I’m sorry that I’m writing this to you not on paper in an envelope addressed a thousand miles away to wherever it is you’re staying now in Florida but instead in papers a thousand miles away here at Duke to be read by strangers and not the stranger you’ve become.
That doesn’t make any sense, does it.
I’m so, so sorry, Mom.
I’m sorry for what you’ve become and for what I and everyone else who ever cared about you couldn’t stop you from becoming. I’m sorry we couldn’t do more, even though I know that’s not really a thing it makes sense to be sorry for when you yourself are the one who did those things—not us—and God knows we all did our best to stop you.
But then again I don’t even know if you understand the “things” I’m talking about, anyway. Do you? I talked to Dimia the other day. She called me for my birthday. You didn’t call me, Mom, though you did send me a text and that made me so, so much happier than it should have, like there was still someone in there thinking anything besides itself. Anyway. I talked to Dimia—your daughter, you still have those, remember—and she said that she talked to you about Frankie and his kids and the police and all that stuff and that you didn’t even seem to think you’d done anything wrong.
And I’m sorry.
I’m sorry you say you think that but if you ever believed any of the things you taught me when I was little we both know you’re lying.
Not that that’s anything new to you, is it? You do that that so much these days…
Just… Christ, Mom. I mean that literally—do you still believe in him? You know I beg him every morning for mercy on you, right. I wish I didn’t. I wish he’d let me stop myself from doing that, or at least that when I talked to him he’d shut up about all that love-your-neighbor stuff for once and just let me properly hate you.
I wish I could hate you. It would be so much easier if I could hate you.
It’s so much less painful than love.
But I can’t do that, can I? That’s not what you taught me and that’s not what he did either. I can’t give up on you like Dad keeps telling me to. I can’t stop being your son, Mom, no matter how much you might wish you could stop being my mother.
I don’t know what I’m trying to accomplish with this letter. I’ve told you all these things before—as many of them as you could listen to, anyway—and it didn’t make any difference then and I know it wouldn’t now.
And this letter isn’t catharsis, either. I don’t feel better for writing this.
It just hurts.
Do you hurt, Mom?
I hope you hurt. I hope the things you’ve done keep you up at night. I hope it’s drugs that made you do those things, or an identity crisis or a psychological break or whatever other pet theory the rest of the family is talking about these days. I hope you hurt because then I could at least say with certainty that I don’t know you anymore.
Because right now it just feels like I never knew you at all.
I’m still praying for you, Mom, and I still love you and I’m still sorry. So, so sorry.
Please come back, Mom. Please.
Art by Natalia Mesa