Can I call you Jim? It’s been so long since I’ve called you anything at all that I’m not sure how to address you now. You have had so many other names, so many other faces. I guess it doesn’t matter what you look like, or what I call you since I don’t even have an address to send this letter.
I am writing because I just can’t help but think of you, and it surprises me to find you here in my head. You are supposed to play a big role in this day. I’m supposed to want you here.
Your absence will be jarring to some of those in attendance. They will note that I am without a chaperon to escort me on this well-worn path. They will say it’s a shame - she grew up without. It’s a shame - she doesn’t have someone now. They expect a man who loved me to lead me into the arms of a man who promises to love me forevermore.
The details of the day are committed. The tables and chairs have been arranged on the rooftop terrace. They sit waiting for us to feast and celebrate, above the city and under the stars. I will be on his arm. I will wear a white dress and a smile. I will be watched by all who love me and some who will learn to.
I will take a new name again.
If my mother had walked away after making love to you that night near Stanley Park, would I have had a different name? Would I have been a different girl?
I took a new name in high school - just walked in and introduced myself as someone else. I left you behind. I was not going to be defined by your actions anymore. You were a past better forgotten, and I was ready to start fighting for myself. I needed a new name to match my new strength. A new name and a new voice - I was done with choking on my tongue, done with whispers and secrets.
I would let them say what they needed to say, but their words wouldn’t touch me anymore. They toss around sterile adjectives used to categorize, to give them some ownership over my life. They sit in their voyeurs’ castles and know that they have done well. They have labelled me appropriately. Let them stroke their own genius ego; I wasn’t going to define myself by the slippery touch of their saliva slick fingertips. They can keep their fickle praise and condemnations and apply their literary interests to a new sad story.
I was finished with being their survivor.
I wait to enter the room and walk through their collective gaze - alone. I try not to think of you. Instead I want to imagine her – the woman I will become once I reach the end of the aisle. She is a wife and mother. She is careful and kind. She will build a good life - the sort of life your influence had denied her so long ago. She will be ready to face you and then to let you go. She doesn’t deny that you were, and she knows your hands helped to shape her. The blunt force of you left its marks and they are now her marks.
I try not to think of your absence – after all this time I shouldn’t mind. I try not to think of the kind of girl I would be had I grown up with you. A ghost of a girl, a blindly swollen shape like the white asparagus we will serve to our guests tonight, pale and bloated, grown in the dark. Instead, I try to remember that the best thing you ever gave me was that absence. You left, and green came back into my life, thick and sweet and full of hope. You let me go, you let me grow and blossom away from your greedy hands.
If I saw you now would I know any part of you? Would you know me?
I have the same freckle on the corner of my mouth that I had back then. I have decided it is pretty. I know my bad back comes from you, and my fidgety nature. I know you also left me the nightmares that return every August, cutting my summer short. My eyes are the same green as the toddler you knew – almost yellow. Would you see yourself in them?
I will walk alone down the aisle.
I will stand tall while I do. I know that I am better able to give myself away than you ever were. I never belonged to you at all.
Someone once loved.
Written by: Sarah Scott
Photograph by: Sophie Stuart