By Devin Alessi

Pacific Collegiate School
September 14th, 2001

My words won’t reach millions, or even thousands, but they have reached you. So listen to what I have to say; just listen. Maybe you’ll be happy you did.
I know what it is to hurt until you can’t even imagine taking another breath, but you do. You take another breath and then another, but the pain doesn’t stop. The wounds refuse to heal, and like a bird cage in the wind, words go right through you. The rain usually comforts you but now all it does is remind you that you’re alone and the world is just too quiet. It reminds you of the people you love that left you, because people leave and you can’t stop them. Or maybe it reminds you of all the mistakes you’ve made, how you cause pain and aren’t worth those breaths. How everyone smiles but you have to fake it. You want to smile. Don’t you? Every morning you wake up in the dark, and reality hits you, and getting out of bed feels like the world has dropped a mountain on your chest and demanded that you move it. And the night time brings darkness that haunts you because you can’t sleepー your mind racing and full of images out of a horror movie, out of your life. Your whole body is against you, isn’t it? I know how that feels.
I know what it’s like to look in the mirror and wish that everyone would go blind. To take the words of other people as they whisper about you and tattoo them across your skin in big black letters. You think you’re ugly, right? You think your skin is a little too bumpy or your nose is too large or you’re too skinny, because that one kid called you anorexic that one time and you didn’t know how to reply. Maybe you wish you had a cute nose like that one girl because your brother told you it was too big once, and that no one would ever love you, and you think maybe he was right. You take other people’s opinions and you place them on yourself because if strangers say it is so, than it must be. Must it be? Must it?
I know what it is to love with all of yourself until you forget how to feel anything else, burning up into nothing just to see a smile from the person you poured yourself into. You tell them you love them with your words and with your actions, their favorite color becoming the color you wish you’d see the world in, their laugh making the whole room brighter. You start to brush your fingers along your own skin and wonder if they miss you, what you can do for them, how to make them smile. Whether they’re your best friend or the person you so naively believed was your soulmate or just that crush you’ve had that won’t unstick, they’re still the world. You invest all of yourself into them, don’t you? All of your worth and desires and dreams and you put that on them, all of your happiness, like you’re gambling your life away. Because all you want is to feel loved, isn’t it? Because you don’t love yourself?
I know what it is like to lose them, and I know what it is like to lose yourself too. To want to scratch your heart out and throw it into the nearest ocean, tied to a rock. You invest yourself in everything else, don’t you? To prove to yourself you are still worth something, that you don’t need them? Or do you do it to prove to yourself that they still need you? Maybe both. You can dance and sing and write and write and write and be the best at everything you do just so that they’ll look at you and maybe they’ll see you this time, but maybe they won’t. In most cases they won’t. You can be every flash of light in Van Gogh’s Starry Night but to some, all that color is just chaos. And you try to forget them, or hate them or beg for them to stay, but they won’t stay, even if they kissed you so gently you forgot how to go to war, even if they told you that they loved you and you thought they meant it, words are just words and lips are just lips and hurting them won’t make you feel better. If you really love them, hurting them will just hurt you more. I promise it will hurt you more. So you have to let them go. Forgive. Or at least dedicate yourself to trying to.
I know what it is to feel like a shadow in a room full of light. Like you are invisible in a room full of your friends. They laugh and take you to lunch and you pretend like you feel wanted, but we both know you don’t. Because it is so hard to feel wanted if you don’t even want yourself. You seek support from people whose walls are also crumbling, and if you know anything you should know that crumbling stone pillars won’t be supported by shattering glass. Everyone around you might look like they are unmovable, a statue carved from stone, but we are all broken in one way or another. Maybe it’s the pretending that we are fine that is what is breaking all of us even more. I know how it is to laugh and to smile in the hallways but to cry in the bathroom stalls, wondering if you’ll ever get out of this place, wondering what you’ll do if you do. We all ache to escape something, whether that is words or actions or the sight of a person we love or hate or ourselves. You probably feel like the world is against you, like brokenness is in your blood. But it is in all of us. Some people are just better at pretending.
I know what it is like to destroy yourself so others won’t destroy you. I cover up the bags under my eyes and I paint a smile on my face and I hide weapons in my jewelry box. I know what it is like to be unable to fight the pain anymore, to want the sadness to crawl back to where it came from. You give in sometimes, unable to fight. But some of us turn to other pain, punishing ourselves, thinking that if we hurt ourselves other people won’t feel the need to hurt us anymore. I stand in the shower until the boiling water brings out blood on my skin but at that point I can’t feel it anymore. And in that moment I can’t feel anything anymore. Like inflicting physical pain will drive the emotions away. So people dance until they bruise and they cut until they bleed and the physical pain overrides the bad thoughts, but it’s only temporary. You know that. You know that the cuts on your skin will heal and the purple on your knees will fade but the wounds on your soul will not, not if you keep this up. So talk about it. Scream about it. Cry about it. Let people know. Tell someone. Reach out.
Reach out. We all need to reach out. I hear you, even if you don’t say anything. I’ve heard your voice because I hear it in my own. I feel your pain because it is the same as mine. We all pretend to be okay but we all know that we aren’t, so why fight it and why not reach out for help? It’s hard, I know, because just writing this means that there will be whispers. I know this for a fact because that’s already happening. I know who you are. I see how you look at me. But if I know anything, it’s that you’re laughing to distract yourself from your own painful shadow. To pretend that you’re not hurting and that you’re just perfect, because if you believe it maybe everyone else will too. I think that’s bullshit. Maybe I sound like a hypocrite, maybe I am one. I know that I am not innocent, I know I’ve caused pain, I’ve made so many mistakes I wish I could apologize for. I messed up, there are people who have victimized by me. We’re all a victim of someone, all the root of someone else’s pain. Another thing I know for sure is that I’m not better than any of you. I’m still trying to break out of the quiet, to dig the knives out of my back and drop them at my feet. I’m still in pain and I still don’t know what to do about it. You’re still in pain and you still don’t know what to do about it. But it doesn’t need to be this way. I see you. I hear you. All you need to do is speak.

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