keepsakes

At thirteen years old I started a keepsake box, these are excerpts from some of the letters I’ve received over the years.

“I have never met anyone who is anything like me. I used to think I was the only person who cared so much about writing, about pain, about boys, about losing people. Until I started talking to you. You showed me it’s okay to get lost in your emotions, because you can always find a brand new way to escape. You were the first person I ever did drugs with. The first person I ever left campus with and the only person I have ever let into my life this much. I wanted to say thank you for introducing new ways to escape my nightmares. And you need to know that you were wrong, that people are medicine, but not the kind that cure your sickness. The kind that is dangerous, that messes with your brain and makes you forget where you are. You were my medicine, and you were the best high I’ve ever had.” –Zoie Gasch, 2015.

She handed me this note, folded into four little squares, as she walked out the double doors of our high school, on the day that we knew would be our last day ever seeing each other. She moved to a different state with her mom, had no phone and her parents wouldn’t allow us to have contact because they thought I was a bad influence. I watch her life through snapchat stories now.

“This is the one and only card with this design & color scheme because you are the one and only Helen Forbes. No one could take your place in my life you are the best sister & friend I could imagine. I love you and hope you have an absolute Jolly Christmas. P.S I absolutely wrecked my blue marker for this.” -Corinne Forbes, 2021.

Christmas of 2021 my little sister bought a set of blank cards & stencils to make her own Christmas cards. She actually let me use her supplies & we spent a whole day baking Christmas treats and making custom cards for every family member.

“Basically yesterday we were little kids running around grandmas house, plotting and scheming, avoiding the rest of the family at grandmas classic parties. We were spending the night at your house; walking through the streets at night with uncle Trent, going to Walmart at 2am, staying up forever watching ridiculous horror movies. We were running around Kroger, acting stupid, messing with employees and customers, and laughing our ass off. We were barefoot, walking through the sand by the beach with our family. We were laughing and dancing and not giving a shit what anyone else thought. We were spending the night at my house, staying up late or in the alley, or lying in the grass in the front lawn staring up at the stars. We would dance across Walmart and act stupid and nobody could judge us because nobody else mattered – We were together and we were having a blast and that’s all that mattered. But today we’re apart. You’re starting your freshman year and you’re smart and cute and beautiful and nothing is holding you back. I’m in this goddamn rehab and I’ll be here for while. But I love you. And I miss you and I can’t just not talk to you, so I’m writing you a letter. Some of my best memories of you were at the beach. That’s where I want to be right now. On the beach with you, David and the rest of the family.” –John Prestenberg, 2014.

In 2013 John & his twin brother David were sent to a behavioral correction ranch after they both came out as gay to their extremely religious parents. John stayed at the ranch until 2017, he’s been heavily into drug addiction ever since.

“All of Alexis’s relationship problems remind me of Alex & I already think about him enough this just about makes my day complete. I don’t want to be mean she is like one of my best friends too (You’re better because your there for me and I don’t feel used, but I still care about her.) But like I have my own problems to worry about, a bunch in fact and it’s physically hurting me like for the past week I keep having sharp pains in my mid stomach and chest are engulfed in pain, an awful pain and every time it happens is when I think of Alex but it’s always when I’m alone. And when I hangout with you all the thoughts go away and I’m back to reality. But like sometimes it’s just really bad where even you can’t make me happy.” -Baylee Dalton, 2016

Baylee wrote me this letter in what I’m assuming was her attempt at apologizing for cancelling on me last minute. At the end of the letter she signs off with “I Love You!” Baylee is still my best friend to this day.

The simplicity of pooh

My parents were the organized working type of hippies when I was younger. I’d throw fits and instead of first spanking me or locking me in my room they would sit me in a corner and give me three heavy metal balls with little bells inside that would jingle when they moved. I was to sit there and roll them in my hands and think about what made me upset. Of course when you’re seven years old and sitting in a corner with three balls you don’t appreciate the comfort the walls provide, and the jingle of the three beautiful spheres. Instead you throw them at what made you angry and then you get a spanking.

