Once I was through the door, I dashed down the stairs to my room, flinging myself onto my bed, sobbing. I felt so stupid, so clutzy, so worthless. Questions flooded my mind. Who am I? Am I really Amy? Or am I someone else? I didn’t know anymore.
“Can I come in, Amy?” Dad said through the door.
“No, go away!” I cried, causing myself to sob even harder.
“I’m coming in, sweetie,” he said before entering the room, then sitting down next to me on the bed.
“Go away!” I quickly sat up and whacked my dad with my pillow. “Go away!”
The pillow was suddenly taken out of my hands and my dad’s arms were wrapped around me, one hand patting my back.
“Go away,” I cried, my last attempt, before melting and just letting him comfort me while I soaked the shoulder of his shirt with tears.
When I finally started to calm, my dad asked, “What’s wrong, Amy?”
I sniffled, trying to think of a way to avoid answering the question. He waited patiently, and when no plan of deflection came, I answered, “I . . . had a rough day today.”
“Why was it a rough day?”
I wish he hadn’t asked me to elaborate, that he’d just said ‘I hope you feel better’ and left. Why did he even care anyway? Who would want someone like me?
“I’m just tired. I’m fine, really.” I hoped he’d leave it at that. It wasn’t a complete lie, but it wasn’t the answer to his question.
“Are you sure?”
I hated how his question clawed at my conscious, trying to guilt me into answering. I hated how safe it felt, that I could answer and it would make things better. But what if he saw who I really was and didn’t want anything to do with me?
“No.” I spoke before I could take it back, hoping he hadn’t heard what I said.
“Then what happened?” He rubbed my back in circles, making everything feel even more safe and comforting. “You can tell me anything, sweetie. It’s okay.”
“I know they’re just joking around, but . . .” I couldn’t finish the statement, a few tears trailing down my face.
The question floated through the air, the answer so simple yet so hard to answer.
“My friends.” The statement was barely a whisper, but somehow Dad was able to hear it.
“What do they ‘joke around’ about?” The comforting warmth from his voice unleashed all of my emotions from my inner prison, allowing a fresh wave of tears take over the small drips from before. I was astonished that this almost infinite supply of tears could come from one human being. The freed emotions turned into words, pouring out of my mouth before I could process them.
“They say things like ‘that was a stupid mistake’ and ‘why do you have to trip over everything’ and ‘it’s no wonder you don’t have many other friends’. And I know they’re just kidding, but . . .”
“But it still hurts,” Dad finished for me, making me feel both worse and relieved at the same time.
All I could do was nod, my words failing me like before.
“Are you sure these people are actually your friends?” he asked.
The question startled me, how could he accuse my friends of not being my friends? They were just kidding, right? What they said was just nothing, right?
“Yeah,” I replied tentatively.
“If they were, why would they say things like that about you?”
I hated the question. Are they really my friends? If I answered yes, then it felt like it was true that I really was a nothing and they were being honest. If I answered no, then it meant there was no else one who wanted to be my friend, which still left me feeling like a nothing. Either way, the answer hurt.
“Maybe because I really am a stupid, worthless nothing.” The horrible truth broke loose once again. Why couldn’t I control the words? They seemed to have a mind of their own and hated me as much as I hated myself.
“No you’re not,” he replied firmly “You are not a nothing.”
“Yes I am,” I protested, knowing deep down how true those words felt.
“No, you’re not.” I suddenly shoved away from his embrace, not wanting to hear those words anymore.
“What am I then?” I yelled at him, turning away to avoid looking into his face. A thick, pressing silence filled the room. I heard Dad get up and leave the room.”That’s what I thought,” I whispered into the empty air, pulling my comforter around me as hate, sorrow, emptiness, and loneliness wormed their way through my defenseless conscious, soaking up every last bit of energy in my body. I barely noticed Dad walk back into the room and sit next to me again as every feeling turned into a numb nothingness, unaware of time, thoughts, and reality. I felt exactly as I was: nothing.
Something gently shook my side, pulling me back to the present, and something was pressed into my hand. Dad said something, but I was concentrating so hard on making myself small, I couldn’t discern what was being said and then he left, leaving me alone again. I felt no energy or desire to look at whatever was in my hand, but a strange curiosity filled me. I moved my fingers, feeling the something smooth and crinkly. I lifted it and saw a piece of plain paper, as white as glaring snow. It seemed to both hate me and welcome me. I let my eyes wander to the words on the page.
I know it seems like the whole world is telling you that you aren’t worth the space you reserve as your own, so I thought I’d write down some of the things I know that are true about who you are, whether you realize it or not.
You are . . .
Loving, kind, caring, friendly, shy, responsible, hardworking, trustworthy, intelligent, peacemaker, humorous, honest, and willing to help others.
An older sister, a friend, a daughter, a student, a peer, a beloved babysitter, a subway employee, and a clarinetist.
Good at ceramics, an excellent cook, a movie watcher, a board/card game player, a reader, and a crafter.
Beautiful and perfect just the way you are.
I hope you keep this for whenever you feel down again so you are reminded that you are not nothing. You are many wonderful things and if others can’t see that, then they are to blame, not you. I love you very, very much.
I didn’t know what to think.
Could I believe this?
Was it actually true?
What if it was made up just to make me feel better?
I couldn’t comprehend it. The only thing I could think to do was to ask my Dad about it, even if I didn’t like his answer. So I forced myself out of bed and trudged up the stairs, where I found him chopping vegetables for dinner.
“Yes?” He turned towards me, wiping his hands off on a towel. I hesitated, despising the question I had to ask. I held up the paper loosely in my hands,wishing to destroy it but not having the willpower to do so.
“Is any of this true?” My whisper seeped into the room.
“Yes,” Dad responded, his eyebrows scrunched together, his eyes filling with tears. “Every Single. One.”
Warmth filled some of the cracks and emptiness, causing tears to once again sting my eyes. I hugged my Dad, letting myself sink into his safety, clinging to the letter as if just holding it would make the words true. It felt so weird to feel like something to someone, like I mattered. It was was such an uplifting and soothing feeling.
“Dad, I love you.” The words felt so foreign and natural as I said them, truly meaning what I said.
“I love you, too, sweetheart.” His heart-felt words melted any lingering emptiness hiding within me. He patted my back, then pulled back to hand me some carrots. “Now, how about you help your old man by chopping those up?”
I pulled out a cutting board and knife, then began the simple task as we started to talk about options for what I could do next. While we talked, I promised myself that I would keep his letter, always there as a reminder of who really I am.
Just like my Dad said it would.