You asked me how I became strong. How did we, of the same origins – of the same cloth -become so different? I recall shrugging and refusing to look at you when I said, “Some people are just born like that.” Isn’t that what I said? I might have mentioned that sometimes people are born with the skin of a dragon and titanium hearts.
In hindsight, it was a terrible answer. I’m sorry my words failed you. I’m sorry I couldn’t answer your true question: If I am strong, does that make you weak? I see now that you were trying, desperately, to understand yourself through me. It wasn’t about my strength; it was about yours.
Truth is, I don’t know why I can’t stay broken. There have been times when I questioned the reason for my existence. Why couldn’t she love us? What was the point of all the pain for a few fleeting moments of love and joy? It was rare for me in those days, Lena. It was so hard for me to feel more than anger and shame. In my eyes, I was weak. I couldn’t leave her but I knew staying broke me.
Again and again, I became pieces. Again and again, I endured.
For whatever reason, I always found a way out. I found someone to love, an adventure to have, a place to go to escape the darkness in my heart. I found hope in the kindness of others, in their compassion and understanding. I’d list everything good until it outweighed the bad. I stared at the moon until I couldn’t see through the tears.
I felt everything.
I found a way to breathe in a world starving for air and I don’t understand this part of myself.
I should have said this to you instead of giving you such a lame and hopeless answer. You were like me: afraid, abandoned and questioning everything. I loved you and you loved me but all we cared about was whether they loved us. Did she love us? Could someone love us if they couldn’t even love themselves?
We needed someone to teach us how to live.
I watched over you for years, wondering how you -someone I adored- could become so cruel. Life hardened you, blinded you. It chewed you up and spat you out. And you allowed it. You broke and let the pieces be swept away. The will to thrive died from your eyes, which once held fire and now cooled to soot. Where’s my Lena now?
I keep playing our last honest talk in my head and I can’t help but feel responsible. Did my answer steal your hope away? I spent years ruminating over how you could have become this person and I didn’t understand. What happened to you? Where was your strength and will?
Because, Lena, I was always terribly jealous of your fire. I loved your ability to spring into action, to speak up for yourself, and to carve your existence into the world. Everywhere you went, people remembered you. You were all passion and fury and laughter.
You were strong but you didn’t believe it. You asked me to teach you to be like me. You said you wanted the strength I had, but the truth is, being me wouldn’t save you.
Oh Lena, even the Phoenix must burst into flames to be reborn. I don’t have the skin of a dragon and I don’t have a titanium heart. In the end, being me wouldn’t be much different than being you.
We were so much alike and yet, different enough. Fire and ice. The sun and the moon. Opposites that endured, again and again, until, one day, only one emerged.
I wish you could hear me now when I say that I always thought of you as strong.
You were never weak to me and I wish I could erase my words to you years ago. I want to restore your hope and passion. I want to hear your laughter and see the fury in your eyes.
I wish you could have seen yourself as I saw you.