Dear Sophie Hatter

dearsophie

It was the very first lines of your book in which you caught me. The magic, the mystery, the phrasing was all part of it. But you were the eldest of three sisters, doomed by design to fail first and worst. And it was at that moment that I knew someone, somewhere understood me. And then of course, I met you. We have more in common than I could have ever dreamed, because when it came down to it, I never dreamed someone would write a story about me.

Or at least, the story I wish I could have.

I know you’ll understand me when I say I feel like a failure most of the time. Unsuccessful, unremarkable, undesirable. It’s frustrating, because I want to follow your example- to finally take control over my own life, to step out into the world and realize that I am valuable, worthy. But, well, I’m sick Sophie. Not just in the sick-and-tired way; but in the real, permanent sickness and pain and so unhealthy that sometimes I can’t take care of myself way. There aren’t any witches here to help me get started seeking my fortune, either by cure or by curse. More importantly, I’m afraid of failing, so afraid it has me paralyzed. Not just than that- I’m afraid that failure is my only option. I am, after all, the eldest of three, and while that may not have the same magical implications here, I still seem to follow that trend.

And Sophie? There’s one more thing, something I desperately try to avoid even thinking about. And it’s another thing I think you’ll understand. I’m afraid my failures, doomed or cursed or just the ordinary sort of failures, will make it impossible to ever find someone who loves me. It comes down to this- I am very well aware what it feels like to fall in love. But I have never, not once in my 25 years on this Earth, felt what it’s like to have them love you back. Isn’t that a pathetic thing to say out loud? (Or write down, I suppose, but it hardly matters).

Can you see why I need some of your strength? Some of your reassurance? It’s silly to think I can simply talk myself out of feeling like a failure. People say you simply have to be optimistic; but I think you know as well as I do that all the optimism in the world won’t help you feel confident when there’s not a single scrap of evidence as to why you should be. Especially when the evidence demonstrating your failure is so strong.

Being an old woman, being out there seeing magic and bossing around Howl and Michael and Calcifer, learning that you have powers and strengths and talents that were unique just to you, it helped you find a foothold. It gave you something to cling to as you found your confidence. And I just don’t know how to find that foothold, Sophie. So I was hoping, if it’s not too much trouble, you could send a little bit of magic my way. Not a lot, mind you; I don’t really fancy being turned into an old woman when I’ve already got aches and pains and arthritis. Just a drop. Just enough. Enough to get started on a journey in which I might find confidence of my own.

Even if you can’t Sophie (and I would totally understand, since you obviously know more about how such things work than I do), I appreciate you sharing your story with me. Many times, just reading those words enough to give a little boost of hope, which is a sort of type of magic in it’s own way.

Thank you,

An Admirer

P.S. I don’t have a fireplace, so if you intend to send Calcifer as a sort of magical help, please let me know in advance so I can stock up on long burning candles or oil lanterns or something.

 

 

Sophie Hatter is from the novel Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

Dear Petunia Dursley

petuniadursley

I’ve tried for a very long time to understand you. You’ve made it very difficult. I’ll never be able to understand why you treated your nephew the way you did. Or why you married who you did. Or spoiled your son to the point you did. Mostly, your life seems to me something to be pitied, a sad story about someone so consumed with jealousy that they lost touch with all other feelings they once had towards a person. But I’ve been thinking more and more about siblings lately- specifically, the relationship between my own sisters and I.

I’m the oldest sister, like you. Sometimes I think people don’t always realize how big of a difference that makes. Especially people who are the only child- it’s impossible for them to ever get it. The dynamic is strange and you can always tell which order someone was born only a few sentences after they begin to talk about their siblings. It’s in the language we use- which things bother us about the others, how our parents treated us differently, what we felt the others had that we didn’t.

