When I was 17 I fell into the kind of loving obsession that brought me poetry, and tears and raw confessions—and endless letters that I never sent.
I dove into love with a boy that lived in Switzerland and came to my hometown once a year during the summer to train as a professional wakeboarder. He was tan with high cheekbones, a Swiss-German accent and enough charm to make even the dried-up lady behind the counter at the Post Office blush and giggle.
Nowadays, when I think of him, the memories I have are rubbed smooth and blurry from so many touches by the fingers of my mind. I no longer speak to him and hopefully never will again, but the lessons I learned from the whole painful ordeal are timeless and I treasure them.
Here are four letters to Finn out of the hundreds I wrote, these are the first and only to break the light of day:
February 9, 2011
Finn, Mon Cher, Mon Amour,
I’m happy you messaged me on Facebook, and I hope you’ll call me soon. I wanted to hug you, hold you, today! I feel alone and unconnected when I’m around my boyfriend, and it’s because he’s not like you. He doesn’t look at me and understand. He’s oblivious. I miss looking you in the face and knowing that you’re seeing something. That you’re seeing someone, and that someone might just be me.
I’ll be here to pick you up from the airport this summer, just like you asked. We’ll drive into Clermont and go down all the roads that I know so well, and I’ll take you to my house, then to the Wakeboard Camp. Another summer can then begin, another hot, beautiful summer, the kind of season where I believe in God without a doubt.
When I’m sitting down at my dock or driving in my truck, I listen to the wind through the trees and feel it pass over my face, and it comforts me to think maybe that wind blew through Switzerland. Maybe it’s touched your face, your hands. Maybe it once carried your voice through the cold air. This wind carries hints of snowy mountains, warm fires, vodka, your laugh and your crinkly hazel eyes. When I think of everything this wind has seen, and carried, and heard and touched, I don’t feel so invisible.
So May, huh? I hope you’re here for my birthday! There are so many fun things I want to do with you when you get here—Disney, clubs, wakeboarding, swimming, jet skiing. And best of all, I just want to relax with you.
I remember the summers you were here before and all the lovely nights sitting by the shore of the lake, talking and kissing. I remember sitting in the white plastic chairs outside the rooms at the camp and smoking and listening to music. I want to lie with you in my bed, and in the hammock and on my dock. I want to watch the stars with you and show you all the constellations I learned in Hawaii last summer.
I want us to have the best possible time.
See you in four months,
May 17, 2011
You’re more wonderful than I could have ever guessed. I feel like I’ve grown up so much since I wrote those other letters to you. I wrote about you like you were a god or something, but you’re not—you’re only human. But, you’re the most wonderful human I’ve ever met.
I want to tell you I love you. I say it a hundred times a day inside my head. Sometimes I want to tell you so much I feel like the words are going to explode out of my mouth and I have to fight to keep them in. So, instead of saying I love you, I tell you the sweetest things I can think of, which I guess is a way of saying I love you.
And you tell me the most wonderful things anyone has ever said to me. I’ve gotten nice compliments from guys before, but from you it’s so beautiful because I can tell you mean it. Everything you say is sincere.
I’m going to miss you so, so much when you leave. I wish you could stay with me forever. My life will be emptier without you around every day.
Should I tell you I love you? Or should I wait for you to say it? I don’t know how much longer I can keep it in. You’re so beautiful!
May 27, 2011
You’ve been gone all weekend and I’ve been worried out of my mind. Confused too—as to why you haven’t called. I know you’re here in Clermont still, but it’s like you’re a ghost. I miss you, I miss you, I miss you. Why are you doing this to me?
I’ve been worried you were dead, or hurt, or kidnapped or something! I didn’t want to call you too much but I couldn’t help myself. I am feeling something that I’ve never felt before. I don’t know what to call it—Depression? Anger? Betrayal? I can only describe it as hurt. Hurt hurt hurt hurt hurt hurt hurt hurt hurt hurt.
It’s so incredibly scary that there is a human alive on this planet that can make taking another breath seem pointless. And scary that there’s a human that can make me feel good and beautiful, like a princess.
You scare me.
I wish I could not talk to you again. I wish I could ignore you. I wish I could live without you. I wish I didn’t care, because the hurt is so poignant and sharp. But, I want to talk to you every day for the rest of our lives. I want to live with you. I want to care about you, because the love is so poignant and soft.
Why haven’t you called?
Explain, for the love of God,
July 10, 2011
You’ve gone back to Switzerland without a goodbye. Today is my 18th birthday. Did you remember? Do you even remember me? What happened to us? I don’t understand you, and I don’t understand what’s happening inside me right now. I feel like I’m shattered, yet on the outside I’m still functioning like I always have.
I think I loved you the most because you made me feel the most. When you walked into my life you made every moment feel like a sweet summer evening, and I wasn’t able to stand there and do nothing when you fixed me with eyes that held every star in the sky. The tsunami of your existence wrapped me up, and broke me down and threw me back together again. Now I’m like one of those abstract paintings—jumbled and colorful and 10 times more glorious than I was before. But I’m also desperately, desperately alone without you.
I still think about you every single day. I don’t know if there will ever be a day where I don’t. I hate you so much, but I send sweetness to you every night. I imagine the stars carry it in their hands and lay it beside your pillow, before rushing back to me and telling me what you dreamed of, how you cooked your eggs this morning and what little triumphs and miseries marked your days. These are the things I like to know—the little things I wish you would call and tell me.
I haven’t spoken to Finn since late June 2011. Since I found out he and my best friend were getting together behind my back, and since the night I got Truth tattooed on my wrist. Dramatic, I know, but I was 17 and he was my first love.
It took me almost a year to be able to bear the fact that Finn and my best friend were together all that time. All those nights I was alone smoking a pack of cigarettes under the icy stars, or out with friends drowning my pain at the club, all those moments I was thinking about Finn and wondering about his life, he was thinking about her. I can’t even begin to fathom what my friend was thinking either—I haven’t spoken to her since I found out the whole story.
But you know what? That pain set me free. I learned how to lay to rest old dreams and how to awaken new ones.
Finn will always be a part of my past, bittersweet like an old photo and unclear like a dusty mirror, but I moved forward. I eventually forgave the past, because without Finn I may never have had a devastating depression. A flash of grace relieved this depression, and I realized I needed help. Consequently, I got into recovery for alcoholism and drug addiction. Yeah, me, not partying anymore, and studying yoga in Hawaii! I don’t think Finn would even recognize me.
I again have hope for my future without him. Once I could see through my pain, I realized that he and I were a grand adventure, and like all adventures it had to come to an end. So, I was able to start my new one with the beginnings of forgiveness for Finn and for my young, naïve self—and a throbbing hope for my new dream.
A dream that is bringing me to new heights. A dream that leaves behind a bittersweet photo floating on the surface of a dark lake, our faded smiles blending into one soft color, settling to the sandy bottom where it will be forever, through all the summer days and nights.
Katie Lewin currently lives in Hawai’i where she’s working on a Homa farm, as well as writing her first novel. She writes monthly articles for Girl Talk Magazine. She also posts twice a week in her personal blog about her recovery from alcoholism and drug addiction at charlottesnewbeginning.blogspot.com. She does daily studies and practices of Ayurveda and Yoga, and tries to find time to surf and play the ‘ukulele in between.
Editor: Sara McKeown