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Letter To My Son

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You know what’s weird? I didn’t feel much when I saw you for the first time.
I don’t know why I expected to cry. Never been the effusive kind –never been one to invest tears in a cause, no matter how precious. Not how I operate. You’ll learn this about me, in time.

But what the hell, I thought I’d cry because you deserve to see me cry. You deserve to look upon my face, for the very first time, and understand how much you matter. Not just to me –I refuse to play that game with you, that game where your value stays relative to how important I decide you’ll be at any given point. You’re important, because to love you is to deny the world its cynicism, its cry for collapse. Because you’ll be so much, or so little; you’ll just be. You don’t need a reason to be important.
I guess it’s something a death machine could never understand.

Your mom loves you too. She didn’t cry either: she laughed, once she was done screaming. She laughed because she saw my face, and I think she saw the dread that cut my breath off and left my hands shaking. I didn’t realize at the time just how terrified I was. But I don’t know, I might love your mom because she stubbornly refuses to be afraid of me, that I couldn’t stand to hold something as fragile as you, so dependent on my own strength –that I’ll be too scared of my understanding of attachment, presence, authority, and would rather run than ruin you. But she laughed, because she isn’t afraid of the ghosts in my veins, like I am.
She chose to believe I’ll stay. And I chose to believe her.

She’s a smart woman, your mom. Doctor Cole –doesn’t it have a great ring to it? I like pragmatic girls. Brynn told me she carried you in her the second she knew. She held my hand, held my eyes: what do we do? she asked. I think we both knew it wasn’t wise, to raise a child in the apocalypse; potentially to force that child to watch the world ending only so we could have our last burst of joy, and use you as relief from the nightmare no matter what that would do to you. Besides the philosophical concerns, which were more her thing than mine (at least in the beginning), there was the material cost. Could we feed you? Could we keep you warm? Could we promise you that we’d survive the war, stay by your side no matter what, cradle you to sleep when you’d be afraid –because you will be afraid?
No. We could not promise you this. We won’t promise you that we won’t die, that you won’t resent our choice in time. I can’t control this. Maybe this is why my first instinct was fear: I can’t promise you that I won’t leave you behind to deal with chaos beyond what any of us could possibly understand.
But what I can promise is: I will fight for your right to live.

It’s difficult, to figure out when fighting is fleeing, when fighting is devotion, and when fighting is love. Maybe it’s just more difficult for me. The woman I left for your mom, she always seems to know when to fight, what for; grounded and solid in a way that, I think, I could never completely trust. Not that she’s a bad person, far from it. She did hate me for abandoning her though, especially with the entire universe resting on her reconstructed shoulders, restitched from dead pieces we had to pretend were always meant to stay alive.
But here’s the thing: we both were in the death cult. We met in the death cult, kissed in the death cult before flinging ourselves inside of a black hole –and survived it on borrowed time. Both her and me? We’ve been in the death cult all of our lives.
Now, I like a pragmatic girl, right? Shepard fights like she breathes, because that’s why she breathes. They gifted her life back, only so she could burn it again, and again, and again. I watched her body forced back to motion, I watched the scar tissue from the exposure to the vacuum of space –they made her come back regardless. And she agreed to fight, because she can’t do anything but thoroughly offer herself up to others. She will never stop killing herself. She will never leave the cult.

I think Shepard fights for devotion, fights to flee, and fights for love. But the death cult rules her: Cerberus, the Alliance, call it whatever you want. It ruled my own father as well –though my father never fought for love, and I learned that in time, bitterly. And well, it ruled me. Disappearing seemed inevitable. Absence is only complicated for those left behind. My father made sure that I understood this; and when he reappeared? He had taught me about the mantras of the death cult, through presence and absence. And when I met him again, all I could think about was: all of the garbage I went through, willingly... for this?
Maybe this was the first thing that shocked me off my numbness.
Maybe this is why I survived a planned suicide as I willingly followed Shepard into hell.

And Shepard will keep on fighting the selfless fight, the fight of the desperate. And if we survive the end of the world, it will be because of the blood she spills: her own, and everyone elses.
Maybe that’s why I hated Brynn’s idea to give you her name. Not only does Shepard hate me for abandoning both her and the love she thinks she could have given me –but I don’t want you to die for anyone but yourself.

Brynn was in the death cult, too. But she was a skeptic. Scientists tend to live less miserable lives than soldiers: we are told to die for the survival of others, while they are told to live for the sake of nurturing wonder. It didn’t take her much to disentangle me from the little threads still holding me down –barely escaping the clutch of a suicide mission will have you resort your priorities.
I think that, through you, Brynn wants to teach me how to nurture wonder.

You were not born out of selflessness. Sentient creatures are not selfless; this is why we’re sentient. But I have killed for so long. I have compromised myself for ideas that were not worth the pain. But now, here you are.
I won’t fight to hide. I won’t fight at all, if you don’t want me to.
I don’t know if this is how we win against the apocalypse. I don’t know if that yearning for hope is good enough of an excuse. I don’t know if I get to leave the death cult without being haunted by what it might cost you, one day.
All I know is: I’ll be selfishly alive, for as long as I can handle it.

And I will not leave you.