By Julia Mercado
You are the one who never washed your hair, wore the same sweater every day and smiled wide with blue braces. You are the one that bad days are based on. I feel we need to talk and now’s the chance.
I know you. I know every detail about you, from your crazy obsessions to your favorite shade of blue. From Julia to Julia, from silent to outspoken.
I never wanted to write to you. I never knew how because it’s near impossible to talk to the ghosts that haunt you at night. The ghosts that make me get up out of sleep and write are the ones that affect me the most.
This letter makes me feel like I’m back at my therapist’s office and she’s having me analyze my life. She asked me to draw my family once.
I drew the mother, the father and you. Having no artistic abilities, I was ashamed to show my work to my therapist. I smiled a small smile and she frowned. Immediately, there was something wrong.
“What happened to the ears?” she asked. “Does no one listen to you?” Not one person on the paper had ears. I had often told her I had issues trying to get people to listen to me. I didn’t think it would affect my drawing. I never think about ears when looking at people. Ears tend to be invisible if I’m not looking at them directly. As a therapist, she made me think about it more.
I didn’t want to think about it more. I didn’t want to have to think about times where I was you. That blue sweater is long gone from my closet but not far off in my memory. It reminds me of times when ears and voices were hard to see and hear.
I remember having nightmares where I couldn’t speak to save my life. I could feel myself scream and no sound would come out. I always wondered what that meant to me and it dawned on me: I never speak up.
Throughout my younger years, I stayed quiet and let things play out, but I remember times before you where I didn’t do that. My “friends” made fun of a classmate all the time. I stayed with them to look cool, that way they wouldn’t make fun of me. It was the only way to stay safe from humiliation in that class. It wasn’t fair that I did this when she was always being humiliated.
They viewed Tiffany as this monster who always had a limp and a school aide with her. It was horrible. Their faces turned red with laughter every time she would walk to throw out her trash with her aide. They pretended to be her and stared into the air with blank faces.
“I think there’s something wrong with her brain. She’s always staring into space,” they would say.
One day, they were laughing so much that spit from their mouths landed all over me; I had to get up to move. I feel like that was the best thing I had ever done in my life. “I don’t want to be over there,” were the words that sparked a major turning point in your life. I still remember the look of confusion on her face when I said that. Neither of us knew what effect this moment would have on us. According to you, the only thing I’m good at is being awkward. Tiffany always sees the opposite in me. She believes in me. Even when I was you, she was there for me. She saw the beauty past the insecurity and the mute voice. Tiffany knew I was better than you, the one cocooned in awkwardness. I had lost my spunk for a while, but somehow Tiffany knew it would come back. She remembered the girl who did her own thing instead of letting people walk all over her. You are the part of me that is afraid to speak up. You let people say what they wanted to say about you. You believed their rash thoughts about you. I do not want to be you anymore. I still do not speak up and then I realize my day could have been better if I told at least one person how I truly felt. Believing in yourself is hard because everyone around you is judgmental. Who cares? Only you should care about what YOU do and what YOU say. People want to hear you, so speak loud and clear.
Whenever that past girl haunts you in your dreams, I want you to crack open this letter and read it again: out loud, in your head, or in song, until you absolutely get tired of what is in here and the message has finally gotten through. I would wish you luck in believing in yourself, but that’s already beginning. You’re making yourself heard in this moment, Little Miss. Keep going.
You (with a voice)
Julia Mercado is a freelance writer and podcast host based in Queens. She graduated from Dickinson College in 2016 with a degree in English Literature. Since then, she's written for publications like Real Simple, The Lily and Her Campus. When she's not working, you can find her binging her latest television show and writing about it for her entertainment blog called Alternatakes.