Work Header

Controlled Burn

Work Text:


I used to think this house was a tomb.

Now there's all this light streaming in the front windows, warm and gold and alive, filling up the floorboards, folding over the furniture, and I don't know. It doesn't feel so much like a tomb. It really doesn't. 

I thought it would be harder, putting these things in boxes. I thought it would hurt more. Maybe it would have, before. But everything is different now. I think I might be different now. For better or worse. Maybe a little of both. 

When I came back, I came back empty. My body came back, but there was nothing inside. And at first I thought I was fucked. I thought I had finally done it, had finally gotten myself so broken that I couldn't really come back. Could never be the same. I thought maybe I'd left the best parts of me back on that beach, somewhere in the wet sand, drowned in the tide, drowned and dead and fucking gone. 

And maybe that's true, because I still feel hollow and barely real, sometimes. But this morning I woke up and it was a little different. I laid in bed and felt burnt up, from the inside out. Just taking in the quiet, letting myself just fucking exist there in the emptiness and for the first time, being hollow, being burned down like this, it didn't feel like a bad thing.

I don't know. Maybe I just need to feel like there was a reason for all of this. Maybe I need to feel like there was some good, any good. Maybe I need it to have all been for something. But all that fucking rage in me has finally run out of things to burn, and now that there's nothing left in me, maybe that means there's room for new things. 

Sometimes the old stuff, it has to be burned down, doesn't it? Joel explained this to me once. What did he call it? Controlled burn. He said they would burn parts of a forest on purpose, so that it could grow back better. Stronger.

And that makes sense, doesn't it? The death and rot, the black tangles and choking weeds, it all has to be set on fire so that other things, new and green and good, can take its place.

God, Dina--I want to be new. 

I need to let green things grow. Here, in me.

Cause I just don't have it in my anymore to hold onto the old things. All that fucking anger. I can't. 

You don't owe me anything. Except maybe a solid punch in the fucking face, probably. What I did to you and JJ, it's the kind of thing I always worried Joel might do to me. I've always been terrified, on some level, of being left alone in the world. But Joel, he was the only person who ever stayed, you know? He saw me. Really saw me. I couldn't see that until now, the way I mattered to him. Really, truly mattered . I was just an asshole kid, he didn't have to do shit for me. Instead, he did everything for me. He picked me, over everything and everyone else, time and time and time again. He chose me. 

And I think that's it, you know, that's the biggest, deepest, most meaningful thing you can do for another person. Just choose them. Choose them every time. It's as easy and as hard as that. 

Joel tried to show me that, I think, and yet I still fucked it up. I fucked it up so bad, Dina. All I had to do was choose you. Choose JJ. The way Joel chose me. And I fucked it up.

I could try to explain myself. I could try to tell you the way it felt, being so filled up with rage and pain every single day that it felt like my skin was going to split at any second. How I was carrying around the kind of grief that gets deep down inside you, sticks to your bones, fills up every corner of you like wet, black cement, until you can't even breathe.

I could tell you that I had to leave, didn't have a choice, that I had to exorcise that anger and grief in a baptism of violence. That I had to find a way to bleed out all that wet cement grief, that corrosive acid rage. 

But I'm working on being honest. On being open. And the truth is that there wasn't any metaphorical baptism. The truth is that Abby never mattered. I just hated myself so much, Dina. Hated that I couldn't help him. Hated that I had lost my chance to forgive him. To make him know. 

To tell him that he really mattered to me, too.

I never even called him my dad. Not to his face. Even though I wanted to, you know. I wanted to, but I was still so worried, I think--worried that once I had fallen for it, had given in and said it out loud, that he would choose that moment to leave me, one way or another. So it was partly this fear of rejection, I think, and partly this crazy idea that not saying it was the thing keeping him there. 

It sounds so stupid now, when I put it to words like this. 

I should have just said it.

I don't expect you to forgive me, but I don't want to make that mistake again. Don't want to let fear get between me and the things, the people, that really matter.

So I need you to know that I thought of you and JJ every single day. That I missed you both in ways I didn't know one person could miss another. And when I finished drowning myself out there on that beach, when I was finally empty, it was the two of you that brought me back. I could feel you, like magnets, pulling me back across the miles, one step after the next. Even though I didn't deserve to come back, and it wasn't fair, and I probably should have died out there. Probably should be a clicker wearing canvas sneakers right now. 

But I'm not. I'm here. And I'm packing Joel's things away because this house, his house, it's not a tomb. It's not dead. It's ready for green things, too. For new things. I can tell. I really can.

I have a long way to go, Dina. I do. Sometimes the grief still tangles up in me and I don't know what to do with it, how to fight it off. But I can't think of anything Joel would have wanted more than for me to be happy here, in this house. For me to live a whole, long, boring life here. Have a family here. Paint in the backyard, plant flowers around the sidewalk, drink coffee on the porch. Or maybe just tea. Surely he wouldn't mind the compromise, because coffee is still the fucking worst. Sorry, Joel.

I want to make this a home, Dina, and the only place that's home for me is wherever you are. That never changed. Not for a second.

I'm just saying...I'm here, Dina. And if you can never forgive me, well, I don't blame you, and that's something I'll have to learn to live with for the rest of my life. 

But if there's any part of you, however small, that still wants this, still wants me, still wants us--

Well, I found this whole new book of jokes, you know. Three hundred and sixty-five new jokes, Dina. A new joke for every day of the year.

And there's nothing I've ever wanted more than to sit on the front porch and tell you the first one. 

Just one more chance to make you laugh, Dina.


That's all I'm asking.

And all the rest--


We'll figure it out.

I know we will.

All My Love,