I was never allowed to watch caillou and I hated barney and every other show seemed a little too old for me at the time and since the barbie show wasn’t yet a thing I would make people read me books all the way until I was old enough to read my own. Both me and my younger sister loved Winnie the pooh. I always wanted to be pooh or maybe Christopher robin because everybody loved both of them and it was hard for me to find any flaws in either one. Tigger was cool but rabbit was always trying to get rid of him and I didn’t want rabbit to not like me cause I thought bunnies were pretty cute. Piglet was too anxious, sure he had fun but only cause pooh allowed him to tag along on all the adventures, and owl was too smart I didn’t want to give my self that much credit, roo didn’t seem to be as important as everybody else and I never wanted to be less than important,  and Eeyore was funny but too sad. And in my house if you’re sad you got the three jingly balls and the beautiful life book which were not something I wanted.

So I was pooh. I related to him and tried to attain his simple mindedness and good ideas. But the other day I read a story from Winnie the pooh a familiar one, my favorite one in fact. In this story roo and tigger are walking past a large amount of pine trees and tigger is talking about all the things tiggers can do. When roo asks if he can swim cause roo fell in the river one day and he can swim. Of course tigger says “yes I can swim better than any roo.” Then roo asks if tigger can climb a tree and tigger says “yes I can climb a tree.” That’s when Tigger and roo get stuck in the tree and everyone comes over to save them. After tigger falls out of the tree crushing everyone below him and everyone below him crushing Eeyore, tigger says “Of course you won’t find me doing anything like that again.” then when he’s asked where he’s going next he replies “Roo and I are going swimming.”

Tigger doesn’t know his limitations, he thinks a lot about what he can do and not what he can’t. Since he has yet to try doing everything then he doesn’t know he can’t do everything. As much as poo was loved for his simplicity, in my eyes tigger is loved for being much more than simple. Even though I always wanted to be pooh I never was. I was always tigger, loving pooh for his simplicity and being loved for my lack of simplicity. Because who knows, maybe I too can fly just as high as a bird.

Everything but wanted

Everyday I try to understand my self more and more, but I never have understood my complete lack of trust for people who care about me and the doors to my mind that I leave open for people who question whether I’m even worth their time.

It’ll begin with my father who begs for an explanation. He’ll start off with the synonyms of why. “Why didn’t you tell me you had your first kiss? How come you never said you had a boy friend? How did this boy get up in your room at 2 am? Where are your clothes? Explain to me why you don’t own any longer shorts? What are you thinking? How did this happen?” But I never did care, none of it ever bothered me. They’re just boys, I would tell my self over and over again. But as I got older and I found myself wondering why nobody loved me, why nobody wanted me. I would run through the synonyms of why putting every question under the same category ‘Why?’ even if it was never why or how come but just a riddle or a question. To me, it was still ‘why’ it was always ‘why’. Because why was it even a question I can’t be the only one whose bed is too big for one person I can’t be the only one who gets tired of hugging them selves.

I found the answer, deep in the blue eyes of a boy down the street who would bring me what I wanted when I wanted and I found the answer in between my legs, I found the answer in his name under the sheets. But after, I wouldn’t ask myself why because I had the answer laying right beside me. Every night I would tell the moon I did it, I found the answer and he found me and I’m going to be okay.

But when the answer turned into a question, when the answer became unreliable, when the answer told me I wasn’t worth his time he told me he was in love but her name started with a C and that’s funny I thought because my name doesn’t start with a C. So I started asking the moon “How come I thought I had found the answer why did you let him come in my room if you knew I wasn’t the question he was looking for.” But it never made sense because my unfinished metaphors never made any sense to anybody but me.

So I was back to the beginning, running through the synonyms of ‘why’. I convinced my self it was okay I could clean my room, I could stop crying, I deserved better. But it never ends that way, not with me because I’m not any other letter of the alphabet I am who I am and I always know I can fix things I’ll make him fall in love with me eventually, it’ll happen. The night he told me he didn’t love C anymore was the same night we joked about how one day I’ll see him on the big screen and I’ll remember that guy as a good friend of mine.

That’s when I realized, you can’t fix everything. You can’t change people and you can’t avoid the unavoidable. No matter how many words you count the amount you say will never be enough to change her mind, because the plants that bring her to a state of euphoria you have never reached, will never leave her taste buds or escape her sight despite the tears she cries at night. His hands will never touch your heart no matter how many times they’ve skimmed the surface and taken your breathe away you will stay the same to him, just a figure moving in the dark drifting further into his past so he can continue his future without you.

Don’t get caught up in other people, you have enough to worry about and very few chances.

