“Rewrite your life” was the writing prompt. This is what came out.
In my rewritten life, I finish the letter. The one I started and never sent:
Dear John, how are you? I just had this weird thing happen. I was out in the yard, and all of a sudden I heard a voice inside my head, loud and clear. It said “Go inside, RIGHT NOW, and write John a letter. Tell him about Jesus.” How weird is that?? Anyway ….
This time, instead of cringing in embarrassment and throwing the letter away, I brush aside fear of my big brother’s ridicule, the way he mocks me, calls me weirdo. I sit tall, extract my shoulders from my ears, and steadily write. I finish the letter. Send it.
Alternate Result 1: John doesn’t die.
The letter saves him. My 14th birthday arrives, pleasant and unremarkable. John sends me a funny birthday card. I receive some books and my favorite candy — Reeses peanut butter cups and a Hershey’s bar with almonds.
Alternate Result 2: John still dies.
The letter doesn’t save him. My parents still argue with John, then go for a walk to calm down. When they return, they find him as they did, sprawled unmoving on their bedroom floor. In exile in northern Idaho, a thousand miles away, my nearly 14-year-old brain still cleverly finds a way to make his suicide my fault. (It was the stupid letter. I did it all wrong. If only I hadn’t sent it.) Guilt and shame take long, slow drags on their cigarettes and settle in.
Result 1 or Result 2: which is more likely?
Alternate Result 3: I’m not alone.
I have a family who grieves with me. No one pretends to be fine. They hold me in tender, shaking arms, whisper “Not your fault,” again and again, until the truth finally seeps through the cracks in my pain.