Slightly Broken: Letters From The Past

OK, so I admit I’ve cracked open a bottle of beer in order to start writing this one (also related to eating a massively hot bowl of chillis and olives – this is how I prepare to blog?!) I’m not certain that’s a good start – it may not indicate that I’m ready to talk about this stuff. Ho hum.

So my last post was about me (it’s always about me) figuring out the timeline of stuff that happened to me, and the other events that were going around them. Mostly I’ve done that from odd diary entries, including an abortive diary from way back in 1991. Not all of it though. On Monday, at my counselling session I decided to take another one of my bold leaps forwards. These are not necessarily well-reaoned leaps. I get annoyed with my own reluctance to open up and to talk about things (I need new terms for ‘things’ and ‘stuff) and, especially when I feel I shouldn’t be wasting my counsellor’s time, I am prone to unthinkingly kicking open tins of worms.

I am one of those people who are unable to throw anything away. I think it’s pathological. In addition to my diaries, a million flyers and birthday cards and cinema tickets I’ve kept every letter I’ve ever received (no, not including bank statements or bills). So I’ve got birthday cards and letters from Ric during that year between him moving to Amsterdam and me going to visit (the temptation to add “fateful” or similar is strong, but I don’t want to turn this into a TV melodrama). Like everything else I’ve kept them tightly bundled up and enveloped, not wishing to accidentally expose myself to them. Well, that changed on Monday…

The letters are dated, obviously, so I thougt I might be able to add some bits into my timeline. However, I couldn’t figure out the post mark time stamp so I figured I may as well open them. In retrospect that just shows me how tense I was – never mind that I nearly cracked a tooth during the session, I apparently couldn’t work out the dd – mm (in Roman numerals) – yy system.

Honestly, I found them horrifying. They’re friendly, joking, encouraging – the sort of letter you’d hope to get to cheer you up. Funny, that’s really not how they make me feel now. Just the sight of his handwriting sent blades of pain through me. The typed letters are fractionally better, despite the old bubblejet printer feel, the italic habit is weird. But these are just distractions. Why I found them so hard to read – and I’ll be honest, I grabbed the dates from all of them (which allowed me to instantly not read the last letter – that’s definitely for a much later day) and just read the first two – I don’t know, this is hard to express.

Second try. The letters make me remember Ric as a friend. That’s what I wanted him to be – and found to be worthwhile. We all need friends. But he chose to ruin that (I think he’d always planned to); if it weren’t for whatever the fuck is wrong with these people we could still be friends – I could always have used an extra uncle or mentor. But I know what happened, both before and after these letters. I received them during a year of peace, in which Ric was out of the country and I was untouched.

Re-reading the letters, I’m vividly cast back to the mental states that I experienced as a teenager – torn between admiration and affection for this really interesting man who treated me like an adult (yeah, that ought to be a massive red light right there) and the discomfort, pain and fear for this man who abused me despite that, who dismissed the trust that I placed in him, made me lie for him, trapped me and fucked up my head for 20 years. I suppose it’s a kind of cognitive dissonance or optical illusion – when I read the letters my mind is popping back and forth between affection (and the most fucked up thoughts follow – maybe I was in the wrong, I really blew that out of proportion – this is clearly just a feller who’s gotten confused about the boundaries…) and then immediately to memory of what really happened. It felt fucking awful. That’s when I nearly cracked a tooth clenching my jaw so tight. I need to chew gum in future.

I felt incredibly disoriented, nauseous and angry; that’s a confusing combination I can tell you. But it’s interesting too. Reading them now I can see that the tone of the letters is waaaaaay too familiar – they’re like something I might say to a friend of the same age, maybe. They’re also signed off with “love” which almost made me vomit. I might post one of them up here, just for context. The thing is, and it still gets me now – they’re nice letters. That’s where the dissonance arises. It kicks back in when I realise I’m sitting in a counsellor’s office forcing myself to read through this shit that puts pain in my body and mind; then it flips again.

It is precisely like being groomed to begin with, neatly encapsulated in letter form.

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