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Letters to the Enemy
April 9, 2001
My mother told me to write letters to the people who hurt me, because then they know that they hurt me, and then they will change. So I did. And here it is. My letter to the enemy.
Mommy and I were talking about you the other day. I said you’re a big meanie. She said you’re normal. But normal people don’t take Mrs. Tibbles away. She was my cat and she was my friend and she ran into the car and now she’s gone and it’s all your fault. You’re not very nice. She was mine and she was good and she was fluffy and I’ll never see her again. We’re gonna give her a funeral tomorrow, now that we’ve made her into ashes. You’re not invited. I never wanna see you ever again, because you’re not normal, are you? You’re just a bully.
September 27, 2007
I have changed my opinion of you. You’re not just a bully. You’re a thief as well. I don’t know if you understand the real world, since you don’t live in it, but here, people have things that belong to them. And he was mine. I raised him. I taught him tricks, taught him how to sit and fetch and roll over. He was my sidekick - we’d run through the streets together, me with my cape, him with his leash and collar, fighting all of the bad guys. Until you decided to take him away.
He was mine, you know. Mine. You had no right to him. He was my best friend, one of my only friends, to be honest. Although I don’t know why I bother telling you this. You don’t have any decency, why should I? But I think that even though you don’t return the favor, I should at least endeavor to explain why you and I will never, ever be friends. Sparky was mine. I chose him when he was a puppy. Mother never wanted him. After Mrs. Tibbles, she thought that I wouldn’t be able to cope with the loss of another friend. The truth is, she was right. I didn’t make any friends at my new middle school because I was afraid that you would come take them away from me like the bully you are. But no one died, and I thought you were done. I got Sparky. He was a beautiful dog, golden brown with silky fur and ears that felt like heaven when you ran your fingers through them. He was a sweet puppy, ready to learn, and he followed me around and sat in my lap whenever I felt sad. He was truly mine. And then you took him.
I don’t know how you did it. Did you poison the dog food that later gave him kidney failure? Were you the salesperson who sold us the tainted food? Were you the doctor that hovered over him as he lay in a defeated heap on your table, ribs showing, eyes dulled with pain, and told us there was no hope?
He was mine. You took him. Worse, you made us give him to you. You called him, but it was my mother who finally let him go. You are the cruelest thief that ever was, and you’ve already stolen from me twice. I hope to never meet you again.
Your most fervent opponent,
January 3, 2013
Are you lonely? Is that why you do it? Because, if so, I cannot imagine a better person for you to steal away than my mother. She was the nicest person that ever lived, and I’m not even going to explain that she was mine and I needed her because I understand by this point that you already know that. You already know everything. But as for me… well, I thought I knew you. I really thought I did. Now, I’m starting to think I don’t know that much about you at all.
You took Mrs. Tibbles away years ago, back when I was still at elementary school. I know that maybe it was her own fault for deciding to cross paths with that Toyota - funny how I can still remember the type of car twelve years after it happened, isn’t it? Still, I needed her. She slept at the foot of my bed and kept me warm, not just my feet but inside. She loved me, as much as a cat can, and depended on me, and that made me feel, I don’t know, powerful. Does she make you feel that way too? Is that why you took her? Were you going through a midlife crisis? Did you need someone that relied on you? Understand, I’m not forgiving you. I will never forgive you. I only want to know why you did it.
Sparky. Did you need him too? Did you need someone to be there for you whenever you needed him to be? Did you need his love to comfort you whenever you had to make a tough decision (like killing my mother, for example)? He was my friend. Did you need him to be yours? If only you had asked, I might have shared him. But you’re Death. You don’t need to ask. You just take whatever you want. Correction: you take whomever you want.
You took my mother. What kind of way to kill a person was that? It was so impossible, too. One moment she was vacationing in Hawaii, drowning the sorrows of being an empty-nester by soaking in the warm tropical sun; the next she was bleeding to death in a sterile hospital room far away from home. I looked up the statistics of a fatal shark attack. Since 2007, there’ve only been 34 attacks. Only two were fatal. My mother increased that total by a good three percent.
She went to Hawaii because she was lonely. My father was never really present in our lives, and after I went off to college at UC Berkeley, she was all alone in the house. She didn’t even have any pets, since you killed them both. No, I will never forgive you for that. My mother was all alone, and Hawaii was her chance to feel alive again. So of course, it was Hawaii where you stole her life.
