Eighth Letter — Dear Jonathan
I had just spent the last two hours building yet another fantasy with you in my head. In it, we met up for drinks, and we took back what we have already said. In it, we became good friends. In it, I left the country, and you went back to yours. In it, I have fully accepted our separate lives. Quite an exaggeration of the five weeks we had back in reality.
Perhaps one of my greatest flaws in life is that I tend to spiral down this obnoxious habit of building multiple versions of myself and people around me, in parallel what-if stories. You’re this month’s special guest, I suppose.
Don’t get me wrong — make-up stories in our heads are as normal as dreaming when we sleep. Except this time, we’re in full control of how we would want it to be. I call it lucid pretend. This habit is perhaps a defense mechanism, or a means to realign our expectations with our realities.
Have you ever had one of those dreams about someone and you end up spending the entire day overthinking about that false reality? The one where a random stranger or acquaintance in real life suddenly shows you attention in your dream, and then you wake up and end up having a crush on them because of the dream? Induced demand.
You start asking yourself whether the real version of this person is secretly that way, or if the characters in your dreams do think like that. There must be a reason why all of a sudden your brain gave you that dream. Suddenly you’re now building a new story, and you shape a new reality around it. Which is ten times worse, if I’m being honest.
See, that’s what I’ve been trying to do with you for the last two hours. There are now at least two versions of you in my head: one who is grounded in reality, and one whose sole purpose is to meet the expectations you had failed to meet in real life. I’m not calling you a failure; I’m calling my experience with you a bad reality. I take full responsibility. As a creative, I’d rather have a better version of you in my head.
After our last talk, I knew it was going to be the last part of our story, the last time I’ll see you — but I wasn’t ready to let that go yet. So here I am adding fake narratives in my head with you as the main character. A story where I am the ever-forgiving narrator whose vision of the story is clouded by impossible wants and needs.
In it, I apologized to you, and you apologized to me — “We didn’t even do anything,” we tell each other. We talk some more; we laugh. Suddenly it gets awkward, and we finally take the talk to the next level. We talk some more and finally admit to ourselves we might have made a mistake. Even in my false reality, the most we did was talk. I’ll give you that.
Because that’s what I liked about you, I guess. You are the most talkative quiet person I have ever met. Everyone thinks you don’t open your mouth and I’m not exaggerating. But with me you’re not just an active listener, but boy you also have stories to tell. In my reality, you’re not shy and quiet.
You always give up the second time someone asks how you pronounce your name. You asked me to give you another name, as a nickname of sorts that’s easier to pronounce. I gave you the most random English name I could think of.
The mistake I made was not making false realities about you after our last talk. It was making them way before that. I didn’t just give you a new nickname, apparently. Two versions of you existed in my head at the same time. I think I overdid it this time. I enjoyed the time I spent more with your fake counterpart. When it got blurry which one I liked more, I have already listed down impossible expectations. It wasn’t even you.
I am embarrassed to admit that I might have lost a good friend because I was looking for something else. I tell people I want a refund of the last five weeks we spent together, but it’s about time to admit that I owe that to myself. I spent the last five weeks thinking about a version of you that wasn’t really you.
That’s why I felt the urge to apologize. You were caught off-guard. You didn’t know why I was apologizing. Even in reality, you are pretty much clueless of the things I had imagined you to be.
In the end you will never know the depth of the stories I’ve built around and about you. But there’s one thing that’s real though. When I told you I liked you, it is in acceptance of the risk that you might say no. And you did, as I had expected. You were looking for a friend, you told me. I told you I liked you because I want to be able to stop building false stories. I lied when I said I wanted a better version of you.
I wanted the real one, whether it meant a good ending or not. A bad ending in reality is still way better than a good one that is false. You were never meant to be an idealized version, so I’m sorry. This time it’s real. It’s the least I could do.