Dear person from last week/5 years ago/30 years ago,

I’m sorry for the thing I said/did. I still think about it. It makes my eyes fly open in the middle of the night and my face glow shame-hot in the dark. I’ve often wished I could take it back. I always thought that would be the ideal solution. But now—writing this—I think a better option would have been owning that moment. Taking responsibility for my words and actions. Learning from it.

I didn’t mean to hurt you. I was most likely trying to be funny. Always with the funny. Or perhaps I was trying to be right. But sometimes in the quest for those things I hit a little too close to home. And I saw it: The flinch, the shock, the darted look away. I knew that if I were to look down at that moment, I’d see my right foot firmly planted over the line.

You may have received an apology, a cobbled-together mess of words that included, “but…” or, “that you feel that way,” or, “drinking.” I’m sure I thought I was sincere, and so very mature for apologizing in such a way. Or really, for apologizing at all. But real apologies have no conditions or excuses. Apologies are humble and vulnerable; fumbled and ill-formed. Apologies are felt rather than recited.

And, person from last week/5 years ago/30 years ago, while we’re on the subject, I’m sorry for the thing I didn’t say/do. I didn’t know how, so I avoided it or you. Or, my God, made a joke to ease the tension and excuse myself from being a part of what you needed. There were so many simple things I could have said/done. I could have listened. I could have sat with you and said nothing. I could have stayed. I said I had to go. I always had to go.

Oh, person from last week/5 years ago/30 years ago? I really hope you’ve forgotten about that time I said/did something incredibly stupid. Wow, what an ass. I can’t believe I said/did that thing in front of you/that person/those people. If I could Eternal Sunshine that shit out of my brain I would. But I can’t. It’s on call, waiting to pop up like a dormant disease, making my face contort unwillingly into a wince.

So, person from last week/5 years ago/30 years ago, if you remember, I’m sorry.

If you don’t remember, that’s okay.

I do.