Those two words, those two small words were some of the hardest words I’ve ever had to say in my life.
I avoided saying them for as long as I could. Trying every variation of those two words to put off meeting the harsh truth that was waiting on the other side. Trying desperately to say it without saying it. Vainly thinking I could turn reality with a simple turn of a phrase. If I didn’t say it out loud, maybe, just maybe it wasn’t true.
It was the last little bit of ridiculous hope I had to cling to.
And I held on as long as I could.
Until I knew I couldn’t.
Just as much as I dreaded having to say it, I also knew how much I needed to. It was exhausting trying to hold on. I just wanted to rip the unpleasantness off, look at death in the eye, and start getting used to this new normal. But guilt, denial, and sadness were convincing me—begging me—to hold on for just a little longer.
I was stuck in the middle of those two words.
Until I met Libby.
It was the first year back to school after my mother died. The first year of many awkward looks and anxious words from teachers and friends who didn’t know what to say to me now. The first year getting used to walking back from the bus stop knowing she wouldn’t be waiting on the other side of the front door. The first year I met Libby at the bus stop.
Libby was a new girl on the block. Her family had moved in sometime within the same year we did. She had braces, jet-black hair, a step-family, and some rough edges. She was different. I felt different. Nothing about her reminded me of anything. I instantly liked being around her.
With the lightness of summertime still lingering in the air, we walked home from the bus stop while Libby told me all about her move, her family, and where she lived before. She was quite the talker, which I didn’t mind, especially since it kept her unaware that my pace was getting slower and slower the closer to home we got. Then, in between listing the girls in her class she didn’t like, she whipped her head towards me and asked point blank “Does your mom live with you?”
In my second of hesitation, about a million thoughts were running frantically through my head. “Say it! Don’t say it! Just fucking say it already!”
“…Oh, ok. So do you wanna—”
I don’t even know what she said after that. I couldn’t hear it over the pounding of my own heart.
I. Said. It.
I finally reached the other side of those two words. And she didn’t make it a “thing.”She accepted my answer as quickly as I said it. There was no squirming, no backpedaling, no awkward silences, no stammering, no self-flagellation for even bringing it up, no onslaught of reasons why it wouldn’t happen to them, no excuses as to why it happened, none of the same bullshit I’d have to hear over and over again in the following decades of my life.
In that moment, that brassy girl from across the way gave me one of the biggest gifts anyone has ever given me: a new hope.
The hope that one day it would be as easy for me to accept those two words as quickly as she did.
It only took me 30 more years to get there.