It’s not like Gilbert planned to get drunk. He knows it’s bad, locking yourself in your room and drinking alone, he knows it’s not done. But just for tonight, he decides, he’s allowed. Tomorrow is the day everything’s going to change. Tomorrow night he’s going to get on a plane to England, and turn his life around, and everything will get better. He will get better.
Tonight, he’s just gonna get hammered though, and write a blog post, and maybe also write a letter to Anne, or maybe he’s just going to do that once he’s already on the other side of the ocean. He keeps on thinking about his options.
Pros of writing the letter while he’s still here: He’ll get it out of his system. He’s already drunk, so it’s going to be easier to say what he needs to say. All the thoughts and emotions are already on the tip of his tongue right now anyway, so nothing would be easier than just taking a piece of paper and writing it all down.
Cons: He’s drunk. If Anne doesn’t even like him sober right now, she’s sure as hell not gonna appreciate him in this state. Also, spelling out all the stuff that’s in his head right now might actually make him break down.
Pros of writing the letter once he’s in England: He’ll be in a much better environment then, more stable, and surrounded by a great support system. It won’t feel so fresh anymore, maybe.
Cons: Though, if he’s honest with himself, the pain has felt fresh for months now, and no amount of withdrawing himself from Anne has changed that so far. He knows he’s discussed this with his therapist, and him going to England has nothing to do with running away – it’s a good, healthy decision about getting some distance between himself and the things that hurt him and finding a good place where he can just be himself and focus on what matters. But right now? He feels like no matter how far he’ll go away, he will never get away from any of this.
Where was he again? Oh, the letter. Yeah, he should probably write it now, and send it once he’s over there. He can have it both ways: Get her out of his system now and send it once he’s far enough away from her to not fuck it up any more than he already has.
He writes the blog post first.
By the end of it he feels like a mess. He’s thankful that he’s written the letter to his parents before, and the one to his sister as well – that was when he was still on his first glass of wine, so the words weren’t that hard yet, and his brain not as muddled.
The letters were actually his therapist’s idea. He told her that he was looking for a way to make his fresh start feel as clean-cut as possible, and she suggested writing his bad feelings down to leave them behind.
It seemed like a good idea when she said it.
Now Gilbert is staring at the empty piece of paper in front of him and he feels like throwing up. Maybe it’s the wine.
“Dear Anne,” he writes, and it looks ugly, shaky, inadequate, so he crumples the paper up into a ball and chucks it into the trash.
‘Beloved Anne,’ he thinks, but never writes, because it makes him feel disgusted with himself. He can be that person inside, that lovesick, possessive asshole, and he can hate himself for it, but he cannot do that to her.
“Anne,” he writes instead. The name alone pains him. He wishes he had more wine, but the bottle is empty.
And then he realizes he has nothing to say to her.
Everything he wants to say, she doesn’t want to hear.
And isn’t that the whole problem? That he kept running against the same brick walls, over and over again, until he made himself break? With Anne, with his parents, with university, with everything and everyone around him.
It has to stop.
He opens a window, breathes in the cool night air. He didn’t even realize how hot he was until now, his skin feeling dry and tight, like he’s trapped inside it.
For a while, he just closes his eyes and listens. There’s crickets, dozens of them, and he can hear the nightly concert of the frogs over at the small pond in their neighbor’s backyard if he listens closely. There’s the occasional sound of a car on the road to Carmody, but other than that, it’s very quiet here.
It always has been, and there were times in his life when the silence scared him.
Right now, it makes him feel calmer though. He can breathe freely, his thoughts seem less heavy, like the soft summer wind takes them away, like he can fill the quiet darkness with everything that hurts. And in a way, he has Anne to thank for that.
Coming back to Avonlea after his year abroad, he felt trapped. He couldn’t bear the silence anymore, the eyes on him, the expectations. He knew everyone, and everyone knew him, at least they thought they did, and in the quiet of the Avonlea nights, Gilbert could only hear his own thoughts spiral.
