Digging in the depth of our closet, I came across stories I wrote in my late teens and early twenties. I was struck by the tone of a “letter” I had typed about 25 years ago. I was struck by the loneliness that runs through the piece. Struck by the darkness of the place I wrote from. This was around the time my father died from cancer, when I was breaking up with my first and only girlfriend, and years before coming out. I wanted to be rescued then and had no idea that these walls can only be torn down from within. I really hope that, more than 25 years later, it is easier for young men to come out than it was for me then. And I’m glad that in then end I did rescue the little boy who wrote this letter, even if it took a long time.
Here is a translation of the original letter:
Please hear what I don’t dare to say! Don’t let me fool you. Don’t let my face deceive you. I’m wearing masks. Masks that I fear to take off. Though none of the masks show me. Pretending has become second nature to me. But don’t let that mislead you. I seem to be an easy talker, it seems that all is light inside, that I don’t need anyone.
Don’t believe me! On the outside I might seem confident, but that is only a mask. Underneath is the real me: lost, afraid and alone. I hide that well. I don’t want anyone to know. I begin to panic just thinking of my weakness. I’m afraid to show any part of me. So I’m desperately inventing new masks to hide behind. A casual pretense protecting me from knowing glances. Though just such a glance would be my rescue. I know.
If there was somebody who accepted and loved me, only that would make me feel safe. Safe the way I cannot make myself. Somebody who tells me that I am worth something. I don’t tell you that. I don’t dare to. I’m afraid. I’m afraid you wouldn’t look at me with acceptance and love. I’m afraid you’d think nothing of me and you would laugh. Your laughter would kill me.
I’m afraid that deep inside I’m empty. That there is nothing inside of me, that you will reject me when you see. That’s why I’m playing this game, this desperate game: confident on the outside and a desperate child inside. I blather superficially. I tell you everything about nothing, but nothing about what really is. Nothing of what screams inside of me. So don’t let me fool you by what I’m used to saying.
Please listen carefully and try to hear want I’m not saying. What I want to say, but cannot say. I hate this superficial hiding game. It is a false game and I want to be true and spontaneous. I want to be just me. But you have to help me. You have to take my hand, even if it is the last thing I seem to want. Only you can bring me to life. Whenever you reach out to me in friendship, whenever you encourage me, whenever you try to understand, my heart grows wings. Tiny, fragile wings, but wings. Your feelings and the power of your understanding bring me life.
I want you to know that. I want you to know how important you are to me. I want you to know how much power you have to make me the man I want to be. Please! I wish you wanted to. Only you can tear down the wall I hide behind, shivering. Only you can take off my mask. Only you can free me from this world of shadows, free me from my loneliness. Don’t miss me. Please don’t skip over me. It won’t be easy for you. My long held conviction that I’m worthless has built thick walls. The closer you get to me, the more I will strike blindly at you. I will fight against you, against what I cry for. I’ve been told that love conquers all. I hope that’s true.
You want to know who I am? I’m someone you know well. Someone you meet often.
Here is a scan of the original letter in German.