that began with hope and purpose and good intentions is cast aside, tucked into a drawer somewhere, abandoned, forgotten. The days go unfilled, the life goes unrecorded. All those blank pages. What happens to these cast-off diaries? It seems illegal to throw a diary in the bin. I guess they just hide in people’s houses, accumulating dust instead of words. I would love to gather all of these abandoned diaries and display them in an exhibition. Imagine: all of those grand intentions laid out in ink, all those discarded dreams, all of the promise that January 1st holds for so many people, all collected in one big room. It would be magic.

Dear K

Next month you are seeing a therapist and I am so pleased for you. I hope that you get everything you need out of your sessions. You deserve peace. Your resolutions sound much like my own: we must take better care of ourselves and keep creating. We must write our hearts out until we run out of words, then make up new words if we have to. Your manuscript sounds like “a living autobiography” to borrow a term from Deborah Levy. Life keeps on happening: let it, and then write about it. Do not worry about endings or deadlines or other self-imposed finalities. You have time. So do I. We have time to do, to achieve, to live, to love, to be better: we just have to choose to have time. Choose time with me?

With love from across the pond,

H xx

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