LETTER TO MY 16 YEAR OLD SELF
I see you, walking, lost in your thoughts. So open, and yet so cut off.
Your thoughts are like dark birds that wing and crash around you. They flit in and out of the landscape around you but do not encompass dog-walkers, men fishing, scrappy pale-skinned kids jumping on and out of the freezing Pennine water. The river is a sheen of reflection, weaving among the boulders, but still deep enough in places to take plunging bodies.
You know you are connected to everything, so why do you feel so lonely? Your eyes, I remember those eyes, are full of the mysteries of the universe, even though you feel you don’t get anything.
You haven’t got to that point yet where you find yourself fancying a girl in your year at school – that new girl who came in the 6th form, not one of the ones you grew up with in that grim boarding school who were like the sisters you never had at home. You’re not there yet at 16, but still, you know there’s something you’re missing. You long and yearn for love, life, passion, wonderfulness, but you frown and shake your head when your mother suggests you go and meet up with this nice boy or that. Your body throws up a force field that would kill anything that approached. Well - you wish it would. It didn’t keep away that boy who made you fuck him even after you’d said ‘No’ a hundred times.
You make stories in your head.
A young girl sets out into the world, journeying through the forest. Unlike your family, her family has provided her with things she’ll need to face the dangers of her quest. Her father’s tiger-skin cloak, her brother’s best spear, food, strong shoes, and in her pack, 3 magical objects given to her by the 3 old witches who sent her on this journey.
Her way is barred by a giant spider. Even as she battles it she feels her kinship with it, as with all living things.
In the City she finds a beautiful yet terrible queen. She longs to love her, but the queen locks her away in darkness. The magical mirror she has been given becomes a light, shining from her own brave heart, but she must allow herself to go into total darkness before she can find the one chink in the walls that encase her, and break out from the maze-prison.
I long to guide you, dear one. I am your old, wise witch who whispers stories in your ear and sends a shining white doe to cross your path and lead you astray from the path of normality. But instead, you change into a black bird, and fly away.
I know you will become a feral urchin, scraping a life from day to day in a man-made world, till they come and bolt you to the marriage bed, the manacles dragging and clanking as you pace that cell and hold out your wrists for them to drain you, drain you. You don’t know if you are a child or an old, old woman, because you are still winging your dark flight, the heart beating in the abandoned basket of your ribs.
I did try. I tried so hard to turn you from this path you had nailed yourself to. I sent women your way. They knew what you were. They smiled, invited you, but you just couldn’t see them. I laugh now, thinking of this. You thought you were the only one, when you were surrounded by them.
Just hold to your dreams, don’t lose them, they are your guide. And believe me, one day – lots of days - you will shag women. Gorgeous women and it will be glorious.
Oh! And you know that other dream you had? The one where you see yourself as older? Silver-haired and smile-wrinkled, still walking as you’ve always walked, determined, self-sufficient, connected to everything around you?
Well - the hair isn’t quite silver yet, but it’s getting there. And she’s been laying down a trail of breadcrumbs for you to follow all these years, so you can fly away home into your own ramshackle heart.