Letters to Jasper (Before and After)
Letter I: March, Unknowingly with child
Turns out we can’t seem to get a handle on a common ground on reality between you and me.
I wish it were different, but it’s not.
I am who I am.
You are convinced that I am shady and have other intentions despite what I have told you.
I will never agree with you on that.
And you will never agree with me that I am clean.
In fact, in the midst of your own infidelity and my forgiveness of that, you still have the audacity to question my loyalty
Neither you nor I deserve such torment of the heart.
In the end, you are right.
You will be fine.
I will be fine.
Let’s just leave it at that.
I love you, but love, in this circumstance, is obviously not enough.
You are so convinced of my character—it is unfortunate because I am not the guilty, suspicious person you make me out to be.
And I never will be.
You will not walk in on me having sex with another man.
I will not fall in love with someone else while you are making plans to move here.
I will never be with your friend.
I am not interested in any of my past relationships as a revival.
I am not fickle. I do not have a wandering eye.
The truth is—
You don’t know me. You never really gave yourself a chance to.
That makes me sad.
It could have been great.
My life is an open book—especially for you. You came into my home, my grandparents’ home, my brothers’ home, feasted with us, sang with us, met my friends, came to work with me, meetings with me, I gave you keys to my house, put you on my credit card, gave you all my airline points… I really made you part of my life. Really shared as much as I could with you. And you were welcomed. From my bed to ‘Mellow Mondays’ to my journey overseas—you were a prominent presence in my life. I shared all of this with you because I was bringing you into my world and was hoping that, in turn, all of the above would give you a greater understanding and knowingness of the woman you chose to be with. But you are so blind to that.
I did my time to know who you are. To really hone in and listen to your stories and your journey—where you’ve been, why you’re where you’re at, why you do things the way you do, why you have made the choices you have, where you hope to be. And I accepted all of it. Took you as is. Let you in.
But enough is enough.
I can’t keep taking the same answer of your ‘fears’ to excuse harsh, unwarranted behavior towards me.
I can’t keep defending myself when I have done nothing to deserve this scrutiny.
I can’t continue being with a man who has no intention of accepting me and all the love that comes with me, yet somehow foresees me bearing his children.
On a very fundamental, elementary level—you don’t get me.
But how could you? You’re in a relationship with loneliness, not me.
You are a wonderful person. You really are.
I wish you all the brightest things in life and I hope that when they cross your path, you recognize them and you stand in the light.
Because I feel like everything I said above has been on repeat for the duration of our entire relationship, and this will be my last message to you in efforts to break this exhausting and pathetic pattern we’ve fallen into. I cannot compete any longer with your fear and loneliness. It is not my battle to fight. I accept your reality as I accept mine.
All the best for you, Jasper,
Letter II: March, 2 years later
The best you can? Oh man, you have no idea. I’M RAISING A CHILD. ON MY OWN. On top of EVERYTHING else I do. YOU HAVE NO IDEA. And I’ve got to deal with all the mental, social, emotional, financial, and physical aftermath of this ruined dream of a family. You shamed us.
(breathe) This is the last love letter, the last thank you, the last shared loud smile, stint of sentiment, jolt of vulnerable. A final glimpse of what is left. A final insight into my feelings for you.
I was on set the other day and a crew guy was making small talk with my brother Daniel at lunch. It was harmless, just a couple of boys talking. The crew guy was charismatic enough and to be honest, I had taken a liking to him. His dedication to the project and his general jovial demeanor. He was talking about a girl he dated back in New York. A dancer. Her body was, as he put it, “banging” and she was “mad talented.” But, his ego got the best of him when they were lying in bed one day and he saw she was missing a toe. He just couldn’t proceed with the relationship. Told Daniel that, “I know it’s shallow, but once I’m turned off, I’m turned off.”
Later on in the day it came up in the kitchen between Daniel and me. He mentioned how funny the crew guys are… and I couldn’t help but think of you.
It was December 24th and our daughter Aurora was born. After 30 hours of agony, I was instructed that a cesarean was the best route to go. And so it was. At 7:54 p.m., our little blessing came into the world. As a new mother, I was elated. As a woman—an object of attraction, a muse, a symbol of eye-candy—I was less than stellar. On top of the whole missing-one-ear debacle—my hair was a hot mess, my body was warped out of its own bounds, and my incision was so fresh I couldn’t walk, eat, and I could barely speak.
