Two years ago, I posted a picture of my stack of journals on my blog, and ever since, I received nearly 150,000 likes and reblogs, dozens of messages, and even more kind words. Most people were in awe that I had the “patience” to document my life for years; others said I inspired them to start journaling themselves. But generally, everyone just wanted to know what the hell I was writing so much about.
The truth is this: for me, writing isn’t about patience; it’s about healing. I don’t want to write, I need to write. Otherwise, I go crazy. I feel lost. In my journals, I write mostly about people, memories, and moments. While I do write a lot about my feelings, and myself, I write even more about others: the things people say and don’t say, and the things they do and don’t do. I write about the things that happened and I write about the things I wish would happen.
When I published that image two years ago, I wrote one simple caption to go along with it: “I think I write so much so one day I won’t have to talk anymore.” And that’s still true today. But a month ago, I did something brave: I opened my Ask Box for a day and told you guys to send me a month and a year after 2009 (because who cares about my teen angst poetry and fanfiction), and I picked one entry for 12 of those months to share with you all. So, snuggle in, ‘cause this is a long one. Here’s what the hell I write so much about: you.
August 2010 (19 years old)
Last night I had a dream a friend of mine came over with a pack of playing cards. He asked me if I wanted to play and I said sure and we sat outside on my steps and he dealt me some cards. I collected them all in my hands, and my friend started laughing.
“What?” I said.
“Nothing,” he said. He was smiling and shaking his head.
It took a few moments for me to realize what he had done: on every playing card, he had written one reason why he loved me. Some reasons were as short as two words and others filled the entire card. He laughed as I darted my eyes back and forth at the cards in my hand and kept laughing as I grabbed the deck and skimmed it. Reasons were everywhere but the only one I remembered when I woke up was I love you because you’re always there.
“Check the box,” he said, and I did. I overturned it and even more cards, plastered with his handwriting, started piling out. There were dozens, hundreds. I woke up before they stopped flowing.
September 2010 (19 years old)
Even after the funeral, I’m still in denial. My grandpa—he isn’t dead. He’s just in Puerto Rico.
August 2011 (20 years old)
“Have you ever met someone and you just get this feeling that you’re in the presence of greatness?” he said.
It was raining outside and we were alone on the bus. I looked out the window at the regular passengers who stood, frowning, holding up their umbrellas. It was almost time to leave, but he had something to tell me.
“Well…” I said, absently. I was trying hard to ignore them, but I could feel all their eyes on me.
“I get that feeling with you,” he said, sitting forward in his seat. “The other day, we were walking to MickyD’s to get frappes. Do you remember? There was a moment when you were walking and you turned around to see if I was still there, and you smiled. You were just…oozing this aura, and every man turned his head. Ever since, I thought, ‘Who the hell is this girl…’”
On the sidewalk, an old woman squinted at the windows of the bus, at the emotional man inside, and at me, before tapping her knuckles on the glass.
“That day, I felt it,” he said. “Do you know that feeling?”
June 2012 (21 years old)
I think of Rurouni Kenshin DVD marathons at 1AM when I can’t sleep. I think of the hot sand and the cold ocean and the blinding sun. I can see you, standing on the sidewalk in the dark, your arms outstretched for a hug. Sometimes we went for walks. I think of driving to Cleveland, then Chicago. I think of bridges and chrome buildings coming into view, of hotel beds you have to climb onto, of the crowd opening up so I could get through. I think of seeing Coldplay live for the very first time, of that small leap Chris Martin took to reach the microphone. My hand covered my mouth in awe. I was in disbelief for so long; the car would break down, we would get lost, I would lose the tickets, I wouldn’t get close enough, it would rain—but none of that happened. For once, I was so lucky. And he was about to sing, finally. He was going to sing for me finally.
I think about my friend’s body slamming onto the pavement, of my friends and I crying at his wake. You pulled me from the pew and led me into the cool summer night air. As the weeks went on, I no longer imagined a tragic scene, but instead he would jump and land in big fluffy bushes, into a clear blue pool, or on top of a trampoline. It bounced him high back into the sky.
I think of so many sleepless nights alone, of being spun around at the airport, of watching the fireworks from my bedroom window. I think of the Joker’s red grin, of those endless ticket lines, of the bat signal in the sky. I think about it all, all the time.
July 2012 (21 years old)
He said his favorite memory of me is the day he brought his guitar over and I was strumming it at my kitchen table. He said it was the most beautiful thing he ever heard. Of course he was joking. He worships The Doors, Eric Clapton, The Beatles. My three-note chords were sub par, jovial, pathetic things. It was raining outside, and I was dressed for class, and it was nearing 1PM. He offered to take me himself so I wouldn’t miss my test, but first he wanted to play “Blackbird” for me. Once, I had told him that song was like a lullaby for me; in high school, I would play it when I couldn’t sleep.
I had forgotten about that day before he mentioned it to me. It was his favorite, and I almost completely lost it. It was almost completely gone.
April 2013 (22 years old)
For a moment, I had a daydream. I went downstairs on a Sunday morning and found my grandpa sitting at the kitchen table in his favorite chair by the window, newspaper spread before his face, his glasses on, and he said, “¡Buenos días!” with a big smile, so cheerful, and I said, “Buenos días,” very shyly, because I never spoke Spanish ever, not to anyone, only him.
May 2013 (22 years old)
Perhaps I didn’t realize how special they were until we were saying goodbye. She said goodbye first—upstairs, with her small children at her side—and then he did. We were standing silently beside the car in the rain and very carefully, he planted a kiss on both corners of my lips.
