Once upon a time, a boy met a girl. She was perfect. She was more than perfect. She was everything he had dreamed he could ever want, but never dreamed could be real. But despite her “perfection” the situation was not perfect. In fact, it was nothing but uncertain. The uncertainty frightened him – paralyzed him. So, he did the only thing he was capable of doing, and the worst thing he could possibly do: He walked out on her.
I know it has been a long time… over ten years in fact. We did not know each other long, so I would imagine that by now you may have forgotten me. But, I know what I did to you was so wrong and so hurtful that you can’t possibly have forgotten. I can only hope that you have forgotten the harm I caused you. And for that, I am deeply sorry.
I remember when I first met you – you checked my coat at the counter of… that fancy bar downtown, I forget the name. I was immediately enamored by your charm. My friends could tell I was smitten and they prodded me to do something I had never done before – and have never done since. So, I approached you, a complete stranger, and asked you for your number. And you gave it to me.
Over the weeks that followed every moment we spent together, every conversation we had, everything about you kept swimming in my head telling me you were “perfect.” It was probably very fanciful thinking on my part. After all, what is “perfect” really? Right from the start that was a sign things were not off to the right start.
I wanted us to be more than friends. I may have expressed this to you – you may have politely declined me. I probably don’t remember everything clearly, but I know I wasn’t thinking clearly. I knew you were busy finishing your degree and had so much on your plate that we couldn’t date. But I was convinced that once you finished school and were not as busy that you would have the time, the energy, and the interest to pursue something with me. It was what I dreamed for, and it was what I told myself was going to happen.
Of course, I could have simply been delusional. It all seemed like a perfect dream. But perfect dreams tend to be more in one’s head, right? Perfect dreams don’t happen in reality.
You asked me to act in a role for your final directing project. I knew how important it was to you and I wanted more than anything to do it for you, so I agreed. You were depending on me. But I was not mature enough to handle the pressure I had built up on myself… much less to handle the pressure of being there for you when you needed me.
As the day for our dress rehearsal began to approach, so did your graduation day. And so my “dream” of us having a chance to become more than friends. I was scheduled to enlist in the Air Force in just a few months after that and I began to question whether or not I would follow through on that commitment if my “perfect dream” came true and our relationship grew.
As the day for our dress rehearsal began to approach, I began to plan my big romantic gesture. I remembered a conversation we had about your name – your given name and your family name. I designed a poster and had it printed and framed. It had your family crest on it and I wrote a few short paragraphs that explored the roots and meaning of your name. Meegan: Little pearl. Strong. Capable.
I had the poster printed and framed. I ordered flowers. I made a dinner reservation. I was going to take you out and give you this gift to celebrate your graduation, and hopefully win your heart – show you how much I cared.
As the day for our dress rehearsal began to approach, I began to question. I questioned whether or not you would reject me. I questioned whether or not things would work out if you didn’t. I questioned whether or not I would leave for the Air Force. I questioned how I could build a future for myself if I didn’t leave and how I could deserve you if I continued on my current path that seemed to be leading nowhere. My mind became plagued with doubts. I was afraid of being rejected. I was afraid of letting you down. I was afraid of my “perfect dream” turning out to not be so perfect after all. I was afraid I was going to throw everything away and for nothing.
My mind was weak. I was weak.
On the day of our dress rehearsal I sat in my room and stared at the door. “Time to go,” I thought to myself. But I couldn’t move. I couldn’t get out of my chair. I couldn’t stop staring at your poster. I couldn’t stop turning all these doubts and questions over and over and over and over in my mind. I was paralyzed.
I was already late when you called me. I looked at my phone but couldn’t reach out and answer it. “Answer it!” I told myself. But I didn’t. I was ashamed for being late. I didn’t know what to say to you. I knew what I needed to do, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. You left a message – you were confused and concerned. I listened to it. I was already letting you down, and I didn’t know how to admit that I had screwed up.
You called again. Then, you called again. I listened to your messages: Concern melted into annoyance. Annoyance morphed into anger. Each message, worse than the last. Each message was like a nail pinning me down, making it harder and harder for me to suck it up, be a man, call you back, and show up for you. I was not a man that day. I was not a human that day. I was a lump of worthlessness. And I was letting you down.
