You know, I’ve been thinking a lot about scorched earth. It’s a military tactic whereby, as you withdraw from a place, you destroy everything that might be useful to the enemy. It makes me think of dry barren lands where no life can grow.
All resources destroyed.
Nothing viable left behind except the memory of war.
This isn’t the letter you think it is. I’m not here to throw shade or disrespect you. I’m not here to scorch the earth underneath your feet. Usually, when I hear about his new partners there is either contempt or indifference. I roll my eyes or suck my teeth at the notion that he could have an adult relationship. I have always thought I scorched the earth — pulled all the soil out from underneath him — when I left.
But life doesn’t work like that for anyone. Love has a way of enduring.
When he told me about you, I knew this was different. He said you were a beautiful soul and I believed him. The words weren’t hollow. They felt true. Another time, when he was inebriated, he told me you saved his life. He told me that the last three years have been hard, and there have been accidents and mishaps. There has been severe depression, and like a thick blanket over his life, you were there. You were the one person he mentioned with a hint of lightness.
So I’m writing you because I’m grateful for your presence in his life.
You don’t do it for me. I know that. And you don’t need my gratitude, I get that, too, but the world is cruel to our men. The world eats away at Black boys until they are souls without bodies, silently begging for more from this life. I’ve known him long enough to know that he looks for places to hide — bottles and capsules where he can place his fears. He drives too fast, yells too loud, pushes too soon.
At times he wants to die, but you keep him connected. You are his reason. For that, I am thankful.
I hope that I don’t haunt your mind like former lovers sometimes do. Trust me when I say that I’m not a threat. I’m not a saint. I’m not an angel or a demon. In fact, we don’t even love the same man. I think that’s a common misconception. The person you love is not a person I know. I will always love the boy I loved at 16, but that person is gone now. You do such a good job of loving the person he is now, and he needs you. The boy I worshiped at 16 needs you as well, so hear me when I say this: I love you because you keep the boy I used to love alive. I love you because, as long as you love him, there’s a possibility that he can continue to evolve. There is a chance he might find peace. Again, you are his reason, and I don’t know how that makes you feel, but I will forever be grateful.
Patia Braithwaite is a New York City based freelance writer. You can find out more about her at www.menmyselfandgod.com.