“It was so nice to meet you,” they both said. They looked sad, not happy—perhaps sad to see me go after our brief time together, but grateful to have had the time.
As soon as I got into the car, I wanted to cry. The tears formed and blurred my vision. I wondered if he, while guiding us to the highway in the car ahead, could see me fighting back those tears in his rearview mirror. I wondered, and it made the tears come quicker.
I am so sad that I met these two wonderful people, and soon I am leaving.
May 2014 (23 years old)
I had another dream about him. In the midst of all the strange nightmares that left me turning, this one held me tight and kept me under.
It was a rainy day and I heard through the grapevine that his mother died. I knew I had to speak up; even if we hadn’t spoken in a year, I knew I couldn’t let that one slide. So many other moments of our lives had slipped on by, but this one couldn’t without a nod, a hand on a shoulder, a reminder that no matter what, I’m still going to care forever.
So it was raining and when I walked up to the house and knocked, I noticed the door was open, so I slipped inside. In the living room, there was an awfully long line. Everyone—his family—seemed to be waiting their turn for something, but I pushed my way past them.
I found him slumped in a chair in the corner with his face in his hands. I had seen him that way once before. My instinct was to reach out and stroke his hair, but I was scared. Everything was wrong. For a moment, I was afraid to see his face. I hadn’t seen his face in so long, and I didn’t want to see him crying. It always breaks my heart when boys cry. It is my biggest weakness. I will do anything you want.
Finally I said his name, and he immediately looked up. His eyes, red with tears, grew wide, and he gasped and sprung up, and immediately, almost angrily, he squeezed me in his arms. His hug was filled with such pain and misery, with such powerful sadness. He was crying into my hair and I was looking up over his shoulder at the photos on the wall, the ones of him as a child, the ones of him and his mother.
“Megan,” he cried, shaking. “Megan. My mother is dead.”
April 2015 (24 years old)
“I’m sorry I didn’t say what you want to hear,” he shrugged, as if I were a spoiled brat my whole life and always got my way, as if I hadn’t been fighting men like him all of March, as if every door wasn’t being slammed in my face. Here he was, speaking to me as if I was a child or his daughter instead of a grown woman who knows better than anyone how to play this game—the game where you say one mean thing after the next until you hurt everyone in your path.
“Please,” I spat, so he wouldn’t think he was special. “Nobody does.”
May 2016 (25 years old)
What are you supposed to do when someone you care about doesn’t want you in his or her life anymore?
You cry, for a while—until your head hurts and your eyes are swollen and red. You spend your days trying to forget about them, trying to convince yourself things are better this way. You don’t drink or get high, so instead you bury yourself in literature and video games. You want any other world but this one. You read every chapter, every word, very carefully, looking for answers. You clear every boss, every side quest, open every treasure chest. You flip over every rock. You say: Are you hiding under here?
You start looking for them in other people—but you have no luck. This one’s kind of like them, but they don’t talk the same way, they don’t laugh the same way, they don’t comfort you the same way. Instead of ice cream, they suggest coffee, and you hate coffee. When you talk about yourself, they interrupt, not listen. And you sigh. You know you need to find another one.
You check the news every few days just in case. You search for keywords in headlines: fire, injured, dead. You hold your breath. You do this for months, searching for a face—the same face that could barely even look at you that last day, the same face that gets cloudier and cloudier in your dreams as time runs away. You daydream pretend scenarios, you watch their name sign on and offline, you start typing a message but hit backspace until all the evidence is gone.
And you feel stupid for months but you do it anyway.
I’ve felt stupid for months but I do it anyway.
September 2016 (25 years old)
I finally caved and went to the doctor today. I’ve been avoiding it for months because I hate the doctor’s, but recently, I’ve felt like something might be wrong. I can’t sleep until I find out what. My dreams have been plagued by nightmares and my anxiety has been coming back in waves; in my head, I’m already skipping ahead to the worst case scenario, already planning what music they should play at my funeral. (Coldplay’s “Up With The Birds,” please.)
What the doctor said wasn’t reassuring. In fact, she is suspicious of one of my greatest fears, but doesn’t want to jump to conclusions. I made a follow-up appointment with her to do some more tests, and I predict I’ll be seeing her a lot more this fall. I may even need surgery. I better get used to that waiting room and all those odd little paintings she has hanging on the walls.
When your own body starts to betray you, what are you supposed to do?
January 2017 (25 years old)
Last night was the very first time I saw you in a while. Months, even—nearly a year, even. It was just a dream but dreams are never “just dreams,” at least not to me. When I’ve dreamt of you in the past (which doesn’t usually happen too often, but lately it seemed unavoidable), it’s always just a text message or a phone call, rarely your face. So this was the first time I saw you in a while.
We were in a great big hall filled with people who seemed like classmates, but it wasn’t at college. And you were standing on this long line when I passed you. I could feel your gaze on me but I pretended not to see you—it would be better this way, I thought, but not easier—and I took a seat somewhere very far away. Moments later, while I was calculating what I would possibly say if we were forced to speak to each other, you approached me. You were so tall, just like I remembered, and you just stood there in front of me, looking at me, waiting.
I thought about my surgery, losing my grandparents’ house—everything you missed. My voice shook when I finally spoke. “You have no idea what’s happened,” I said.
“Tell me,” you said. “Everything.”
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Megan Portorreal is a professional writer, editor, and creative in the New York City area. In her spare time, she enjoys reading books, writing about her life, and playing video games.