I made a ‘writing pact’, with a friend from the Writing My Grief course I mentioned, to write once a week outside the daily prompts (a minimum of 500 words). This is Week One (spoiler alert: likely contains spoilers for John Green’s Looking for Alaska).
“You can’t just make me different and then leave… you can’t just make yourself matter and then die, Alaska, because now I am irretrievably different, and I’m sorry I let you go, yes, but you made the choice. You left me…” (p. 172)
Earlier today, I finished reading Looking for Alaska by John Green. It is one of those books that makes you wish you were in a book club because it leaves you with so much to sift through and process. I’m doubtful I’ll let my copy away from me anytime soon, as I feel quite attached to it and I feel certain no one would want to read it with all the pencil embellishments I’ve added throughout its pages.
The passage above really caught me off guard, especially after the week I’ve been having. It sort of felt like the sensation of being simultaneously slapped in the face while being punched in the stomach, and all I was doing was reading words. They resonated with me so closely: “You can’t just make me different and then leave…” I understand Pudge’s sentiment here. “You can’t” meaning “how could you?”, meaning “how dare you?”, meaning “this is not okay”… because she did, and she’s gone, and there is nothing that could ever change that for him.
And it’s not okay. It’s not okay for someone to make us irretrievably different and then… leave. As if the glimpses of them that are permanently reflected in us are sufficient for the rest of our lives. As if trying to explain, “Oh that? I didn’t get that from me… I got that from him” over and over again is adequate. As if it is okay for everyone to not know the origin of your quirks… or confidence… or… love.
I’m not a very confrontational person; sometimes when I am angry, to avoid expressing that anger to the person it is intended for (or because there is no way to express it to the person it is intended for), I flip to a random black page in the middle of my journal and begin writing them a “letter” that I never intend to send them. As I finished writing notes about what I had just read in Looking for Alaska, I realized that once I turned the page, I will have reached one of those angry letters. I went to flip past it and a few words caught my eye:
“You disappearing is not going to help me. It is not going to make me more open to other people. It isn’t going to make me reach out for support. That’s what knowing you did.”
Oddly enough, this letter was written to the person I thought of when the book passage first slapped me in the face (Universe – 1, Me 0). I have been irretrievably changed by someone whose presence no longer exists in my life. I let them go, yes, but they left. People leave. People die. We remain irretrievably changed by their presence, irreversibly reflecting their influence and irreparably broken by their absence.
“This is the fear: I have lost something important, and I cannot find it, and I need it. It is a fear like if someone lost his glasses and went to the glasses store and they told him that the world had run out of glasses and he would just have to go without.” (p. 144)