"I Love You" [Contest Entry]

Dear Ryland,


     I know you aren't reading this, or rather -I am not- although in my old age, my caretaker thought it would be therapeutic to write this. A letter to my past self, offering advice to a younger version of myself, after experiencing life to its fullest. I admit that I was skeptical at first...but recanting the events that had unfolded in my life, I only now realize the only one who can truly understand my failures and disappointments as a man, is myself. So, I ask you, to please listen to an old man's plea of atonement as to ease his passing onto the next life.

     There's much to experience, but nothing as heartbreaking as the years leading up to your adolescence. The advice I offer you, -no- myself...is to listen to me as if these words were the anchor to your heart. If not, I can only say with certainty...in the end you won't be able to live with yourself...

     When I was a young man, I lost myself in a woman. I am sure that you've come to meet her by now. That first year in high school, freshman year, and our biology class. Walking into that room for the first time, you were confident, and at the top of your 'game' looking to 'conquer'. Yet...all thoughts of the future stop, as your eyes fall on her. Your heart stops with your motions, as you stare at the girl across the room. She's looking down at a small book in her hands, isolated from the others but settled in the light as it bathes her. She seems like an angel to you, among the crowd. A presence that transcends the others that fill the room. That moment, is a moment you will never forget, even decades later. Your heart will quiver thinking of the moment of your first love.

     You won't know it then, although it starts as a mere fascination. Being young, I was a scoundrel. Even so young I had...no we had quite the way with women. It wasn't hard to attract them, although it was hard to grow attached. Ironically, I could go over a hundred different days, recounting my days of schooling and the first weeks or perhaps months of small glances, slight gestures towards her in an effort to steal her eyes away. Though I'll save you the cringe worthy actions of a young boy.



Instead I'll jump into it.



     Eventually, I befriended her, that fall in which I started school. In the beginning I found things to be flirtatious, but it wasn't too much other than slight teasing between one another. Still, over time, -especially within the context of school-, we spent almost most, if not all of our time with each other. To make things simple, we became best friends. I knew I could count on her, and she could count on me. Still, I wondered when I became so numb, physically losing myself when I watched her. In a dream-like state, I'd watch her at times and she'd look back at me and ask "why are you staring at me like that?". With a small smile, only to create a small grin of my own. I wanted to say something slick or smooth that complimented her beauty, or tell her of the feeling I got around her. Though, she wasn't like others. My mind went blank each time, and I simply laughed, waving it off as nothing. I probably should have spoke the truth.

     It killed me inside, talking to her, knowing I'd never gather up the courage to tell her how I felt. Each night my eyes would bore onto my phone, sometimes fingers twitching on the verge of just doing it. Though, things were never that easy when it came to her. It was always so complicated. It was ironic though, as I tried to encourage her through everything to keep moving forward. Progress and do not digress. Especially since she was diagnosed with depression. It was quite mild, but often she'd talk about how she had these demented and dark ideas that were screaming aloud in her mind. To be frank, she was a pessimist who believed she had a grim future. Surrounded by darkness, I wanted to be that light. Though sometimes, as I'm sure you will come to realize, it's just too much, and you just want to quit yourself. Sometimes you feel more like an older brother than you do her friend, watching over her with unrequited feelings. You wonder...why? Why her? Why do I do this to myself?


But.


     You see that smile, and the doubt fades and all you can do is smirk. What might kill others inside, it actually changes you. It molds you. It makes you feel warm and sensational, and you know, that you'll never stop being there, that if it came to it, you'd give your life for her. I know this, because it's exactly how I felt, and it's still how I feel today...

     Then, time passes, we both grew older and before I know it, we drift part. Further and further. Another man is in her life at that point, and I am simply watching from a distance. I am no longer the one closest to her, nor the only one on her mind. She's find someone she loves, or loved...and it wasn't me. While you are happy for her, you are sad, frightened and...alone. I used to be so happy, but without her I felt so low.

