PASSED NOTES & POEMS: It Could Be Different
It Could Be Different
He says it could be different. We could be friends;
don’t have to barter, love for skin. He’ll prove
the existence of benevolent men,
desire, rejection, frustration removed.
You won’t believe him. It sounds like a line.
It will take a year of his time before
it feels unconditional, genuine,
love daydreamed, 12-year old mind. Mentor
who celebrates each of your wins, breathless
retellings now and again. Would not flirt.
Cannot chance losing someone who cares. Mess,
of tears, you read it, in Target, tennis skirt
his guilty message goodbye, day it ends,
leaves like a lover — you thought was a friend.
It’s hard to be friends with men. Don’t get me wrong. I have lots of male acquaintances, lots of male interest in my socks, my pictures, my persona. This is not the same thing as a man who only sees you as a soul, a brain, a talent, a child who didn’t get loved.
I think this is what they call unconditional love – the kind you associate with a parent. I really wouldn’t know about that. Oh, I had parents, but I had none of that fabled unconditional love. To me, it’s as imaginary and elusive as a fairy tale.
It’s why I look for parent replacements in people. Whether people want to fill that role for me or not, people that evoke paternal or maternal energy tease the child in me that never received it the regular way.
Sometimes I see writers I admire on Twitter tweet a picture of their parent at a poetry reading or holding their book. It’s probably, to many people, a very common beautiful moment -- sharing your accomplishments with your parents. I have never had that and never will – not with my parents.
They are alive. They don’t know that I write. We hardly talk. When any of my books were accepted for publication, I never got to make an excited phone call or share a book cover and hear someone say, “I’m so proud of you.” “I’m more excited about this than you are.”
Except in the last year, I did. Someone said that last quotation to me verbatim about two books of mine that are forthcoming, Puritan U (which you can order here) and A Victorian Dollhousing Ceremony (available in June, Rhythm & Bones Press). The man who said it was one of my readers who became a very important friend. He had been a stranger who messaged me about my work and how much it moved him, how important he thought it was. He said that it made him question his own younger behavior, and he thought it could change hearts. His reaction moved me so much.
We began a dialogue. Didn’t talk everyday or constantly. But overtime, we became very good friends, and friends in the purist truest sense of that word. He was engaged to be married, and we often talked about his wedding plans mixed in with lots of dissection of my poems. Most of our conversations involved him asking me what I was working on and me showing him a sonnet and getting his feedback. He wasn’t a harsh critiquer – every once in a while he’d admit to being a little confused about something, in a gentle way. It was impetus to me to do some editing.
Mostly he was my greatest cheerleader. People think I’m very confident. I’m really the most insecure person out there. I’ve still never publicly read a poem. Reading in public is a goal that I have to accomplish soon for some reasons I’ll be announcing in the next couple of months. My friend, though, listened to my audios and cheered my performances so much I felt such enthusiasm to make more. He would give me advice about focusing on my writing and not getting caught up in dramas because my talent was too important.
I never thought of myself as talented. I thought of myself as a person who was desperate to speak in the way she knew how, a hard worker. The word “artist,” I didn’t believe I was one, the way that many children whose parents never believed in them don’t believe in themselves – even when they are thriving.
I can truly say before my friend I did not refer to myself as an artist. I didn’t have that self esteem. Like a real paternal figure though, he called me that enough and read everything I wrote with such enthusiasm that it finally stuck in my head. “I’m an artist. Somebody insists that I am. I better start acting like it.”
For the first time, because of the influence of this friend, I started making boundaries. I have cut some toxic influences out of my life and learned to handle certain relationships better and to my advantage. He did so many things for me because he loved me – my brain, my soul, my talent. He made me believe in me. Now, I’m even making videos which while hard is not impossible as I once thought. It’s amazing the things you can accomplish when you have people who just simply believe in you and read you and respect you.
The one thing he couldn’t do was stay. I received a direct message a couple of days ago. It was just a paragraph that shocked and gutted me. He was deleting his Twitter. He can’t communicate with me anymore. He can’t read me. His fiancee has been apparently unhappy with his interest in my writing and his communication with me for a while. It was beyond disappointing to me because I know what a pure friendship it was. I know that no one did anything wrong, even though it seems as if someone doesn’t understand this and that breaks my heart. This friendship benefitted me enormously, and I’ve been grieving its loss. I know I will for a while.
Recently I had a couple of drawings for Puritan U from my preorder lists for custom sonnets. This friend was so excited by the prospect of winning a sonnet I wrote just for him. He didn’t win the first contest, and he won’t be entered in the second one, for obvious reasons. He told me, “Having my own sonnet written by you would be a dream.”
It wasn’t unconditional love.
I wrote you a sonnet.
You won’t read it, but it was for you.