This is your birthday note. Happy 29th birthday. I hope you have a blast. I hope you remember all the good times.
I hope you remember your youth group. Your devoted followers. How we looked up at you like you were the center of the universe.
I hope you remember the first time I called you daddy. You were caulking the bathtub. Hell, even that was an omen, huh?
I hope you shrug on your worn leather jacket that reeks of you and remember that I used to wear it. I wore it home every time I'd leave school after lunch. Remember?
You came to find me once. I had locked the door. Locked and bolted, because my goal had to be accomplished. I had to be clean. I couldn't let you find me with red eyes and smelling of puke.
When I walked out to the enclosed porch I could smell you. Aftershave.
You came to save me. Or something like that.
Big strong youth pastor to the rescue. Taking care of the flock. Nurturing the sheep. Loving the unlovable. Planting seeds (what kind of seed?).
Remember your daughters birthday? She was one. Her face had just been mostly cleared of chocolate cake and I said I'd take her to bed while your wife was talking to my parents and your other two were playing downstairs. She was being so good. You weren't. Helping me, huh?
How could you do that stuff while your daughter was in the room? She wasn't old enough to understand, but it felt like she was.
How about your wife? She is beautiful. But she wasn't enough. She was insecure. . . so you found a girl who puked her guts up for self-esteem.
She was a faerie, your wife. She was my best friend.
And you were a vampire. What are you now?
Have you repented, like you told the judge? Forgotten your sins; let Jesus clean your heart? Psalm 51.
Do you remember the night I came over to figure out a plan to stop my cutting and purging? You showed me all the pictures you could find on Google images of deathly looking people. You read me the symptoms. Heart attack. Death. Infertility.
And then you put a condom in your pocket, just in case you got lucky with a 15 year old girl.
And the thing is I don't hate you. I feel sorry for you.
I feel sorry for you because you wore holey briefs and you stunk of sweat and cheap hair gel. I felt sorry for you because your phone kept vibrating as your wife called. I felt sorry for you when you finally got done because you were ruining what you said was everything to you.
Everyone reminds me of you.
Everyone with funny fingers, funny faces, funny noses. Everyone who cares.
What really hurts is that I haven't been able to move past you.
Everyone who touches me has your deformed hands and your glassy eyes. They all fake love.
When you carried me home in your arms after I'd OD'd, was that because you didn't want to see a girl die, or because you liked the way a vulnerable, quaking little girl felt in your arms? When you endured smelling like puke as you waited in the emergency room, was it because you really wanted to make sure I would make it, or because you wanted to know that I felt like I owed you something?
I question everything, you should know that.
I also say I'm sorry too much.
Did you choose me because I was someone who you wanted to get to know, or because I was the most vulnerable? Did my writing really intrigue you, or was it just another way to gain my trust?
You were the best and the worst thing that ever happened to me, Joseph Aaron.
I hate you.
But I can't hate a soul.
You must be tormented. At least, I hope you are, or else there's no hope for you.
How can you look at your children and not feel pain? You deprived them of their father for years. They don't know what happened now, but sometime in the future they're going to ask why daddy has a criminal record and why they can't have their friends spend the night. What will you say?
Are you going to tell them that there was a girl named Annie who wrote sad stories. Are you going to tell them that I loved them more than anything? Or are you going to tell them that there was someone; there was a mistake, and she's gone now?
Was I the mistake, or were you?
But you know, I'm happy.
You taught me that no matter what happens, even the worst thing I could dream up, it all has a purpose. People become stronger when they're faced with challenges, and when you break, you eventually heal.
And now, PJ, I can smile when I think of that year, because it was also my best. I met friends in the weirdest places and it's all thanks to you.
Really. Who knew loony bins were so darn cool?
Who knew I'd learn who I wanted to be?
Or that I'd finally fly?
And thank you.
And I'm sorry.
P.S. The kids from Bethel still talk about you. You're a legend. They will never trust again, and half of them don't want to step into a church. They've lost the faith because the one who showed it to them lost himself.
I found myself through your breaking me.
I hope you've found yourself, or something.
Say "Hi" to Trish and the kids. I think of them constantly.