But then there was Anne, who loved Avonlea with her whole heart, who challenged him, but never in a way his family did, never with the expectations of his community, just with the stubborn determination that she could be better than him.
And she loved Avonlea.
And he loved her, so he tried to see it with her eyes. And once they were friends, it was the easiest thing in the world: falling in love with Avonlea from the way she talked about it; its people, its places, its charm and spirits.
And its quiet.
“Don’t you just love Avonlea nights?” she asked him one evening when they were standing by the gates of Green Gables after a student council meeting. He had brought her home, but instead of just dropping her off and going home himself, they were now sitting in the grass next to his car, just talking.
He remembers how he looked at her from the side while she was looking up at the stars, and he remembers how her eyes seemed to reflect the starlight. “I don’t know. Why?” he asked her.
She looked at him with an expression that was somewhere between surprised and amused. “Well I think they’re just magical. The air feels so much cleaner here than anywhere else, and when the sky is clear, the stars are so bright they look like fairy lights.”
It made him chuckle, but he couldn’t help squinting his eyes up at the night sky and trying to see what Anne saw. Her voice was so soothing in the dark, and the night never seemed too quiet with her around, even when she wasn’t talking.
Gilbert isn’t sure if he remembers all the details right, but he surely remembers the way he felt that night. Leaning against the window frame and breathing in, he can still feel it now.
He’s not sure how long he stands there. Tiredness rolls over him and he considers just going to bed – he has a long day ahead of him tomorrow, still needs to finish packing, and he wants to be at the airport early.
But then he takes a last deep breath, feeling almost sober again, sits back down at the table and begins the letter.
Before I say anything else, I want to say how sorry I am for the way things went. I expected too much of you, and I couldn’t handle the rejection, so I ran away from you like a pathetic coward, and I was being an asshole. I’m sorry I hurt you.
But this is not an apology letter. I want to clean up after me before I go, so that when I return – “ he crosses out the ‘when’ and replaces it with an ‘if’. “if I return, we can maybe get a fresh start.”
And then the words just flow out of him, and Gilbert decides that he won’t stop them, he won’t censor himself, he won’t plan out every single word hoping that it will finally make her love him. He can’t do that anymore, there’s no point. He just writes.
He tells her about the pressure he feels, about the need to be perfect, about his therapy. He tells her, in a short paragraph, about the way he broke down in February – not to make her feel guilty, just to let her know that it wasn’t hatred that kept him from her, but shame and apathy and self-loathing. He also tells her about England, and what it means to him, and that him going is not on her, that it’s something he has to do for himself. A good thing. Even if it maybe doesn’t feel that way to her.
He apologizes again, in the end. He didn’t intend to because all the apologies feel old and stale in his head and he thinks they’re worth nothing, but it occurs to him that maybe he only feels that way because he has thought the words through over and over again. He never told her. She deserves it, even if it’s too late.
Then he’s done. He lets the pen drop from his ink stained hand and looks at the two pieces of paper, filled with his words front and back.
“I hope we won’t be nothing forever,” are his last words before signing off, and he almost wants to cross them out, almost wants to write it all over again, because that there sounds so ridiculous and raw and romantic, and he’s sure she’s going to hate it… but he reminds himself that, no. This is for his own sake just as much as it is for hers. He needs to say that.
He puts the letter in an envelope, seals it. Writes “To Anne” carefully on it. For a moment, he wishes he could give it to her in person, but he knows he can’t trust himself with that.
Tomorrow, he will be on a plane to England and he will go back to his favorite place, and his host mums will pick him up from the airport. And they will sit him down and make him breakfast and ask him how he’s doing, and he will tell them about the fight with his parents, about the struggles at university, about the girl with the world’s prettiest smile… And Emily will hug him, and Susan will take him on a tour around his new university, and he will meet his old friends and make some new ones and actually study because he wants to, not because he feels the gut-wrenching need to. And it will be good. And then he’ll send the letter to that girl that once broke his heart, and he won’t feel sick to his stomach about it. And life will just go on. Because that’s his plan for now: To keep on moving.
When he goes to sleep that night, he almost feels calm.