In regard to a MySpace message I received on a Thursday morning when I was 13
I typed your name in Google and found that you were whole and well. At least, that’s how you seemed on my computer screen. I was happy to see your face glowing—I wasn’t sure how I’d feel when I saw you—but the shadow of doubt lifted when I clicked the link and saw your smile. It’s been a long time, and that time will go on because, well, you don’t know about me looking you up.
I looked you up because I’ve been trying to unravel this mess of a thing in my heart and head, and there’s a pretty serious knot tangled all around you. It’s not about you anymore, like I said, because I forgave you a way-long time ago. Thirteen years! Has it really been? Since the forgiving. We were never what people call “friends” again, but like good friends do, I solemnly swear there’s no hard feelings.
But you’re all wrapped up in it still, and somehow I’ve got to detach you from all the lost strands and crooked ends. I’ve got to untie you from this hold so that I can wrestle with all the rest of it.
I know that you must have been afraid back then. God knows I was too. The Library was probably your only respite, and I got to keep it… so I know what you ended up missing. It’s a good thing they took you out of school because the talk was kind of hectic for a while. I didn’t tell anyone (who would?), but the boy whose profile you used… Well, I don’t blame him for defending himself when he got called to the Principal’s office. Good kid like him, I bet he was scared sick about what people would think if (when) they found out—he put his hands right up the moment he spotted me in the main hall and called out, “Kailey! I’m so sorry—I didn’t—It wasn’t – you’re okay?” His class’ line was too far past mine, but I nodded vigorously and told him it was fine, I know, it’s okay, it’s fine.
I can’t know what you were thinking in 2007 when all of this happened. I wonder whom you’ve told, if anyone, about the murder message. Do you fear, like I think so many men do, that someone will find out, that it’ll ruin you? I hope not. I honestly hope you talked it through, and it sorta seems like you have—dude, you’re in full drag!
I hope it’s clear that I don’t mean to cause you fear, but the truth is I need to tackle my own. I don’t mean to give rise to skeletons, but that’s the thing, there are a few whose bones are rattling in the attic space of my brain where I hid them away, and which need consulting. Specifically, a 13-year old me, kneeling behind the paperbacks in T-Z.
It was February, and you had just asked me to the first seventh grade dance of the semester. I declined. I was already going with—well, you know. It was only a few minutes into sixth period, so the time we had to kill was…tense. I mean, it had been awkward for a while at that point. You wrote me a note and asked me to be your girlfriend at some point during first semester. I remember I wrote back, “No. Sorry,” and added a frowny face. I remember telling my best friend that you liked me and she squeaked, “Are you serious?” with her face all scrunched up. She told me I shouldn’t have said sorry for saying no, and she was right. I won’t get stuck on it because I have been cruising your feed, and it seems like you’re really vibing with the idea of gender equality nowadays.
But those weeks built pressure until you ultimately asked me out again, which made me mad, and I think it showed because I hurried through alphabetizing the paperback cart and wheeled it behind the bookshelf with my head down. And that’s the moment I always go back to—ducking behind the bookshelf in T-Z because you shot me with the discharge gun.
Got my laser
Shield your eyes!
I’d been seeing red, but I’ve seen it through to the end—the whole rainbow, isn’t it stunning? I don’t know what was happening inside your head that made you want to murder me—or maybe it wasn’t really ever that at all. Maybe you just wanted to say something that hurt like you were hurting. We were just kids. I heard someone say recently that seventh graders don’t care about you (the adult in the room), and that really threw me back to that time in our lives, when all we wanted was our peers to accept us, to think we were cool, or cute, or whatever.
I’d never been called a whore before. I’d never even kissed someone, never even held a hand except for my family members’ during circle prayer. I wore high-waters and Sketchers right up until the next year, when one of my friends told me they weren’t cool anymore. I’d never been called a bitch, and that one bit because I was bullied in middle school too, so I knew how much it mattered to be nice to everyone. I’d definitely never had anyone threaten to shoot me, and that piece is what played over and over in my head, the whole scene, kidnapped off the bus, dragged into a field, shot right in the face. I read a lot of books—I was used to seeing things in my mind. I remember being afraid to tell boys I didn’t have any interest after they expressed theirs in me, after that. I was careful about how close I would get as friends because I didn’t want there to be any confusion. Even though I always clicked with boys, I ended up hanging out with mostly only girls instead.
And they were good girls—good girls in the sense that they were just the friends I needed. Supportive, silly, sure of themselves, and sure of me even when I wasn’t. I hope they treated you nice, wherever you went. I hope they treated you nice when you got back—I never really asked since we only ever had that one class together, one where we were expected to only speak with our hands and eyes, at that. I’m sorry I avoided your gaze sometimes. I hope you know I won’t avoid you if I ever see you again, in real life, not just online. I hope you’re happy and healthy and hopeful about our future. I hope you hold onto your Pride. I’m glad to see that we share it.
Call this a thread of thought, untangled from the knot, unraveled. I put it away for someday when I was ready to pull through all the cables and lost loops. I didn’t want to tear it to shreds and leave the ends all mangled. I wanted to turn that story into something that brings me joy instead of fear. I’m not afraid. I see this new you from a hindsight view. Don’t shield your eyes—new looks good on you.
by Kailey Ann