I still think about how it all happened: I had pulled the hood deeply over my head in hopes of hiding the black eye before going out to collect the mail; I’d tried to use foundation but not only did it not cover the bruise, but it stung besides. I had washed it off and called out from work. He didn’t know, since he’d left before first-light. It was good to have the house to myself, to wallow in my misery in the quiet of that space. The sun was streaming across the porch and its brilliance felt like another punch to my eyes, but a welcomed one. I tried not to let the downstairs neighbor see too much of me; it was bad enough that she listened through her ceiling when he hit me, and never tried to help. I grabbed the mail before she came out–I could hear her footfalls through the flimsy wall. I shut the door just as she had opened hers and managed to scurry back into the safety of my kitchen. I pawed through the pile of advertisements, bills, and junk to find a letter addressed to me. The handwriting looked familiar but the postmark didn’t. I opened it; the date on it was exactly 20 years from that day–not in the past, but in the future.
You have an hour to pack and leave.
I know you won’t believe me, but this letter is from you; I am you, writing to myself. I can’t make it make sense but please try and believe me. There is no reason for you to live like this. You’ve beat yourself up worse than he ever could, but you can get out. I know you don’t think so, and Pastor has you convinced that it’s not right to leave, but trust me–it won’t be better if you tell him about the hitting; he thinks it’s justified, that women need to be put “in their place.” If you leave, you will find a better church, one where the leaders preach love to all, not fear to some.
Here’s what will happen if you stay: you will never see the man you really love again. You will be miserable for a really long time and never have the life for which you were destined.
If you leave, you can go to your true love. By going to him, you will save both your lives; I know you are scared–scared of leaving and scared of being rejected, but trust me, please. My future is in your hands. Below you will find a list of things to take and what to do. I know–every story you’ve read says it’s impossible for this to be happening, that if you meet yourself you will cause a rupture in the space-time continuum, that you can’t change the future. But we aren’t really meeting, are we? You are simply reading a letter, and when you finish doing what it says you are going to burn it, then flush the ashes down the toilet. You can do that once you get out of here. But for now, you have 50 minutes to pack and leave. Please. If you don’t do this for yourself, do it for me. In the end, you are still doing it for yourself.
I don’t remember reading all those words then, but I must have because I’m sitting here, writing them to myself now. I still cry for the me who will get this letter; she suffered so much. But I am glad she listened because I was right–by leaving, she saved our life.