An Open Letter To My Valentines

I love you all. Please, for one moment, hear me out.

I want to tell you why I am so exhausted, why I am always crying, why my answer to your “what’s wrong?” somehow always became “you won’t understand.” Because I love you, and I don’t want you to misunderstand that. I don’t want you to feel like I’m just building a wall between us. I don’t want you to think that I don’t care anymore, because I do. I care a lot. I have always cared more than anyone knew. But it’s hard to keep caring so much when the world is determined to burn all of the bridges I have built by hand, reducing them to ashes before my very eyes to leave me alone in the same old prison I was born within – the prison that once kept me safe, and now daily rips my soul apart.

“You won’t understand” is not a wall. Don’t feel like you have to climb it because there is nothing there to climb. You might fall off the edge and drown if you try, so please don’t try. I won’t let you do that to yourself.

No, “you won’t understand” is a bridge, and it might not seem like it at first, but I have spent a very long time building this bridge so I would appreciate it if you would accept all the effort that went into it and just use it as it was made to be used. No climbing. Just walk across, nice and easy, and we can chat on the other side.

I am exhausted, I am crying, I am replying with “you won’t understand” because you won’t understand what it means to me to walk through this world every day and get bombarded with people, words, and images that are all lies. You won’t understand what I mean when I say I cannot remember three critical years of my life because I was so depressed and suicidal, because I hated everything so much that those memories have been locked away in a treasure chest and buried on some remote island, with the key thrown who knows where. You won’t understand why when we’re at a Valentine’s Day event I suddenly can’t breathe.

You won’t understand what it means to me to be surrounded by people who are all being normal girls and normal guys in normal relationships, people who are surrounded by movies and TV shows and books and authorities that all congratulate them for being who they’re supposed to be. You won’t understand what it means to have to search for validation, because all of this validation is given to you and you probably don’t give it a second thought. You won’t understand what it means to want to feel normal, to want to be normal, because you already are. And apparently, I’m not.

You won’t understand what it means for me to be always on guard, to be constantly gauging other people’s words and actions and reactions, to be terrified of being open and yet desperately craving that openness. You won’t understand what it means to sit straight-faced as family members prod you about relationships that you’re supposed to be having but aren’t. You won’t understand what it means for me to love you when you can’t love me back.

You won’t understand what I mean when I say that all I want is for someone to hug me, to hold me close and tell me that I’m normal, that I’m worth it, that everything’s going to be okay – even if it’s not going to be okay, because for a lot of people like me this world makes damn sure it will never be okay, but I want someone to lie to me anyway. You won’t understand what I mean when I say I’m craving human connection, when I just want someone to look after me and meet my gaze and hold my hand during my darkest hours. You won’t understand what it means when I say I want to borrow someone’s chest to cry but I can’t because there is no one there, and even if somebody were there we would always have to stay at least an arm’s-length apart or else the world would find a new way to drown us, together, in some warped kind of man-made tragedy.

I build bridges because I’m terrified of drowning. You realize that, don’t you?

You won’t understand why I choke up when you say that you’re willing to burn bridges as you stand on them for a life you’d rather live. Because what life is there that I’d rather live? I can’t think about a life I’d rather live because I’m struggling to get through the one life I actually have, the one life in which I was born on the cold floor of a prison cell, with mountains of handicaps I never wanted, oceans of tragedy I never asked for – and don’t come back to me with “that’s just life” because it’s not. It was never meant to be this way. People made my life this way.

You ask me what I mean by that, and here’s my answer. “That’s just life” is not enough because it does not encompass mass rape and forced sterilization and genocide, it does not include world wars and environmental devastation and the shootings of schoolchildren, it does not explain countless people being harassed and beat up and murdered because they weren’t “normal.” “That’s just life” does not hold space for our bodies. And it does not validate our silent suicides.

Why won’t you understand that?

I’m going to stop telling you that I’m okay when I’m not. Because I am tired of lying to you, but I am also tired of lying to myself. When you ask after me I am going to tell you the truth, which starts with “no, I’m not okay,” and I will explain why, but I won’t make the mistake of assuming you will understand. I will show you the bridge I have built which constitutes this phrase, “you won’t understand,” and I will walk all the way across it without looking to see if you are following behind me. Whether you follow me or not is your choice – and if you choose not to, that’s not on me anymore.

This is my life, my love, my tragedy. These are my words, “you won’t understand.” If they don’t mean anything to you, that’s okay, because they are mine. But whatever your reaction to this non-understanding may be, you will not stop me building these bridges until I die. You can ignore them, you can walk across them, you can help me build them, or you can burn them as I stand on them. But as long as I live this one fragile life, as long as I suffer these man-made tragedies you throw at me, I will continue to build bridges between us. You won’t always understand – but that’s okay.

I love you so much. Your life is worth it.

Kohaku Toran

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