Excerpt from Marry A Mennonite Boy and Make Pie
Workplay Publishing, 2018
I knew that letters were going to come but wasn’t prepared for what happened when I found one lying in my campus mail box. I flashed hot, then cold, then nauseous, and I had to go somewhere to read it—somewhere that is not home. No one must look at me.
Across campus on the other side of the railroad tracks that run behind the theatre, there is a tree I sometimes climbed. It’s a scruffy old pine with branches that are naked near the trunk—a hiding place I discovered last spring before I met Tom, when the guy I’d been in love with all year started going out with somebody who wasn’t me.
I rode my bike to my tree with the letter in my pocket and climbed up to the seat where I mourned that other heartbreak.
Don’t cry. Whatever you do, don’t cry.
I didn’t want to go home with red eyes and snot on my shirt.
The problem wasn’t my housemates. It was Tom I was hiding from. Obviously, at our house you could cry if you wanted and you didn’t owe anybody an explanation. But Tom would expect one. One I didn’t have. When he said he loved me, I said it back. And I meant it. I did.
I didn’t cry.
I read the letter, and read the letter, and read the letter. I held it to my face. I pressed it to my arms, to my cheek, to my heart. All I could do was think about breathing. All he asked was for me to come back, but I couldn’t move from that tree.
Can you love two people? If you love two people, is one fake and one real? Which one? Or are they both lies?
Can you fracture into a thousand pieces on the inside, and outside no one will know? Can you die and still appear alive? Can you live without understanding anything?
What is happening to me? Why can I not let go? Why does it matter more than air? How will I live my life?
Can you ever be alright again, ever, after you are absolutely broken? How can so much pain fit into a heart the size of your fist?
It was like the day in Los Rios that I reached from the shower for my towel and was stung on my pinky finger by the scorpion hiding there. I stared in dumb disbelief at my hand, as a blinding pain surged through my tiny finger and exploded into the entire room. It charged the air around my body like electric and shook the walls of concrete. All the while, my smallest finger looked exactly the same.