My grandfather always said, ‘The true storyteller listens.’ That’s why he taught me to read. But books are obsolete these days, and so a letter I write you. During hard times, reading helped me escape. My grandfather wrote his first book in prison, and for unknown reasons, I have never read it. I grew up listening to his fantastic stories. I suppose now it’s my turn for a story.
‘Grab on to your underwear because you’re going to hear a good story.’
‘Start from the beginning,’ a stranger said to me in front of Ben Franklin Arts and Crafts. She saw me sobbing and walked up and hugged me. And so I began with Franklin. It’s odd how coincidental some lives are, or perhaps it’s because I pay attention. I didn’t get far before the police came. Her name was Mona. It was years before she hugged me again.
With my bags and a brain distraught, I had no idea what had just happened but I knew it must have had something to do with my recent diagnosis. I called six friends and nothing. Perhaps it was a time of asking too much of loved ones and learning independence. I asked a man to drive me downtown to the bus terminal. ‘I would but I’m with my daughter. You should call the police.’
One of the friends who couldn’t help, said to me the next day, ‘You really shouldn’t have called the police because it wasn’t an emergency… You have no one to blame but yourself for yesterday.’ I didn’t show him the marks. After that, I realised a true friend finds a car when you say you’re in trouble. We never spoke again.
Very dear friends of ten years had just called me a whore, fucking bitch and the worst, plagiarist, then gave me $40 and dropped me off in the city. The blow up started an hour before. I was called a whore the day before. ‘I didn’t call you a whore. I said, “Don’t fall in love with him because he’ll reject you and he might think you’re a whore”… he’s so handsome.’
The next day, the husband, a man I looked up to like a daughter, started yelling about Pablo Escobar after I said I wanted to show them a photo of Medellin. I thought it was a joke at first. Then I realised he was actually angry with me! When I wouldn’t stop asking what I did, he screamed a threat. Triggered by a memory long forgotten, I lost it. I have never punched someone as hard and as much as I punched him. As I hit him, ‘Man up! Hit me!’ spilled from my mouth. He said he would do something my own father had done when I was a child. But I was an adult and this father figure did more than drag me by my hair out of the house.
After leaving me, they called my father and said I tried to ‘fuck’ their friend, kicked their car door in, and physically assaulted the wife. And was doing drugs. That was the only truth they spoke. I was smoking from their pot plant and taking an anticonvulsant. And I certainly didn’t try to fuck that friend of theirs but he did come on to me and we kissed when everyone went to bed.
After the incident, I asked a new friend, ‘Why does it have to end so badly?’
Without hesitation, ‘Because it wouldn’t be over otherwise.’
‘How do you know all this?’
It was surprising that I would become so dependent on a dying canine for those days when no human in my life could understand what I was going through. Perhaps life was telling me while people are good at heart, they’re capable of terrible things, especially those you love and love you. That no one is perfect. That we cannot separate pleasure from pain. And that just when your faith in humanity is shaken to its core, a stranger reminds you that it’s all right, and that you’re neither alone nor giving up.
If you have ever been so sad your soul hurts, if you had ever felt so much you thought you would burst, if you have ever made mistakes or hurt others that changed your life, then this story is for you. We humans have but one story, one song, one poem, one painting, one letter. This is mine, perhaps yours as well.