     Watching her, I couldn't help but to feel pain. Perhaps I felt somewhat betrayed, almost expecting her to come to me eventually. Though, perhaps I was naive. Maybe before there was a chance for that, but that time had passed and gone. My cowardice had taken hold of me, and I was never able to tell her how I felt. I could only be frustrated at myself. Laying awake at night, thinking about her, and another man. Wishing that it could have been me, and that it could have been if I had only told her long ago. That connection I had with her had been severed. That something special I had with her had fallen through, and that smile that she once had for me, It would never again be for me. That pain was unbearable. Though it's nothing compared to what I feel now.

     She was no longer by my side, but we talked, occasionally. I was still that...friend...always willing to be there. Why? Why was I still there? Why didn't I abandon her just as she abandoned me? That should be clear by now. She was my Eve...though the last time I'd saw her, she became something much more.

     I was feeling it, loving it, everything that we did. Every moment we spent together I cherished like it would be the last moment. Little did I know that it soon would be the last one...we were even older by then. Maybe our late twenties. Fooling around, as per usual. It was late, a rainy night and I distinctly remember that it was a humid summer night if any. There was no way I could forget it. Yet, all dreams come to an end, and in this period of time, the world is a very dangerous place, men are going man and there is a struggle of power between men of insignificant origin. Gang violence was at an all time high, and needless to say...we were trapped in it's asshole...

     There was a gunfight that broke out between two gangs on the street. For what reason I will still never know, but all I do know, is that we were in the middle of it. A volley of bullets parading overhead as I tried to get us to safety...no, as I tried to get /her/ to safety. I didn't care about myself at that point. It was still all about her. Protecting her I'd take bullets to my abdomen as well as my arms, covering her from any fire that had came her way. I had her pinned to the ground, wrapped within my arms. I would have been thrilled in any other situation, but in that moment, I was merely worried what would happen to her.

     It seemed like the shooting had lasted hours in compared to the minutes it actually was. Opening my eyes I could feel the pain, and the blood dripping from my body. I looked down to her, her face horrified and tears streaming from her eyes fell onto the pavement. She was screaming my name, though at the time I could barely make it out. She pushed me off of her and laid me beside her. My breathing was heavy, and my body numb. I could feel nothing in that time. I was merely looking into her eyes. I know there was a bizarre smile on my face, because I was happy. I was happy she was safe. She had so much more to live for. Yet, there was me, still stuck on the past. There was nothing left for me to do. There was someone else in her life to watch over her now. As I slowly closed my eyes, I knew I could die happy, knowing she was okay and by my side in the end.

     A rippling sound of gunfire that kept me awake. My eyes opened to stare at nothing but the night sky and those stars that lingered above. There was another heaving sound next to me. I slowly turned my head, and she there she was, shot, just like me. A bullet had grazed her jugular and she was bleeding out fast. A blood of crimson bonded us at that point, but the whole world had stopped for me. If it wasn't for the adrenaline I probably would have already passed out and had been dead. Yet, as long as she was awake and alive, I moved. I pushed myself up through sheer willpower and took her into my bloodied arms. I held her ever so tightly.

     She looked up at me with fading eyes, her hand reaching for me. I was speechless, I was paralyzed shaking even more than her. My whole world. I was losing it right before my eyes...but her weak and trembling hand touched mine, and she smiled, then whispered ever so softly.



"It looks like I get to be your angel now, so live for both of us."



     Even today I have never forgotten those words. Though those didn't mean as much to me as the ones I said after. Tears fell onto her face as I let the words slip through my lips.

"I will always love you."


     It was too late. I was too late. She was already gone, and I was empty. In those moments I remembered when she held me so tightly. It was a cool summer drive and we were recanting our schooling days. A close friend of mine, Tanner...committed suicide earlier that year, and thinking back, I explained how much he meant to me as a friend, almost a brother. I cried like a baby, and she sang me to sleep, in her arms. That's when I knew I truly fell for her.

     Even today, nearly a century later. I remember...and I watched her go, but I've never let her go, time hasn't changed a thing. I'll never forget her and she'll always be by my side. From the day I met her I knew I would love her until the day I died.

     So Ryland...I bring this letter to an end, finding what little closure I can as I my mind escapes into the abyss. At least now, I can be with her forever...Please, don't make the same mistakes I did. Tell her what she means to you. Don't miss your chance.

Happy Valentines Day,
     - Ryland

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