I’ve been trying to get in the habit of writing regularly before starting to work on this book. Here’s one of the various writing exercises to help get me back into thinking shape.
3. HOW WE SAY GOODBYE
This is the poesie written by Jutta’s very best friend in Germany—a girl named Felicitas. Her message was simple: “Good luck in all your endeavors/until the end of your life.” The date was November 7, 1938. A few hours later, after Jutta and this best friend said a tearful goodbye, Jutta and her family got on a train to leave Germany. Write a goodbye message to your best friend—or to a member of your family, or a favorite neighbor or teacher or pet. What would you want to convey in the face of your history together and an uncertain future?
I don’t know where either of us will be come Monday. The thought of a world without you in it seems so foreign to me that I don’t see how it’s possible, which could be why the thought of it petrifies me. I don’t have many regrets in life, but I seem to have several that revolve around you and since it might be some time before, or if we see each other again there were a few things I wanted to say.
First, I’m angry. I know you don’t care right now, but I’m angry. We all make mistakes. I know you know that. We also rely on the forgiveness of our friends to learn from those mistakes and become better people. I don’t know that you’ll ever forgive me for stepping out of line this time and I don’t know that I’ll ever forgive you for leaving me to twist in the wind without any idea of what’s happened, but my fury doesn’t negate the friend that you were to me. It just makes saying goodbye to you a little more complicated.
I wish we’d spent more time together. It was fun to go out and run around town, but all I ever wanted was to be deemed special enough to spend time with you. I didn’t need anybody else around. I would have laid in bed reading books with you for days. When you were in a good mood and were enjoying my company it was like being bathed in warm light. On the occasion that I made you laugh, I felt like the funniest, most intelligent woman on earth. I wish we’d spent more time in bed and less time in bars.
I do not regret the moments I spent studying your face or running my hands through your hair. Nor do I regret the number of times I
screamed out in ecstasy as you proved over and over again that you could own me whenever and however you wanted. I will always remember every time you gave me a look, made me blush, or stood behind me, whispering in my ear, reminding me that you knew who I belonged to.
I wish we’d finished more of the difficult conversations we started. I don’t know why we both hesitated, but I’d give anything for those moments in deeper conversation than the rehearsed banter we give to everybody else. I know they’re hard to have, but if we’d had one or two on the front end, we would have been on the same page, and things could have been a lot different between us. Every time I’ve lost my cool it has been a direct result of not talking to you about what was on my mind. I take responsibility for that.
Without knowing, you have pushed me to do things I wouldn’t have otherwise. I’ve become better at my crafts and want to be better still. I take them both seriously because of you. I wanted to be one of those people you bragged about knowing in the way that I bragged about knowing you. I still do, even though I’m furious. You are astoundingly talented and I will never stop believing that. Have you ever heard of Plato? Aristotle? Socrates? Morons. I wish I could show you what I think you’re capable of.
I never wanted more than what you were willing to give and I will always be sorry I didn’t try harder to communicate that to you. It doesn’t mean I wouldn’t have loved more, but neither one of us were ready for anything else and I was happy to take what you offered without issue. Knowing fully that we would never be more than that didn’t make me love you any less.
And I do love you, but you know.
I would have done anything in the world to help you. I would have burned cities to the ground for you, but I will never forgive you for not giving me the chance to say any of this to you, for not giving me a chance to say goodbye, and for giving me one more thing to regret.