Dead Men Tell No Tales: Utah: Not the Greatest Time In My Life (Unsent Letter)

To L –

I don’t know that you’ll ever get this, but I’m writing it anyway. I’ve always been a bit shut-in…normally a thing like this wouldn’t even get written, it’d just stay locked away eternally in my head. I’m really rather terrible at expressing myself – a learned habit, I’ll tell you – but there’s always been something about you that invited confession.
So I’ll start by confessing that…well, there are lots of things to confess, now that I get right down to it! Perhaps, most succinctly, I should tell you I’m a coward. This has many meanings. Primarily, I could never tell Sara how I felt – not in person, and not even in a written letter. So many times I’ve thought that I was over her – like after I saw her the last time. But the night before I left, I was talking to my friend Mark about her, and suddenly I couldn’t stop crying. Pathetic, I know – hardly the stoic John everyone knows, expects, and loves. Or half-loves. Mark had no idea – that’s the magic of the written word and the internet.
In so many ways, all I’ve done by coming here is run away. No one knows me here. I don’t have to face the relationships I’ve ruined, the people I’ve hurt, the dreams I’ll never have, the mother I’ll never love, the step-dads that’ll never fix it, the people that’ll never be my friends. I don’t have to face the guilt for the mistakes I’ve made.
All I ever wanted was to touch someone in such a way that they’d never forget me – always think well of me, even if they only knew me for but a short time. But somewhere along the way, I became lost…cynical, jaded, untrusting…I couldn’t help anyone. No one helped me. Was that how life should be lived?
I thought I had found God again, once. As a child, I prayed each and every night, read my bible diligently, and I was even baptized. I invited Jesus into my heart and I thought everything would be okay. Like m brother, I found no peace. My dad and I were in a car wreck on our way to church – the other people died, I think. A year or two later my parents split up (ultimately divorcing, with my dad moving to California) and my brother began to “medicate” himself with hard alcohol and drugs. He would attempt suicide. I would lose many close friends, my dad, and for a time, my brother. I lost God.
I was completely alone, save for Sara.
Years later, sometime before, during, or after 9th grade, I went to a church youth group for a period. I thought I’d found God again, but my most important virtue is honesty. I can’t lie very well. I can hide things, be secretive…but lying is tough and toxic. I can’t lie to myself and say I believe in God when I don’t. I wish I did. I wish I could feel His love. Who am I kidding? I’d take anyone’s love. All the love I’ve ever received (and it hasn’t been much) has been completely conditional. Even when I tried to love others unconditionally – like Haley…
I am a bad friend. I’ve only had three friendships last beyond three years, and only one of those friendships – the one I share with my brother – is still viable. Why am I so terrible? Why can’t I love, and in turn, be loved?
Everyone thinks I turned out fine, because I’m so “smart” and because of things like Student of the Quarter/Semester and Saint John’s. Yet every time I open up to someone, they turn their back on me and abandon me. I bet you would…will?…too. It’s just what happens. I can’t even open up to my brother…
Sorry if this letter hasn’t been too uplifting. My last year in Bellingham, I really did try to be a nicer person. But I still haven’t healed from my breakup – my trust was so completely abused, I have trouble trusting even my brother. I had trust issues before anyway, and now…and the thing I don’t get is, I loved her so much and treated her the best I knew how to treat another human. Now I feel nothing for her. There’s just a big emptiness. We broke up on September 9th, a day before my birthday. It’s been almost a year and I’m still a failure, trying to pick up the broken pieces of my heart.
I wish I had someone to talk to. I expected to be lonely here in Utah, but it’s even lonelier than I thought. Nate’s family does not like me much – despite best efforts – and he (understandably) does not have much time for me. Worse still…I have to move out on my own soon. I have no way to meet new people, and even if I did, all the easy ice-breakers are gone…I like weird music, odd movies, I’m not Mormon, not exactly conservative, and I’ve never been stunningly handsome.
I’m a little boy in a big city with no aim and few friends. I have no confidants – no emotional support – and no love to fall back on. Yet, I will pull through. I always do. It’s just, sometimes, I wonder…why do I bother? What’s at the end of all this agony and struggle?
I want simple things, I think. I don’t want to be rich. I just want someone to love. If they love me, great. That’s all I need to be happy.
Truth is, I’ve always cared about other people far more than I’ve cared about myself. I’d rather see the ones I love happy than happiness for myself. That’s why I pushed people away…to protect myself. That’s why even now I feel guilty telling you all this. That’s why I never tell people these things…I don’t want them to be sad because of me. I try to make it on my own. I don’t want to be a burden to anyone.
If you ever read this…thank you. I somehow don’t think you will. I’m too…afraid. And even now, I keep things from you. I am so stupid.
Please forgive –
J. Durden
P. S. I think that you are, perhaps, the best person I met in my 17 years and 10 months in Bellingham. I wish I had known you better. I wish I had seen more of you – been less afraid to talk with you, approach you. Even in 9th grade – broken leg and all – there was something about you. Your disposition – often warm, compassionate, strong, and intelligent, is so counter to what I likely emanate: weakness, cynicism, stoicism, frost. I’m torn between trying to be more like you and trying to survive. I hope you have more success in life than I have had. I hope you ignore my pitiful wailing and listen to this advice: don’t bother with me. I am a trap. Live your life and enjoy the happiness you deserve and that you’ve earned. Bathe others in the friendship you briefly shared with me – others more deserving, less wretched. Above all, go where your heart takes you. Whatever you choose to do will be amazing, I’m sure. Thank you for everything. It has and still does mean a lot to me. I won’t forget you. Really, how could I? I still can’t say…

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