For you, that last one is obvious. Lily had magic, and you didn’t. She was off doing new and exciting things, things you would never be able to do no matter how hard you tried. That I can understand. I know how it is to watch your sibling do things you can’t. I’ve been watching, for years now, as my sisters experience a world I’ve always wanted to be part of. Go to college. Travel abroad. Get a degree. Find a job. Live on their own, out of the house and supporting themselves. Find love. People who don’t know better tell me that the only thing stopping me from doing all those things too is myself. But you and I know better. Sometimes, people are born different. Sometimes, life deals you a hand that makes certain things impossible. You had no magic. I have genetic health problems. And because of this, you and Lily, my sisters and I, live in completely different worlds.

And I want to ask- at what point did you begin to hate Lily for that? At what point did jealousy and loneliness become malice, loathing, total rejection? At what point did your feelings of disgust for her become so powerful that you couldn’t even care for her innocent infant son?

Was it when she died?

Sometimes I wonder if my sisters will one day hate me for being sick. If one day, the differences between the worlds we live in will be too much. We’ll live too far separate from each other to allow understanding anymore. What if they hate me for how I am?

Or worse, what if I grow to hate them?

It doesn’t feel possible. But I’m sure you thought the same, once. I can’t imagine losing a sister. I can’t begin to imagine losing a sister to murder, especially a sister you hate. It had to have been horrible, but it doesn’t excuse how horrible you became. And I suppose… I’m writing to ask how not to become you. That’s a horrible thing to say. And it’s not exactly the point of this letter. I want to understand you. I want to be able to empathize with why you became the way you did because one day, I might grow to hate my sisters. Or they may grow to hate me- and if I can empathize with you, then maybe… I can continue to love them anyway. Does that make sense to you? Probably not. It barely makes sense to me.

If you’ve made it through this letter, haven’t quit reading in anger, do me one favor? Go visit Lily’s grave.

Sincerely,

Another Older Sister

Petunia Dursley is from the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling

Dear Charlie

dearcharlie

I’m not really sure how I want to begin this letter- though I think I know how I want to end it. I think that’s because I always think of the end of a story as the most important part. It’s always been that way for me. There is nothing I loathe so much as an unfinished story, it leaves a bad taste in my mouth, and lingers in my brain for days and weeks and years. It doesn’t happen often when I’m just reading books. Most of the time, the author has the courtesy to finish what he’s writing before he publishes it. But when I dabble in manga or comics or television and other serial forms of story telling, I’ll occasionally fall in love with a story that has no ending, and it eats me up like a wound that won’t heal.

That’s why I think- I know- I’ve never been willing to try and tell my story. People don’t like stories without ending. They want to hear how the hero rises to glory or falls to defeat. They don’t want to hear how she lingers on, unsure and unsteady. What kind of ending can there possibly be, if the hero does not either overcome or succumb to the trials they face? Not a good ending. And I don’t feel like I’ve reached a good ending- that I’ll ever reach a good ending. There is no conclusion, no riding off into the sunset, no happily ever after or horribly ever after. There is just me, continue to linger like the last note someone sings off key during a ‘Happy Birthday’ hanging in the air. I’ve been afraid, for a long time, that in telling my story, I would have to admit that there is no ending for what I’m dealing with- only continuation.

The truth is, I would never let myself consider the possibility of satisfaction without a concrete place to stop. And stories might work like that, but life doesn’t. And I’m slowly learning that a part of living is understanding that it just keeps going until it doesn’t. And the quality of the story you’ll tell isn’t limited by where you chose to end it.

Thank you for that. You don’t know, you’ll never really know, but you were part of the reason I learned that. That’s what I meant, when I said I knew how I wanted to end this letter. There are so, so many stories over the years that have made me who I am today. There are so many stories that have inspired me to write. But Charlie, while you may not have been the reason I started writing, I promise you this- if someday this is all written down for real, and other people read it and relate to it and are inspired by it in turn- that will have been your doing.

Today I was able to sit and read a book, all the way through, for the first time that I can remember since… well since the last time a long time ago. It was your book. And it did not end nice or pretty or with a happily or horribly ever after. It did not end because your story was over. But it ended. And it made me realize that maybe that’s enough.

Love always,

Your Friend

 

 

Charlie is from The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky