Thus far I have "Hello Mrs. Cavanagh,"
And instead of forming words, I have only witnessed my stomach turn in knots.
This is hard. Too hard. Why am I doing this? Because I can't not do it.
I finished. I don't know how I can simultaneously want to die and dance. I'm torn in half.
Hey Mrs. Cavanagh,
I don’t know how to write any of the things floating around in my head. My stomach is knotted but I know it won’t stop until I do this, because it hasn’t all summer when I’ve thought of you. But that isn’t how I wanted to start either! Sigh. I feel very inadequate with this.
I think of you sometimes and my heart hurts. I compare it to the feelings I get when I think of other teachers, and realize it’s not the same. I’m not normally the type to “miss” people—I’m not familiar with the emotion, I don’t know if it’s just that I never associated a feeling with the word when I was a child and wasn’t “taught” what missing is, or if I just don’t feel it at present. I’ll think of another teacher in a usually silly way and smile thinking, gee, we had a good run.
I get that with you too. And then I hurt. But it doesn’t feel like the “missing” feeling people describe. It feels like a bad goodbye. Have you ever had a bad goodbye that left you thinking about it with an icky stomach? And you realized you just had to go do it again, correctly?
I was such a brat. Sometimes I would sit down and think about how amazing you were as a human, teacher, acquaintance…and I would just think, “Kiwi, you’re acting like a child.” I thought up all the ways I could handle the situations in a mature and adult way and selfishly decided I didn’t have it in me to do so.
I know that period of time I couldn’t look you in the eye. I know I was stupidly shocked when you told me, and I fully realized, that you had noticed. A big “duh Kiwi, that was stupid.” At that moment I hated myself for the act and loved you for taking notice. You were always so receptive. I’m a little more forgiving of myself now, understanding that I needed some sort of defense for my heart. I took it too far. I spun it with a child’s temper.
And I was a brat. There was one day you waved at me and I saw but pretended I didn’t because I couldn’t handle the fact that I was gone and graduated and we weren’t speaking in large part due to the fact that I had turned my cheek. I’m so sorry…that thought, that knowledge, it beats me up inside when I think of you. That I didn’t even wave back when you were kind enough to send me a joyous wave. The fact that instead of greeting you at prom I had to run away some because I hurt and didn’t feel prepared.
I did such petty, stupid things out of my sorrow and my anger. I regret it. I think a large part of me wanted to stop loving you. And oh how frustrating it was when you proved over and over how much there was to love about you! You did so many wonderful things. You gave me a card and gift that were so lovely and I knew you remembered, and you were creative and thoughtful enough to give me those white gloves. It had been, what, two years since I had mentioned those? It touched my heart. And you winked when you gave them! It was the most darling, sweetest action. All the love in my heart hurt me.
You sought me out specifically in the gym to tell me to have a good summer. You sent me an email on my anniversary with my hip when few others remembered. I got it at work on a horrible day and I cried to receive it.
I was killed by kindness as I killed myself with unforgiving resentment. So stupid!
I don’t understand why I felt I had to pull back so far. I still don’t understand! You are such a caring and sweet person. So human and filled with love. You listened to me—authentically listened!—and helped me through the years. I have so much gratitude and respect for you, yet there is no way in the end that I showed it.
I hurt so badly and I didn’t know why, or how to talk about it, or who to talk about it with. No one quite understood. Even through the summer, if I cried people assumed it was because I missed you. And how could I explain that it was because I had been a horrible wretch?
At one point—and I cry, sob to know this—I was so hurt and angry that I thought…I thought, if I turned my cheek…you’d feel the pain too. That you would understand. I couldn’t believe I could do such a thing! Wish someone else the pain I was feeling! It went against everything I was.
I took myself away from you. I avoided you. I couldn’t look you in the eyes. I didn’t appreciate you. I tried to stop loving you. I tried to hurt you. I probably did.
I’m so sorry, Mrs. Cavanagh. I’m so sorry your kindred spirit would ever wish to want to give you matching pain. And the thought of it now only tears me up inside—how I could have acted so unappreciative and wish for something bad to someone I loved.
So all this summer, as I’ve remembered you (memories of you are attached to so much in my life, as with many teachers) I have remembered how horrible I was to you and have wished only to cry. I did let myself sometimes but I knew that would never bring me any comfort. I would not receive that until I sent an email. I even feel selfish for sending this, knowing it is in part to lessen my own pain and guilt.
I don’t know what image you have of me at this time. I can only hope I didn’t mar it beyond repair, though I always fear I have. The idea that I could treat someone I love with anything but respect and gratitude, even in pain and some anger, mars myself to me.
I will always love you. As a teacher, a human, and a friend. Even if the semantics don’t work. My heart loves you as a friend. When Carole King’s “You’ve Got a Friend” plays in my ears, you sing in my heart. When I sing “How Could Anyone” yours are the ears my song searches for. No matter how much those two pain me, they hold true.
I don’t know if you’ll respond to this email. I will understand if you don’t. I do miss you—in the way that I feel I kept us from a proper goodbye, and without one I will keep the missing feelings.
Please, if you remember a Kiwi, remember a girl with a wide smile who will step out of the path of an umbrella to enjoy the rain. A girl who will tap on your window to send you a heart sign with her fingers. A girl who will try her hardest to write a beautiful and heartfelt piece when she sees her beloved teacher and friend in pain. A girl who smiles through pain because the world is just too beautiful, and dance whenever the opportunity arises. Please remember those and not who I became senior year.