I’m writing this with rain hitting the window and it reminds me of that night we got trapped in your dad’s Tahoe with the dead battery on Westlake. Do you remember? We just sat there and listened to the drops pounding against the roof, holding hands, scared of our approaching curfews and mudslides and lightning and whatever. I think about that night sometimes, the part before we moved to the back seat, and I miss that sound.
I miss a lot of things about us. I miss not fighting over R████. I miss going out and doing things. I miss everything being us against the world instead of us against us. For a long time I swore the brighter days were just around the corner. Every relationship has rough patches, okay? This was ours. If we were meant for each other the way you always say, we’d probably have a lot of rough patches over time, you know? So this was one.
How do you tell when a patch becomes a pattern? How much time do you give someone to change, or to find their way back to you? I’d set these little deadlines, like secret tests. Like, “by the end of the week we have to have one day without fighting.” Or, “we have to kiss at the beginning and at the end of lunch two days in a row.” Each test we failed I’d totally blame myself at first and then blame you too. Eventually, I don’t know, I guess I kind of felt like it wasn’t you and it wasn’t me it was just us. You know, like… Us. We couldn’t make it through a movie without, whatever. Being crappy to each other over popcorn or something.
Anyway, I don’t want to over-analyze. I’m breaking up. I need you to understand something important here, because I’m not breaking up with you, I’m breaking up for us. I still love you. I don’t know how to stop loving you and that’s why I’ve been trying to find a sign or a reason or a test to pass that tells me we can make it. There’s just nothing there.
I know you think I’m the serious one and you’re going to think this is about you being immature again. It’s not. It’s just about what I said above, how part of Us (Us-with-a-capital-U-Us) has been missing for a while and we’re in love but… we’re miserable. We’re making each other miserable with our love. And I can’t anymore. I can’t be a part of your misery. I can’t be a part of my misery.
The hardest part of this has been thinking of your reaction. You’ve known something was wrong for a couple of days now, and that’s probably because I’ve had in my mind that this needs to happen since Sunday. Don’t overanalyze. R████’s party wasn’t like the last straw or anything. I was actually going to tell you there, but I started thinking about what you’d say and what you’d do and I chickened out. But I’ve had some time to think about it, and I’m pretty sure I know now how this will go.
You will come to my house today after practice like always.
You will steal one of my mom’s beers and ask if I want one, which I will decline. She counts them. She knows when they’re gone. I always take the blame and I don’t drink one so she’ll think it’s just me and never you.
I’ll tell you we have to talk and I’ll say that you need to read this letter first so you can see my thoughts organized before we talk about it. I will mean to say “fight about it,” but change my mind at the last minute.
We will fight about it.
You’ll read the letter up until the fourth paragraph and then you’ll put down the pages and ask if this is a joke. I’ll assure you it isn’t.
You will get angry and accuse me of cheating.
You’ll bring up R████ again for the millionth time. I’ll bite back the true pain, the rancid betrayal of your accusations again, for nearly the last time because I know. I know what happened between you two at Billy D██████’s birthday thing. I know and I’ll let you continue to lie to yourself and project your guilt onto me.
I will ask you to read the rest of the letter, but you won’t.
You’ll take another one of my mom’s beers out of spite and I’ll have to steal a third and drink enough of it after you leave to have the smell on my breath so she believes I took them all.
You’ll say you can change.
You’ll say things will be different.
You’ll say you can’t live without me.
You’ll cry and my heart will break again and again.
I will be tempted to take it back.
I will realize I can’t take it back—not ever. It will become clear that even if we decide to try again later on, if we get back together at some point (although, we won’t), I would always be the one who broke up with you that one time. I will always be the one who broke your heart, even though mine is broken, too.
Furiously you will shift and wipe your eyes and storm out screaming hateful, vile things to me you will one day regret having said to your high school sweetheart. By then it will be far too late and the awkwardness between us will never allow you to apologize. I will die hoping you didn’t mean them but never being completely sure.
You will stand in the rain at the bus stop, even though there is an overhang. It will feel better that way.
On the bus, you will collapse onto the seat at the very back with your bookbag on your lap and think how much you hate the world. You will hate the bus. You will hate the rain. You will hate your dad for taking your license. You will hate me most of all.
The trip will be long. It’s always long but today it will be interminable with the traffic and the weather. It will start to get dark and you’ll take this letter out of your pocket and read it, squinting in the dim light.
You will be amazed at my foresight.
You will squirm uncomfortably at my near-psychic ability.
You will hate me even more.
You will laugh at every minor detail I got just a little wrong.
Finishing the letter, you will feel a sharp pang of indignation. You’ll suppress the urge to say out loud, “No I won’t!”
Then you will start to realize I’m giving you tacit permission to be with R████. You’ll understand that it will ruin the three of us forever. You’ll alternate between thinking I deserve it and thinking you can’t do it to me, as furious as you are right now.
You’ll sleep with R████ in less than a week.
In a year and two months you will graduate, having not spoken to me for a long time.
Three months after that, you will be in college and I will be here, building my savings to try and be no more than a year or two behind in starting my own quest for a degree.
About a month into college, you’ll think of me and realize I hadn’t crossed your mind in quite some time.
By the end of Freshman year, you’ll have trouble remembering my face. Though, when you do, you will find there are still feelings there. They will be dull and confused, but they will linger. You will have someone new—not R████—and you will tell them about me and you will swear you are completely over me. It will be mostly true, but only mostly.
You won’t care forever. At some point, maybe by the end of college, maybe a few years after that, you’ll realize if you met me on the street you’d be indifferent about me. Your only fear would be that I might show interest, that I might hint around about starting things up again. You’ll worry how you would handle that situation. But you won’t lose any sleep over it.
You’ll think those things and then you’ll remember that I predicted it all and you’ll laugh to yourself a little. For a moment you’ll consider calling me and telling me, “Hey, you remember that letter? Want to hear something crazy? It was all true. You nailed it. You got it all right. Isn’t that funny?”
But you won’t call.
You’ll consider it, and you’ll consider it for a long time. In the end you’ll decide to just let it drop.
It will be one last thing I was right about.
The only thing I won’t be right about is this: you’ll throw this letter away someday.
Sometimes a story just sort of demands to make itself known. I wrote this very quickly (for me), in something like forty minutes last night. It’s another of my dad’s writing prompts, this one being, “A teen-aged boy flops himself into a seat on a bus and sits sullenly.” I knew I wanted to do two things here: one, I wanted the prompt scene to be the pivot point for the narrative; and two, I wanted to write something in second-person future tense. I don’t know why, it just seemed different and fun.
The decision to black out the character’s names (which might have worked better if I had hand-printed the letter, weathered it, and scanned it as I briefly considered) was a last-minute one. My initial draft contains the actual names. I did this because I liked the idea of keeping the genders of all the main characters ambiguous. Of course, if you read the prompt above you can infer what T’s gender is. Also I should note that his name began with an “S” in the original but blacking it out made it look like a censored curse word which I didn’t want to imply.
As a story, I’m pretty happy with this. It’s still a bit longer than I intended it to be and I think it takes a little bit too long to get to the predictions which I think is the best part, but it’s not bad. As an example of the prompt it’s maybe stretching a bit, especially with the obfuscated genders, but that’s okay. It’s not like I’m actually in my dad’s class here.
An extremely creative approach to the topic. Very cool.