An Open Apology Letter To My Freshman Year Self

Jakob Owens

If I could heal you in retrospect, I would say:

I am sorry.

I am sorry I didn’t let you write and recite enough poetry thinking that it was unemployable. I know every time you would reject a spoken word invitation you would cry alone although you didn’t have to.

I am sorry I turned your deep chocolate brown waves of hair into thin strands of bleached hay that denied your origin whenever you looked in the mirror. I still miss their fullness that is yet to recuperate when tying them up in a ponytail four years later.

I am sorry that I denied you sensation. That I punished you so deeply and exiled you whenever you fell short of perfection.

Although now I have a map, I wonder how I ever expected you to make it out of a labyrinth on fire without direction.

I am sorry, in skin-crawling embarrassment, that I treated you like a mechanized mule. Pulling the straps on your face tighter whenever tiredness would stop you from smiling. I still pick at the stitches in my inner cheeks from years of metal hooks I left pierced around your jaw, as a reminder that smiling should come without trying.

I am sorry.

I am so sorry I convinced you to never believe anyone when they told you you were beautiful or adored you in silent distance.
I wish I could send you a postcard now stamped with, “accepting love is not a sign of weakness.”

I am sorry I equated your worth to subjectivities of educational and professional prying.
I would tell you, “You will achieve it all, and more–but breathe, because your inner world is dying.”

I am sorry I starved you, strained your muscles without nourishing them, and let your body grow weak. I aimed for strength, but am still confused why I kept perverse power over your malnourished physique.

I am sorry I tried to peel you off in layers, and air you out like dry leather waiting to be manufactured.I have now reclaimed the cloth of my skin, but beneath it I still see your half-torn ligaments and fractures.

I am sorry.

And if I could cry myself whole
As condolence to you
My tears would fill a second Nile.
For you were Egypt,
And I was your ruthless pharaoh.
Who forgot that the earth he walked,
(And which kept him alive¬¬)
And the fresh waters he drank,
(From your River bank)
And the pyramids he built
(On Giza without guilt)
Were all in virtue of you.

And, I¬–
I sold you to Rome. TC mark

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