And then there was you. You came back into my life days before my due date. Just in time to get your name on Rory’s birth certificate. I had you promise that if you came to the birth, you were not allowed to make it about you. That it wasn’t even about me, it was about Rory, and having as healthy a delivery as possible. And for once, in our short-lived relationship, you let it all go and stood by me. It was the closest we’d ever been to ‘for better or worse.’ So much so, that when the horrible night nurse pulled the catheter out and I was forced to get up to relieve myself and it hurt so bad to walk and sit… you were there. Helping me take one step at a time. Reminding me of how strong I was. You cleaned me up. The stress and the pressure were so great that, as a result, I was branded with hemorrhoids. The worst possible torture I would never wish on anyone. And there you were. Down there. Humorously and earnestly assessing the situation. “Baby, you got a few the size of dimes, but I gotta tell ya, it’s these quarter-sized ones that are really concerning me.” And I would cry in pain! Partly because it felt like a knife coming out of my ass and partly from the sheer hilarity of the situation, the toll laughter had, all because of the major abdominal surgery I just went through. And the cry/laugh would only increase when I would look up and catch a glance at myself in the mirror, all bandaged up, face bulged, belly hanging out of itself, and strands of hair flying every which way.
Setting aside that you abandoned ship a third of the way into the pregnancy; on those few days in the hospital, you were not shallow. Isolating those five days following Aurora’s birth, we were in the middle of the ocean and you were my life jacket. You took care of me. Whole-heartedly. I would like to thank you for that. You loved me when all my walls were down. You loved me, as I never knew I required to be loved.
I will have you know that in my letters to Aurora, as she grows, the words exchanged between her and I regarding you will never be caddy or trite. In fact, some go as far as to say you get off as being the hero. Make no mistake: just because I won’t disrespect you, doesn’t mean I respect you. You will never find me shunning you to Rory. She will learn for herself in her own time why, how, and who her father is and what role she wants her father to play in her life. That’s her decision. Meanwhile, I spend very little time lamenting your absence. I am, after all, raising a child and it demands much of my time, leaving me little to none to dwell on petty trivial pursuits.
That being said, I have allotted this time for you and your frivolous attempts of communication over the first year of your daughter’s life. And when I say frivolous, I mean to say rare and uncommon bursts of “I love you” texts and “I promise, I’ve got a plan” emails, that in good conscience, I could not merit with a response. I am writing you now because I have long given up on any hopes of you engaging in an actual voice-to-voice communication and your last note, after months of silence, about “doing the best you can” made me grunt and chuckle in disbelief.
This email crept out of the archives tonight, bringing me back to ‘us.’ A little snap shot of a love rendered out of complete will, a love that still believed, a love that didn’t know any better:
I can write you a lot of words right now.
But it seems like you have a lot of those running rampant around your head.
I urge you to give more validity to those feelings that sometimes are intangible to capture in words.
Funny how that is, you and I, both poets. And yet, we feel so intensely—and at times, immeasurable by the containers that words offer.
So when I lay these words in a text, a letter, when they slide off my tongue—know they carry the weight and light of an entire universe: I love you.
In the end, you don’t get it. You’ve never gotten it. And I was the fool who fell for you. I will take responsibility for that.
I’m disappointed. Honestly.
But you know—I’ve been pushed to limits I’ve never dreamed of being pushed to… Let’s be truthful, you’ve really been a shitty shitty person to me, so unkind and selfish. Five days in a hospital room does not take the place of being a father. Although I cherish it as one of the most benevolent acts another person has ever done for me, it was probably all you could do to save some sort of face, to leave your mark somewhere in your daughter’s history. Are you happy? How dare you think I would give her your last name. You’re lucky I hyphenated it at all. I think back now and I can’t believe how fallacious I was to stand by you. I feel like I was conned. I don’t even know who you are.
But Aurora and I—we’re going to survive all this. We’ve been surviving. And although you have altered my life and views on companionship drastically and hurt me the worst, I feel sorry for you. Because you are missing out on the best part. The ultimate creative endeavor, the best song ever written. Despite it all, I am grateful for you. You provided the DNA to create the best thing that has ever happened to me. Thank you for “your best” and good luck. I hope you find your way.
And if that day should ever come, I pray for your conscience,
Arianna Basco (@ladybasco) is the author of Palms Up, which features letters from a mother to her unborn child during the nine months of pregnancy. Jasper is a character from the novella.