Why? Were you lonely too? Did you need someone, an actual person this time, to lift you up when no one else cared? Did you feel abandoned? I bet that most of your victims really don’t feel all too warm and fuzzy about you. Since you killed them, that is. But my mother is -was- a good person. She was the kind of person that would go into the nearest grocery store and buy food if she saw a homeless person, just so she could give it to them. If she saw a starving animal, she would take it to the nearby pound with a bag of food and some money to pay for its upkeep. She never met a person she didn’t like. She didn’t even mind you taking Sparky. “It’s just a natural part of life,” she told me.
She didn’t even hate you. I hate you. I think, by this point in our relationship, you deserve to know that.
To be honest, if you were lonely and you needed someone to care about you, my mother would have been a perfect choice. I needed her, of course. But maybe, just maybe, it’s possible that you needed her more than I do.
I won’t forgive you, ever. I want you to understand that. However, I think that maybe even the worst thieves, the worst bullies, get lonely sometimes. I’m sorry for you. I know how much it hurts to be lonely.
Remember that feeling, that loneliness. It’s how we all feel when you take someone we love from us. Remember how it hurts?
Think of that when you kill someone else, you thief.
Your grieving, almost sympathetic enemy,
May 14, 2017
I swear, you’re determined to take everyone I’ve ever loved from me. Maybe you’re jealous. Although, now I’m not entirely sure what you’re so jealous of. It can’t be my family. You’ve taken that from me entirely, by this point. I thought you’d be done after you took my mother. After all, that was all the family I had. But then, of course, after I married Dan you decided that I couldn’t be allowed to have that much happiness, and now he’s just another tombstone I can add to my growing collection. At least you had the decency to wait for him to divorce me before you flipped the switch that sent him straight up to heaven. Well, not to heaven. Not Dan.
Since you’re probably stalking me, just waiting for me to find someone else I care about so you can steal them too, you must know all about Dan. You must know how we met at the football game I didn’t want to go to, the one I went to only so I could play clarinet in the marching band. Suddenly, he was there, sitting beside me, his trombone dangling idly from his left hand. Without even asking, he draped his right arm around me.
“I’ve been watching you play for a long time now,” he told me, an easy smile curving up the sides of his face. “You’ve got beautiful technique.”
I put down the clarinet, trying to keep the blush from suffusing my cheeks, feeling myself smile despite my embarrassment.
“You’ve got a beautiful smile, too,” he said. “It’s just, since you seemed so concentrated on your music, I thought you’d enjoy hearing about your playing more.”
Somehow, I trusted him instinctively. A mistake, although I didn’t know that yet. We were married six months later, in a small building near the school. We invited all of his friends, but none of mine. This is because I had none to invite. I knew you’d steal them, and so I thought I owed it to their families to keep them alive.
Six months after that, Dan left me for a flautist in the wind ensemble. “Your technique was good,” he informed me, “but hers was better. In… different areas.”
Good riddance to him. The flautist later commiserated with me after she was jilted for an oboist. The oboist was replaced by a trumpeter. The cycle went on and on. No one was good enough for him. Eventually, he couldn’t accept the inferiority that surrounded him, poor fool. Drink became his final mistress. He’d guzzle shots of tequila like they were pills. Eventually, he drank himself to death.
I don’t know why I’m telling you what you already know. Maybe because I’ve no one else to talk to. Sad as it is, you’ve become my only friend. You’re the only one I really talk to, the only person who might understand me. In my egotistical way, I like to think I understand you, although we both know that’s a total lie.
You deserve fair warning. Dan Lawson is a bad man. He may be overjoyed at first to be in your company, but don’t fool yourself into thinking that will last. It won’t. You’ll bore him, and when he gets bored, he gets cynical. He’ll mock you. He’ll insult your scariness, your morbidity… Heck, he’ll even poke fun at that cloak that the movies all show you wearing.
I don’t see you as wearing a cloak. I see you as a perpetual nineteen-year-old, a macabre Peter Pan. I see you watching everyone live through the best times in their lives and realizing that you’ll never get to feel the way we do. You will never experience the joys and sadness that we feel. I doubt if you even care.
