The Art of Letting Go
Writing, to me, has always been catastrophic. The entire art of it has constantly felt uniquely unpredictable – I press my pen to paper and a sort of magic begins and I start to discover things I never knew about myself, even when I knew exactly what I wanted to write. Ink to paper in my brain is just as similar as a grenade to oblivion, and in result you are left with an abyss of intimacy. Because of this, it’s been hard for me to craft the right words to precisely portray my feelings about certain things in my life, especially because I am ardent about speaking nothing but the truth within my writing. I used to write stories and poems, and even though they were fiction, there was still reality to them. I always left a piece of myself within my words, an echo of truth that would ring throughout the entirety of the story. This is what I’m trying to accomplish, as this story is currently the most lurid of my life.
It was autumn. There were no leaves falling and no crisp air. I lived in Florida and the heat remained, though sometimes we were fortunate enough to catch a cool sea breeze here and there that would leave a chill up your spine, and beneath that chill lay my imagination, dreaming about Fall in a cold place like New York or London or someplace exciting. Some place that wasn’t here. I used to wonder if my desire to leave Florida was just ingrained teenage animosity or if I really hated it there. Now that I’m here in Philadelphia I know I really did hate it there. Florida had no seasons. No culture. And it was the place where it happened.
I was in Barnes and Noble, my regular spot to meet my SAT tutor. Though the SATs had been over for months, there in front of me sat my English teacher-turned-tutor, orange hair in a bun and a pumpkin spice latte in hand that I would later tease him for drinking. I felt lucky that he was still coming to see me to help me with my college entrance essay. I remember racking my brain for weeks pondering over just what I should write about. I knew what they wanted; all of the universities were all in search of the same thing. Usually it was an essay describing your traumas or some event that shaped you into who you are today. It made me wonder if these universities understood that no seventeen-year-old has any clue who they are, just as the adults who were asking for these essays didn’t know either. Regardless, all I knew is that I wanted to tell the truth like I always have. The challenge, however, was digging through a secret in which I had kept locked in the section of mind marked to never be explored unless necessary.
No one never likes to dwell on their trauma. We discover too much of ourselves, feel too much. It’s probably why most college entrance essays illustrate the “enlightening” experience of a mission trip to some third world country that probably did nothing but damage their economy further, or unleash our privileged perspectives of our first times visiting a soup kitchen that we had only gone to in order to collect community service hours. I wasn’t interested in discussing any of this. These harmless stories were nice enough to settle most universities, of course, but not enough to settle me. These stories merely weren’t mine. Yes, I participated in them, but they’re collective memories now, ones I will share with my entire sixth grade class the rest of my life. These memories aren’t mine, and they aren’t anyone else’s who attach them to their personal essays. I wanted to reveal a memory that entirely belonged to me, one that no one else could replicate in the exact same way as I experienced it. So, that warm October morning, I presented my wonderful tutor a tale of loss of innocence, loss of self, and the painstakingly jarring beginning of my never-ending girlhood.
High school. A party. Drinking. Drunk. A boy. Me. A bed. It’s dark. I can’t see. I say no. He says yes. I say no. He takes my pants off. I can’t move. I can’t breathe. I can only think. And wish. I count the minutes. The hours. However long it took for him to finish. For it to be over. I close my eyes. I open them. My cheeks are damp. I look at the digital clock atop the wardrobe. I can’t read the bright blue numbers. I look out the window. I see the cars pass by. The curtain flutters. I look at him. I see nothing.
My tutor looks up at me as he finishes the last page. I can’t tell what’s going through his mind, but I know he’s frantically searching for the words to say. I smile at him, a knowing smile, a sad smile. The same smile I give to everyone that has ever discovered what happened. Before him I had never discussed the experience with a man, not even my father. The way he looks at me gives me hope. I don’t know what it is exactly, but I remember feeling better after that day, lighter. Young. Old. Myself.