Waking up at 2am

I thought I knew people, I thought I knew what I was doing, but I don’t because your haunting my nightmares.

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry you were so stuck up. I’m sorry I loved you so much, I trusted too much. I put too much weight on your shoulders. I carried around so many of your problems as you did mine and now I have no idea what to do with the baggage you left me. What am I supposed to do with these shorts you left at my house? I can’t just leave them in this drawer I keep opening it on accident, god please. Your mom called and I couldn’t speak to her, I just kept apologizing. I don’t know what I did or how this is my fault but I need you can that be a good enough reason for you to be alive right now? Nothing feels right, this isn’t my life I can’t sleep because I found a brown curly hair on the pillow beside me and I’m pretty sure its yours, and I want to take these lights down because you helped me put them up and, why did you burn a q tip and leave it in the gutter on my roof right outside my window because it doesn’t belong but I can’t throw it away and why were there roses on your casket cause you know there’s a rose in my room, please leave me alone. I love you too much.”

and I wake up thinking I know people, people don’t die like they do in dreams. But I’m terrified cause I loose too much and nobody deserves to be a nightmare.

Something more than nothing

All I ever wanted to be was important, meaningful, significant, different.The kind of person nobody could read, the main character of the story. The kind of person who could ramble on and on without having their thoughts interrupted. I wanted to be as courageous as Junie B. Jones, moody as Judy moody, to have a friendship like Calvin and Hobbes. I yearned to be someone important.

We all want to be more than what we are. When I was younger I would stare up at the stars and beg to one day be equivalent to all the specs of glitter that littered the night sky. I didn’t want to be a star, no I wanted to be more than that. I wanted all of my memories, experiences, thoughts and ideas, I wanted every single one to equal up to the amount of stars that you could only find late at night on my uncles farm. But as I built them up, one by one tossing them into the sky hoping they find their way, I realized none of it was worth it. I didn’t want to be as courageous as Junie B Jones, when I realized how much trouble she was always getting into. I didn’t want to be as moody as Judy moody when I realized how stressed she always was, and Calvin and Hobbes friendship was nothing more than an imagination.

As I got older, braver, and more intelligent I found myself begging to just be something more than nothing. For months that’s all I wanted. A life, no. A story. But recently I realized something; I’ve always been something more than nothing, I’ve always been as courageous as I could be, as moody as needed, and my friendships have been more amazing than I could ever imagine. I’ve always been Helen Forbes. The tall girl with an ever changing smile, the confident, loud, beautiful girl, that not every one loved but it’s okay because she loves herself. I love my self. I will always be something more than nothing.

Lets never forget the forgotten revelation of death

As we got older and our generation became more and our knowledge became less we forgot that we die. That death is inevitable.

I can still remember the exact day my aunt died. But I try not to, I try to think about the sweet peach tea she would make on hot summer days as me and my cousins ran back an forth between the apartment and the pool, trailing along the water and sweat that would drip from our swimming suits as we tried to beat the heat. I remember the way she smelled like cough drops and my grandmas perfume. The way she held her purse and hugged me as if I was a teddy bear. I can still hear her voice high pitched with happiness as she brought her face close to mine “DON’T WE LOOK JUST ALIKE, SHE’S MY TWINNY TWIN TWIN.” She would say with a drunken laughter. I can still see her huddled in the corner of her bedroom with the thin blue rope tied tightly around her arm and the one needle that poked out of her skin. I remember the smell of smoke that would trail behind her. I remember the way she held her purse closely against her side using my body and existence as a police proof shell.

So I try not to think about her, I try to only remember the things I knew back then. I try to see it the way I saw it back in fifth grade. She loved me I knew that and I still do. But she was hurting and I’m trying to never hurt that badly.

Forgotten thoughts

I once told a friend, “I wish I could give you all my memories, lend you my eyes and let you see the world through my point of view. Because maybe then you would forgive me for not being sorry.” 

The one thought I have most often is the worry that nobody understands me. I will never be able to ask some one for advice and know if this is the correct thing to do because nobody has lived my life. Nobody has sat on the domino’s of my choices, living with the ripple effect of every decision whether I was happy with where I had fallen or not. At first, I found this as a bad thing, a terrifying truth. I would lay in bed thinking; nobody will ever know the painful turn in my stomach that I felt the night you told me I wasn’t yours and you weren’t mine. They will never feel the fear that sat at the bottom of an empty pill bottle and blossomed in the pit of my stomach. They wont remember the night I crawled down the stairs holding my stomach in pain needing nothing more than a bottle of water to help wash down the acid. They can’t say they know how I felt sleeping in an unknown bed miles away from home with a wall between me and the girl who saw my fate. They can’t tell me what it was like falling out of love with you, and the blurs of the high school walls that day are something they will never recall.