What started out as a paralysis of indecisiveness laced with fear soon turned into a paralysis of guilt sharply punctuated by fear. I argued with myself in my mind over and over again. I knew the right thing to do. But something was stopping me. I was arguing with myself. And I was losing. In your last message, you said, “Don’t bother contacting me ever again.” It was all the excuse I needed. That is what weak people do: they look for excuses to do what they want – or not do what they feel they are incapable of doing.
I sat in my room for two days. I didn’t leave. I didn’t eat. I slept in fits. I listened to your messages over and over. I stared at the poster I made for you. I couldn’t even cry. I could barely feel anything. Just hurt and emptiness. But I knew that no matter how awful I felt, you had to feel worse.
After that I wanted to call you. So many times I tried to call you. But what could I say? How could I explain what I had been thinking? How could I explain why I did what I did? There was no excuse that came close to being good enough. Nothing I could say could undo what I did. And nothing I could tell you would make any sense to you anyway (it might not even make any sense now). So, I didn’t call you. I didn’t do the right thing. I let time pass and I let that awful day slip away. I was wrong.
Meegan, I am so sorry for letting you down. From the bottom of my heart, I am sorry.
I know that you are strong. I know that you are a pearl. I know that you didn’t let my indiscretion drag you down. You overcame that harm I caused you, and you have certainly gone on to achieve great things. Because that is the kind of person you are. Way too good of a person for me to have ever imagined – to have ever dreamed – that I could ever deserve you or win you over with romantic gestures.
I wrote a poem that expressed what happened – how I was feeling, and what I did. At the time, it was the only way I knew how to express myself. The poem is called Cold Feet. You can read it by clicking here.
After several years, I finally began to grow up a little. My problems with fear, with paralysis, and with being a disappointment to those I care most about continued to plague me though. One can only hope that as time passes they learn from their mistakes and get better. But, like so many fools before me, I have found myself making the same mistakes over and over, caught in a cycle of weakness. Imprisoned in a cell of my own design. But over time, things got better. One can do more than hope. One can take action. One can make changes. And that is what I have done. That is what I am doing. And that is what I will continue to do.
By the time I had the courage to reach out to you and apologize like you so deserved, it was already too late. I tried calling, but there was no answer. I tried emailing, but the message was returned. If I had another way of contacting you I had long forgotten. I searched for you in all the ways I knew how – for an address, number, an email… but I could never find you. So the guilt of what I did to you haunted me. Every time I found myself making another mistake in life that guilt came back upon me. It washed over me and it smothered me. It held me down and it tore me apart. It ate at me from the inside out.
But this isn’t about me. This isn’t about my guilt. This isn’t about the “suffering” I caused myself by being so foolish. No amount of guilt or suffering can ever make up for what I did to you. No amount of apology can make up for what I did. But it is the best I can give you. It is the most that I know how to offer: I’m sorry, Meegan. I wronged you. I put you in a terrible situation and I betrayed you as a friend. I hurt you. It was completely undeserved. You were nothing but perfect to me. And I was nothing but awful to you.
I truly am.
Written by Zachariah Wiedeman on December 15, 2002
I encountered perfection once
I could almost swear it
My idea of perfection
I’m not really sure
That perfection can actually exist
I thought my standards to be impossible
She met them
Perhaps I set the bar too high
Or just expect too much
I’m sure I’m not making the mistake
Of comparing the past
At any rate,
There she came
Much to my delight…
…or was it fear?
The feeling that I felt
Was joy mixed with dread
What a strong combination
Don’t you agree?
It was winter
It was freezing
Maybe that had something to do with it
My heart was literally reeling
With happiness and…
…was it contempt?
The strangest thing of all
Was when the evil took hold
Demanding me to punish this heavenly creature
That’s what I was doing
I struck out
But not actively
By not showing up
Perhaps worse than anything else
I struck out with my own disappearance
Soon the angry calls went away
But the nagging in my brain never subsided
There was no pleasure in my punishment
Just bewilderment and disbelief
When the dust finally settled
I could hardly figure it out
Was that me who suicided my chances?
Or just someone on my behalf
While my soul took a vacation…
“Never let anyone get too close,”
The voice inside my brain keeps repeating
“Never let anyone get too close.
“Sacrifice all for the pleasure of being lonely,”
And this is where the real war is waged
Sadly the wrong side has almost won
Because the more I separate myself
The more numb I become
A hollow shell
Echoing a life that once was there
But buried beneath my defenses
Is a frightened and woeful heart
No one will guess it!
My secret is safe with me!