Something to Say
My fingers were poised over the keyboard like children at the very last point in the shallow end, not quite ready to launch out into the deep. They extended and retracted, the process repeating as resolution wrestled with fear. Extend, retract. Extend, retract.
People say writing comes more easily when you have something to say. As I stared at the blank screen before me, I was increasingly convinced that it wasn't true.
I couldn't do it.
I leaned back in my chair, wondering why I was doing this to myself. It would be so much easier to give up, and just let things continue as they were. The thought was tempting, but, reluctantly, I pushed it aside. I had to write the letter.
The blank screen stared up at me, taunting me with its impatient cursor. At last, I forced my reluctant fingers to descend. I began. I wrote his name, considered it, then tapped the backspace key until it disappeared. "Dear" was no better, and was rejected, along with "Hi", "Hey dude" and "Hello."
Settling at last on a neutral "Hey," I overcame the hurdle of the salutation. Now I was faced with the prospect of actually writing the letter. I hesitated. Fear, dangerously disguised as common sense, almost got the better of me. Once more, I contemplated giving up, closing the tab and walking away. But the tab stayed open, and I returned my attention to the task ahead.
Almost holding my breath, I began to type, comforting myself with the knowledge that I still had time to change my mind. The joy of modern technology. I wrote fast, giving as little thought as possible to what I was writing, knowing that if I stopped, I'd never start again. When at last I finished, I sat back, surveying the block of text with trepidation.
"Oh, this is awful," I muttered to myself, covering my eyes with my hand as if the action could block out what I had just written.
I just wanted to tell you that I care about you. I mean, you sort of already know, but I felt it was something I needed to say. I don't know how you feel about me, and you don't have to tell me if you don't want to. I just wanted to tell you how I felt.
I sighed. It was way further from eloquent that I'd hoped. I couldn't send this. I leaned back, looking up at the ceiling for inspiration. It was spectacularly unhelpful. The realisation of what I was doing hit me again. It was absurd. We had known each other for so many years; it was bizarre that I should end up here, writing these words.
I cringed as I remembered everything that had happened between us, trying to convince myself that I had not told him I'd never go out with him in a million years. It had been a joke, but the sentiment behind it had been genuine. Yet, somehow, things had changed. I had hurt him in the past – and badly. I wrestled with self-recrimination. I had never meant to hurt him. He had loved me, once, but I didn't even know how he felt about me any more. It had been many years since the last time he had told me he loved me. The last time I'd rejected him.
I castigated my past self for her certainty. I had been so sure that my feelings would never change, so confident that we'd never change. I'd been wrong on both counts.
I loved him.
It felt strange to admit it, even to myself. I returned my attention to the letter, the uncontrollable shake in my hands a reminder of my vulnerability. What if he laughed at me? He'd have every right to, I supposed, after all the times I'd turned him down. My stomach twisted at the thought. But it was a risk I had to take.
I remembered the letter he'd written me, three years ago, before he had left for England.
I've never met a girl I've loved more hopelessly yet unreservedly as you.
Hopelessly yet unreservedly. It saddened me to remember it now. He had loved so hopelessly for so long, and I had broken his heart. Perhaps now it was my turn. The three years since he had left had been more than long enough for affection to die. I wondered whether it had.
I thought back to the last time I'd seen him, three months ago. Four years of friendship, and it was only then that I'd realised the depth of my feelings for him. I had spent the past three months agonising over how I felt, sure that it would pass, so convinced that it was nothing more than an infatuation.
It seemed I'd been wrong.
I'd counselled myself against it, sternly reminding myself of all the reasons why he should be the last person any sensible girl would fall in love with. Nevertheless, three months later, there I was, staring at the blinking cursor, mocked by my own painfully inadequate attempt to express my feelings.
Without thinking, I smacked my palm against the desk, a familiar reaction to self-directed anger. The sting was comforting, and I savoured it. Idly, I ran a finger over the scars on my thighs. He had been the first to see those, when they were only a few months old. I remembered sitting on my bed, trying to explain to him what he could never understand.
"I did that," I'd said, indicating one of the fat, red scars. "And that. And that."
The words were stupid, repetitive. But he could not understand, and so I had to show him, revealing my madness one line at a time. And he had put his arms around me and tried to make sense of it all, but he had never been able to.
Our relationship seemed to have been characterised by my scars, I thought, remembering the last time I had seen him. He had run his fingers over the scars on my arms, and – I cut myself off from that line of thought. It was painful to remember. It was then that I had realised that I loved him. It was too much to hope that he had come to the same conclusion about me; not after all this time. Not after everything I had done.
I exhaled sharply, trying to focus. My fingers tentatively returned to the keyboard. What more was there to say?
Maybe you'll laugh at me. I understand if you do.
It was true. I would understand. My guilt at everything that had happened between us almost made me think I deserved it. But I did not have the time for self-pity. Trying not to think about how it would hurt if he did laugh at me, I carried on typing.
I just thought you should know.
I stared at the letter, an ineffective punctuation mark to four years of friendship.
I love you.
I'd typed it without thinking. The words confronted me, inescapably black on white. My finger hovered over the backspace key for a moment, then quickly tapped until the words disappeared. There were some things I was not yet willing to say.
I skimmed over the letter again, hating it more with every inarticulate line. This was crazy. I couldn't believe I was doing it. My heart rate suggested that I had just run a marathon, and my hands were shaking. But I was decided. The letter had to be sent.
In a small act of daring, I signed the letter with "Love", containing in that single word the secret I was not willing to tell. I read over the letter one more time. It was far from what I wanted it to be. My usual skill with words danced, out of reach, just the other side of what I had to say. There was no more I could do.
I considered leaving it for a day and coming back to it, crafting into a shape more worthy of such an important message, but I put the thought aside. A day would be more than enough time for my self-preservation instinct to kick in and prompt me to delete the letter for the sake of my pride. It needed to be sent.
Biting my lip, I positioned the cursor over the "send" button. For a few seconds that seemed to stretch endlessly, I paused, the last moment before submerging a fresh graze in water, fingernails dug into the skin in the vain hope of avoiding the inevitable sting. I brought my fists to my mouth, breathing fast. Then, with a movement too quick for me to stop myself, I reached out and tapped the left mouse button. My world seemed to balance on that split second, that infinitesimal moment that would change everything, as I faced that terrifying, irreversible "message sent."
A/N: Written for the November WCC over at the Review Game forum. The prompt was "Writing comes more easily when you have something to say." (Sholem Asch). Please read, review and vote!