Life After…Go figure

A Narrative of Life Outside The Box


This is an open letter to entities unlikely to respond. Having said that, I hope some of you find it some day.


I don’t know you, and I may never meet you. You are many people and one at the same time. You’re the little girl wishing you could convince your parents that you were sick enough to stay home from school–and the kids who either turn away from you if you make eye contact on the playground or scratch your glasses or humiliate you any way they can. You’re the 13 year old cringing behind one of your grandparents’ Readers Digests, because your mother has spent the past hour berating you in private and now she’s the gracious life of the family gathering. And you know you’ll start and flinch and answer in monosyllabics which will just convince your cousins that she’s a wonderful long suffering single parent with an abnormal daughter. You’re the kid who’s probably straight and gets called every filthy gay slur for years–before you realize that if you had been LGBT they would have hurt even more. You’re the veteran skilled employee sitting in front of the HR rep whose smile never reaches her eyes, whose wardrobe could dress you for a year. You know she’s got some petty, semi-legal nastiness in mind today, and you also know that you can fight her…and then find another job.

We’ve all gone through life with a target signal on our back. One of those people, one of those bullies or crazies or sadistic asses put it there.

Oh, and yes, absolutely, some of us go through so much worse than what I’ve laid out already. Girls are getting raped and married to their rapists. Boys are getting set on fire. Executions, bombs, torture.

Here’s the thing: I believe we have the right to judge our own pain on its own terms. I used to go for long walks with my dog and tell myself “Hey, this happened today/tonight but how can I complain? I have a dog. I live in a house. I’m literate and healthy.”  And I’m not suggesting that the right to acknowledge that something is wrong is synonymous with the right to evolve into whoever is gunning for miss social-mega-bitch  (you know: she exists on many planes simultaneously, in several credit brackets. When the Incredible Hulk runs into HER, he probably wets his pants–if he has ’em on–and runs away sobbing).

Here’s my other thought: I also believe we have the right to be people. We have the right to stand up, rip the damned bull’s eye off our backs and say “I am not a target, I am a person.”

I think, possibly, I made an important step in that resistance this morning. I couldn’t sleep, so I lay there, remembering something unhappy, and thinking about the bull’s eye. Then, I went to each part of myself, the little girl, the 11 year old, the high school student, a particular Christmas Day in my early 20’s. And to each of these I said the same thing. “I’m sorry this happened. I wish I could undo it. I can’t. I can’t stop it from happening to you, at this time on this day. But, at this time, and on this day I am here with you. I love you. I love you as me then and I love you as me now. So someone truly cares, and truly loves you and they are there with you and for you.”

I have no idea if this will help in the long run. I have no notion of whether this will be useful to anyone who comes across it. I certainly would never market it as a strategy–and not just because I am marketing kryptonite. All I can say is that after I did this, I felt better. The memory hurt less. The part of me caught in that moment was not gone, but felt as though for the first time since that moment, she could get some rest. She could peel off the target sign and be me, then and now.

So in the chance that this may be helpful to someone else, I’ve typed up the idea here.

We are not targets, damn all of you who tried to make us play along on the range. We are people and every time we remember that, a part of your hatred and your awfulness dries up and blows away with the dust.

On a snarkier note:  I almost missed that I had written ‘the Inedible Hulk.’ Imagery I truly regret.


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2 thoughts on “Targets-Becoming-People

  1. Janet Sawyer Brown on said:

    Since becoming a FACEBOOK person, I discovered that people I went to school with me had the same insecurities I had. All those years of being targeted and feeling alone…I wasn’t really. People who I felt snubbed by now send me the sweetest words. I have thrown away the bullseyes I imagined on my back now. I guess time does heal wounds…or else erases memories.

  2. Hey Janet, you are ahead of me. I have not had the experience of coming back into contact with school nemesis (nemesesses? Nemesi? Nemisorum meum? Hm). I think that since I have discovered no ability to forgive them (as of yet), that is probably a good thing. I did, in the ancient pre-internet days of yore, run into some girls who had stopped at ‘haughty’ in school, rather than all out and out sociopathy and they were not only nice, it was nice discovering that.

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