An Open Letter to Nikki


We've been talking a lot lately. A lot. I harbor a lot of guilt, and I know you said I shouldn't, and at this point you really are the person who knows me best, and you proved that. Here's how I know.

You and I have a past. Our relationship, which started when you were too young, ended, and it killed me. I couldn't believe I blew such a good thing. After all, you were an incredible friend and girlfriend, and I fucked up. Your reasons were sound, just and right. I was just glad we remained friends.

Eventually I met another girl, and things seemed great. I decided to move to California, but don't ever think it was an easy decision. It wasn't, and I'm still not convinced it was right. Especially now.

My relationship with Jackie was good ... or so I thought. My life, however, was a wreck. I was living in CA, sleeping on the couch of a junkie, unable to find a job for three years. I went to college, got paid for my writing, went from job to job and did everything I was asked.

Jackie wanted to have a child. I was against it. I thought this world wasn't the right place, and we would never have enough money. I gave in, though. I caved ... and I'm glad I did.

Asia spent almost the first week of her life in the hospital. I was afraid to get close to her. Afraid I would lose her like we lost our first pregnancy. As you know, she developed into the light of my life.

Jackie and I struggled financially, but we survived. With the help of relatives we rented a house we couldn't afford. One I never wanted to have. But we did it. And then things got bad.

A few months in this place and I was told my dad was dying. Then Jackie said she wanted a divorce. This came out of nowhere. We weren't fighting. I thought we were happy. I guess I've always had blinders on or something.

We decided to work it out. I didn't want Asia to have divorced parents. In the end it didn't work.

I had developed a friendship with another girl in this time. After the marriage was "over," it became more. I regret that in every way, shape and form. When that relationship ended, which was fast, I saw my future go down the drain. It made me question everything. It made me feel an inch tall. Asia was devastated.

Throughout all of this, as I had done every day since leaving PA, I thought of you. I missed you. I missed our friendship. I missed your insight. We hadn't been the best at keeping in touch, but I looked for your number and got into a car accident and figured I better fucking call you.

All I said was, "Hi. How are you?" You launched into your life without missing a beat, and the similarities were eerie. Lost family members, a marriage slowly disintegrating, a child who was the light of your life.

I told you about my dismal existence, and how I wanted to hang myself (stopped by The Girl). You put shit into perspective. You understood all too well. I listened to you talk about your son, and was so proud of the kind of mother you became. You, like me, have made your child the center of universe.

And then you told me exactly what I wanted to hear.

I told you I didn't want to die alone, and you said you wouldn't let that happen. You've never been one to lie to me. You've never been one to throw words out there just to make me feel better. In such a short time you dissected my relationship with The Girl and my life and made it all make sense. I've known you for about twenty years, and while other friends have told me similar things, only you know me that well.

We've talked every day since that phone call. Our friendship picked up without missing a beat. We both have been through the shit and are still going through it, but you have a handle on it like I could never hope to.

That means the world to me. I've been losing friends, and people are withdrawing from me. Others are getting closer, and I thank them for that (Dayna, can you hear me). But you, dear Nikki, you have not let over a decade stand between us. You didn't turn away from me once our relationship went sour. (And I know we kind of continued things after we broke up, and that was wonderful because it was always good, but we weren't boyfriend and girlfriend anymore.) Things could have went south, and it would have been easy, but that didn't happen.

Thank you. Your words have meant everything. Your take on this has been correct on every front. I wish our lives were different, and I often wish I never moved out here. I got a great daughter out of it, and you got a great son. Neither of us would change that.

So, what does this all mean? Why write this?

Because if I die today, I want the world to know how grateful I am and how much you mean to me. I want my daughter to be able to read this and know that you helped me remain a good father. Other friends have helped, too. Some more than others (Dayna, you there). But they are going off of the Doug they know now. You are going off the one you always knew. You knew through the darkest and the brightest. You know how bad I can get, while the others can only imagine. I want my girl to understand that ... and while I know you know it, I needed to say it.

I don't know what my future holds ... or your's. I know what I'd like out of life, but I'm not dumb. I do, however, know that you have helped more than you realize.

Here's to another twenty. May it never end.


elistia said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
elistia said...

almost feel like i shouldnt be commenting here...like im peeking in on something super intimate but im going to comment anyway. periodically i tell people who are important to me just how important they are...usually out of the blue...usually in writing. i've mentioned that to you probably more than once. over the weekend, i sent a text message to a fellow co-worker of ours telling him how much i appreciated him. it wasn't meant to be anything other than what it was and i knew if i told him, he wouldn't read anything into it. we hang out sporadically (at best) and i hardly ever see him at work but when we do hang out, it's good for my soul. (i had a similar feel good sentiment having spent some time in your presence outside of that plantation we work in). he's got a heart of gold. i love listening to him and i love talking to him. or even just sitting with him listening to music. when i do see him at work, he greets me warmly and is always good for a hug whenever i need one (which is more often than i actually ask for them). reading your open letter kind of reassured me that my feeling compelled to tell people that theyre important to me is not necessarily a mistake or bad thing. this open letter...its not something that should have remained in your head. it so totally needed to be written and it needed to be read by nikki. the Real should be acknowledged...given its due. and this friendship you two seem to have as conveyed in this letter is the Real. i believe that a person should not leave this planet, by choice or by accident, without telling the people who meant anything important just exactly what they meant. life is too short for such words not to be spoken in some way, shape or form.
off to look for owls.

-Doug Brunell "America's Favorite Son" said...

I shared this for all kinds of reasons. I want her to know, my daughter to know and so on. She and I have a past ... a good one. Thick and thin. I fear that I'll never get to tell the entire story or say all I want to say (I censored this one). But I had to say what I did or else I'd be remiss in my duties.

I know. I fear. All too human.