An Open Letter to an Empty Space
Lauren DeStefano

When you’re born, we’ll talk about the things you need to know. Shoelaces that must be tied, and skyscrapers and little things that die on windowsills and in sidewalk cracks. I’ll teach you all the words I know, but it will be up to you to use them. Don’t use them lightly—they have the power to end lives and start wars.
We’ll talk about broken things—things like windows and hearts and moments. We’ll plant things and watch them grow. We’ll uproot the weeds and whisper so as not to wake the flowers sleeping under the snow.
Childhood is an outer skin that slowly unpeels. The older you get, the less things will seem to shine. I can’t teach you to find the magic that hides in leaves caught in sunlight and in fingers interlocking. You wouldn’t believe me. It has to been seen, felt.
There is a very brief time in which everything is new. Every time is the first time. After that it’s easy to become cynical. It’s easy to resent the things that have lost their shine. You won’t remember being born, but you’ll think about death. You might not remember the first shell you unearth from the sand, or why you take that shell home with you. You might not remember, as you get older, the sadness of unbought toys slumped on shelves. You’ll forget your favorite things and trade them in for passing fads. You’ll hate the things you love in secret. You’ll wear masks, you’ll shuffle all these different faces over and over until you can’t remember which face is yours.
I wouldn’t dare sketch a map for you. I will never tell you that it’s silly to love inanimate things with intensity. I will never deny you your cynicism. The point is that you grow away from me, that you become whoever it is you’re meant to become. I will never tell you what to study in school, or which gender is most appropriate for you to love. I will never tell you how to vote, or what to believe in, or what to eat. I’ll teach you what’s in my power to teach you, and I’ll let you disregard the parts you disagree with. I’ll be the first voice that greets you when you’re born. I’ll open the door whenever you need to come home.

©2008-2017 Lauren DeStefano. Layout by Harry Lam.
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