Why would you? There are billions of us. There is one of you. You have no family, and you certainly have no friends. Have you ever felt pain? Do you regret it when you tear a child away from their life? When you pry a soldier from the chance of ever seeing his parents again? You feel nothing. I almost pity you. Almost.
You’ll never know how it felt, when Dan first spoke to me, how it felt to be recognized and admired. Everyone hates you. Especially me. You’ll never know the warm, curly fuzz of a dog curled up at your feet, or the echoing barks of him chasing after you as you run barefoot through the fields. You’ll never feel the soft warmth of a mother’s embrace.
On the other hand, you won’t have to deal with the realization that comes from being deceived. You won’t want to clobber your husband over the head with the alcohol his breath reeks of, then run upstairs and cry to yourself in the privacy of the bedroom he will never share with you again.
Although it’s terrible to speak ill of the dead, I’m glad Dan’s gone. I’m also glad that you have to deal with him. The two of you can be best friends. Heartless, cruel, scheming fiends - I’m sure you’ll get along great. It’s a match made in heaven. Well, not heaven… but you know what I mean.
You’ll never be able to pay off the debt you owe me, but taking Dan was a good start.
P.S. Don’t even think of taking anyone else away from me. I think you’ve done your fair share.
December 13, 2077
It’s been sixty years since I last wrote to you, a fact for which I am absurdly grateful. You’ve seen my grandchildren - all eight of them, can you believe it? - and better yet, you haven’t slaughtered the lot of them like Christmas geese. Make sure it stays that way. I’m no longer lonely, and our long separation has given me time to think more about you. I’ve come to the realization that I’m glad that I’m not you.
First, what if you’re not a cat person? I can imagine you being allergic. If so, Mrs. Tibbles will probably make it her death’s mission (is that the equivalent of life’s mission if she’s already dead?) to shed all over you. Mrs. Tibbles can sense fear. However, I also see her spending time with you to make you feel better. She senses loneliness as well.
In my last letter, I talked about how it must feel to never experience life. I almost pitied you. I now see that this was a mistake. Ever since you left me alone, I’ve been able to actually live. I’ve felt a child’s hand in my own during a stroll in the park. I’ve felt the comfort of being surrounded with family. They’ve all grown up now, leaving me to think and remember how it used to be, but it was good while it lasted. It’s a shame you’ll never experience it.
I would hate to be you. Everyone you kill must hate you for stealing them, and everyone you steal from hates you for taking those they love. No one will ever love you. Except, maybe, me.
My second husband, Theo, the love of my life and the best man I’ve ever met, took his last breath minutes ago. I’m unable to compose this letter myself because my eyes are welling up so much I can’t see the paper, but a nurse is writing for me. I loved Theo. He meant more to me than anyone ever had, but I’m glad he’s gone.
Since you left me alone for so long, I don’t know if you know what happened. He contracted cancer five years ago. After a painful bout of chemotherapy, the cancer went into remission, and we thought he was alright. It came back a year ago, stronger than ever, and though we fought it, this time it would not go away.
I stayed with him until the end, in our home. I took care of him. I would not let you steal him too. But a couple of days ago, he could no longer bear the pain. We went to the hospital, and they said that his organs were shutting down, that they’d have to put him on life support. I agreed. I would do anything to keep him safe from you.
But he wouldn’t let me. I remember what he said while he could still breathe, while his heartbeat still sketched the Himalayas on the monitor.
He told me, “Death is just a part of life, Elizabeth. It’s not some scary hole in the ground from which no one ever returns - it’s the start of a new adventure. It’s just a way of moving on. And I’m ready. I’m just sad you can’t come with me.”
His eyes closed, and as time passed, the Himalayas eroded into sand dunes, then into nothing. His last breath wasn’t the gasp of pain I’d expected - it was a sigh of relief. The last time I ever saw him alive, he was smiling.
So now I’m ready for you to take me whenever it’s my time. I want to see them all again - Mrs. Tibbles, and Sparky, and Mother, and even Dan. I’m ready to go on this last great adventure with Theo. In a way, you’ve been my best friend - always there, waiting for me, and I’m ready to finally meet you.
Elizabeth Blackfield Lawson Edwards