To Write is to Heal

“Do you think you can forgive me?”


He asked me this while there was still blood between my teeth. 

He asked me this while I held my own right thumb, because

I read somewhere it would help with the pain.

He asked me if I could forgive him. 


“Do you think you can forgive me?”


The only thing I could think was,

“I’m sixteen. I’m sixteen and he knows it”.

I imagined the display of birthday candles on my cake.

I counted them religiously, making sure that I hadn’t mistaken the melting wax for another wick.

I wanted to convince myself that I was 18, or 25, or 37, but I was sixteen.

I was sixteen and he knew it. 


“Do you think you can forgive me?”


I forgave my five year old brother when he spilled chocolate milk on my blueprints,

and my best friend when she accidentally snapped the heel of my shoe in half.

I forgave my teacher for thinking that I said I have “Public Displays of Affection”

instead of “Patent Ductus Arteriosus”. 


The first day I learned how to drive,

my dad forgave me for almost driving his white chevy tahoe into a ditch.

My uncle forgave me for choosing to spend a day in Bermuda

talking to our native taxi driver about his father’s death. He knows that I love when 

people’s tattoos find a way to attach themselves to my skin.

A few months ago, my mother forgave me for dying my hair blonde

because I had writers block and thought that a new persona

would help me finish a poem about connecting a stranger’s freckles (it worked).


“These are the things that people forgive”, I thought. 


“Do you think you can forgive me?”


I am 17 years old now.

I stopped apologizing to my mother for wearing shorts.

In fact, my fists grasped “I’m sorry” and yanked it out of my vocabulary.

I started to look in mirrors again without getting lost between the spiderwebs in my irises.

I started to write again, I learned to write again,

crafting 157 poems that were painful to write but empowering to read.

Seeing his name on a piece of paper in my handwriting gave me control,

stitched my wounds together when people dared to sting me with salt,

and showed me that the works of a writer can never die. 

could never die.

Writing helped me accept the fact that the person who hurt me has a wife

who kisses him on Sunday mornings,

and a daughter who asks him to tie her ballet slippers.

I cannot say that I don’t hold my phone a little tighter when I walk home,

but I can say that I don’t chisel away at the parts of myself that he turned into scar tissue.

I am not going to dig my feet into the pavement.

I am going to save lives, beat odds and make sure

that every single one of my patients can go home knowing that

they do not have to be bulletproof to be indestructible. 


I do not, and will not, make myself smaller to fit in the mold of what a victim should look like. 


“Do you think you can forgive me?”


I did not forgive him. I persevered.



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