An invisible dartboard
by Carolyn Wyler
It’s what I would tell you now,
if I could.
You ARE important!
Is what I wanted to say then.
But words didn’t come then
and those two words, “I’m sorry,” get stuck in the back of my throat now
as I remember
and can never forget.
There were plenty of them back then,
words flung about like sharp, painful darts eventually hitting their mark …
I really didn’t know a thing about you. I barely knew your name.
Perhaps you wished at times you were invisible
but craved to have someone notice and see you.
The real you.
Instead you became a living dartboard.
Others used you to fling their inadequacies at the target,
You were not invisible.
You were impossible to miss.
Your long shoulder length hair, colored shirt sans tie, and blue jeans spoke loudly in a very conservative church that encouraged every man to don a Wally Beaver short haircut, white shirt, tie and crisp slacks.
Every Sunday for a couple of months, I noticed as you sat in the back pew
We passed in the hallway and greeted each other with a smile,
but never said more than a passing hello.
We were both misfits you and I,
you a non-conformist
and I a divorced mother of two,
just wanting to fit in.
I never really knew you were hurting, never heard the mean words flung your way,
but somehow I felt you were in pain.
“Write him a letter,” a voice in my head told me over and over again. Tell him he’s a good person.”
Each time I heard the voice, I would replace it with an excuse.
“I’m presumptuous thinking that you would need or even want any kind of note from me.”
“I am really quite shy and don’t know how to approach you with such a missive.”
“I am probably projecting how I felt about my own life onto you. Maybe this wasn’t about you at all.”
The excuses continued until I moved out of your area a couple months later and I no longer saw you.
I wanted to cry when I heard you had taken your life.
You had been bullied and picked on at school and at church.
You didn’t think anyone cared.
Now, thirty years after your death, I find myself wondering.
Would my letter have made a difference?
Would you still be alive today if one person had told you that they cared?
I will never know the answer to that question.
I will never be able to apologize to you for never sending you that letter.
I can hope that since your passing, I have lived a life that when I see someone hurting, I will stand up and protect them.
Let them know that they are not invisible.
Let them know they are real and good.