Then I woke up, I opened my eyes and I saw my thought in a brighter light. No one will ever remember the excitement and freedom I felt running down the midnight street with your hand clasped tightly around mine. Nobody will remember the sound of pebbles bouncing off your bedroom window. They weren’t there the night my best friend led me down the alley next to her house, holding my hand as I balanced myself onto a log and looked over the fence separating the two neighborhoods and the city lights that would shine through her window late at night. They can never say they know what it’s like to fall in love with you. They don’t remember the day we hid potatoes around the hospital, and they will never recall the time we ran down the hallways passing each class as if it were a blur of wasted time.

So, maybe you are alone. Because I wasn’t there for your first heartbreak, and I won’t be there when your falling onto your floor drowning in your own tears. But I wasn’t there when you fell in love and I won’t be there when you feel the warm happy feeling in your stomach for the first time. It’s all yours, every memory and every forgotten thought; the only thing that can never be stolen.

Meaningful

My biggest fear; Loosing meaning. Laying on my death bed with the realization that I didn’t mean anything. I didn’t build anything or break anything, I just went through life following the rules only to become another head stone in a graveyard of unknown meaningless people with lives that are long forgotten.

But none of this has made me feel any more meaningful. The back of the cop car lacked the since of accomplishment I was seeking. The way you touched me meant nothing to me when that was the only thing we ever seemed to be doing, and the quick exchange of money threw sketchy car windows never brought me any closer to feeling the way I so badly longed to feel. Because the thin lined scars that I was promised would make me feel something never did and for too long I was numb. But the longer I stayed around I realized none of these people had meaning. The scrawny boy in the back just keep telling the same joke over and over while new people walked into his life just to laugh then leave. The girl who wore too many sweaters dyed her hair vibrant colors to hide how meaningless she really felt. And the sketchy kids who lingered in the hallway only felt meaning when popping the new pill on the street.

So I started to wonder if I would ever be meaningful or if I would always be that girl who walked in the room and everybody suddenly knew everything about her. Buts that’s when I found it. Meaning is never hiding, its never something you have to go looking for its right in front of you. Because meaning is your Saturday nights and whether you fall asleep with a smile on your face or surround by doughnuts from the morning before. Meaning is the one thing that separates happy people from sad people. So I found it, not inside of pill bottles or written on the backseat of a cop car, it wasn’t etched on a lighter and I couldn’t steal it from a store.

It was everywhere and no where at the same time. It was the smile after a laugh, and the adrenaline rush of small kisses, it was etched in the bottom of my best friends pool on late summer nights, it was hiding in my dreams, and buried in between the lines of sweet nothings you whispered into my ear. Memory after memory, I realized I had meaning, I had never lost it and I never needed to find it.

What was your name again?

I remember when we sat in your room and you told me you still liked to play dolls I told you I did too. It’s been at least two years since that day and I still haven’t seen you as of then.

last night I got a text from an unmarked number and when I found out it was you the first thing I wondered was if you still played dolls. Have you grown up too or did you stay still and wait for somebody to break your heart and hand you a lighter. I’m never sure how to approach someone I haven’t talked to in a long time. Do I tell you everything that has happened since the day you told me you still played dolls or do I start off with last year when my life really began. Or do I lie and just tell you I’ve missed you.

The countless amounts of play-dates taught me what a real friend was. Who stayed when you felt sick and watched movies they didn’t like. So I remember when you looked at me biting your bottom lip as your eyes gazed over and I could see the wheels in your brain turning as you thought about what to tell me. But I didn’t stay around because I didn’t have time for you to try and get your brain to work and I wasn’t sure I wanted you to tell me whether you still played dolls or not. My life was more interesting than any story you were about to tell me.

That’s when I found out I was a terrible friend. I didn’t want to stay when you were sick, or watch movies I didn’t like. I wanted to keep moving to keep living and when doing that I held you back from the life you truly wanted to live, and for that i’m sorry.