Your Heart

An Open Letter To The Man I Could Not Save, And The Millions Of Men Like Him

By January 15, 2016 3

Dear ________

They say “you cannot save people, you can only love them”. 

But who exactly are “they”—right? They seem to have inserted themselves and taken credit for every life warning and lesson since the beginning of time, and yet nobody seems to know who the fuck they are.

Were they there that summer holiday afternoon when I met you? Upon that crowded roof top in Manhattan? Did they see you for the first time through my eyes? I suppose they wouldn’t have missed much. I’m still unsure if that was sweat or beer on your shirt. You could hardly speak you were so drunk. And I was just standing there, sober, taking it all in, mildly discomforted by your state of intoxication.

Do you recall what you said?

You apologized profusely for being in the state that you were in. You told me you were certain I was your future wife, and if I would just let you take down my number, you would prove it. But oh—fuck, you had lost your phone. Yes you were so drunk you had lost your phone and now things were becoming especially unique because you would need me to take down your number and text you, but please—you knew it was all sounding insane but you were certain, positively certain that I was the most beautiful woman you had ever laid eyes on and you were going to make an honest woman out of me someday—as they say.

I want you to know that this only worked for you because I am insane. I never ever give my number out, and I would have torn you a part had you have tried any lines, but I am insanely in love with the idea of uninhibited sincerity. You were an honest mess, but I’m a sucker for how messy honesty can be. Plus you must have said please 200 times, with such anxiety and truth in your voice. There was such, something—if that makes any sense.

They say “people tell you who they are early on. Listen to them”. 

The next time I saw you (a month after only half-answering your persistent messages), I found myself thinking I must have dreamed up that time before; because you were an entirely different person. Sober. Handsome. In the most well-fitting suit I had ever seen in my life. We were at lunch, we were downstairs from your swanky office and you told me you were a partner at the firm. You had such kind eyes and the most beautiful Scottish accent I had ever heard. It sounded melodic, music-like. Rough in the smooth ways, you know? I blew out of there, but not before you made me promise that I’d let you take me out on a “real date” as you put it, because me stopping in at your office cafeteria wasn’t going to cut it, not even a little bit. And this time you weren’t pleading, you were telling: I would meet you for dinner.

Weeks had passed (my own doing again of course), when at long last, we met at a restaurant. You were soaked in a very expensive looking suit, as it had begun down-pouring on your way over. I was dry, in a pair of ripped jeans and sneakers, because I really didn’t care how the date went. I could tell you were nervous, and my aloof attitude was not helping your cause. You ordered yourself a mixed drink as we stood, waiting for our table.

“And she’ll have a…”

“… Chopin on the rocks”, I concluded to the bartender. I don’t sugarcoat anything, least of all my drinks, and you knew you were in trouble right then.

You asked me questions, I gave you answers, and you were growing excited perhaps by my lack thereof. You asked me why I had a “chip on my shoulder”,  and I told you the truth. “Dates bore me because presentations bore me, and therefore, people bore me”,  and it was right then that your suit figuratively came off.

You told me about how you had lost your father to cancer. Suddenly. Terribly. It remains to this day the most precious thing anyone has ever shared with me. I pictured your mother on the hospital floor in just the way that you had described her; in worse condition than the man that they lie dying above her; the doctors more concerned for her beneath him, refusing to move.

And that’s when I saw you for the first time—you were so beautiful.

I remembered you touched me. You grabbed the back of my neck and my head, a bit brutishly in fact, and said “you’re just a baby. You don’t think so but you are”. A sentence, so full of wonder. That wonderful, wonderful little sentence.

We drank a bit more and you begged me to come with you to meet up with some co-workers because you had to introduce them to your future wife. I told you you were crazy, to which you responded, “What do you think our children will look like?”.

I could see there was no getting through to you, and so I got into the taxi anyway.

And what a ride it was. A first “real date”, and you wanted to know what I would name our children. In fact, you needed to know right then. I had wondered in that moment if all Scottish men were this way. Persistent, a bit drunk, but endearing. You promised you’d take good care of me, would never cheat, and that you believed women should be paid if they stayed home with the kids, because it’s a full time job, deserving of just as much as the men who head to the office.

And I almost bit your head off. I told you that I was never going to be the wife that would just “stay at home with your children”. I was going to work my whole entire life if I wanted to  and— wait, are we arguing about our unborn children? I had walked right into your trap.

I met your friends, and it was almost a perfect night until you wanted me to head with you to a club.

Because I figured it out then. Right then. It was this little voice in the back of my head. It was my mother’s voice. It was her awful, nagging voice, from all of the years of my childhood warning us about drugs and addictions. Telling my sisters and I that if we ever became addicts like the ones in her family, she would see us out of her house and her life. Her awful, nagging voice, which had stuck with me through all of the years.

I knew right then, in that moment, that you couldn’t stop the party.

But it didn’t matter right? We were just having fun. You in your early 30’s, me at 25, and a summer in New York City. Who wasn’t drinking? And so I let you see me again from time to time, but then you never really let me see you again, did you?

I only saw the life of the party. I saw the savvy businessman who purchased thousands-of-dollar in tables, only to be surrounded by heavily made-up women lacking in both clothing and self-respect. You were so happy the all-of-two times I agreed to meet you out. So glad that the “classiest, most beautiful woman you had ever seen”, would meet you and you could in turn show me off to your co-workers. Your co-workers looked at you like you were the man, didn’t they? All of you well-polished men, your top-dollar cocaine, and your clubs.

Suddenly it’s December and I’m walking in to meet you at a holiday party at the St. Regis.  And it’s everything all over again, darling: you can hardly stand and it’s not yet 9 o’clock. You’re talking a bit too close to my face about work. About money, and how much of it you’ve made. And I’m laughing out loud, wondering just when the collision is going take place. Asking myself why I’ve agreed to board the Titanic.

Because they say “it’s unsinkable, Candace. Yes, not even god can sink this ship”, they say. 

And you won’t even remember it, but now you’ve introduced me as your fiancee to some client. You tell me I’m beautiful, and that you and I as a couple could take over the city.

That sentence, so unpleasant. That awful, awful sentence.

Fast-forward a couple of hours and now you’re in the middle of the street yelling. Yelling about absolutely nothing. Yelling at yourself, maybe. You want to go home. You don’t know who I am. You don’t know if I even like you. You don’t know if I’m fucking other guys. You hate me and you want to go home, and I’m just standing there taking it all in again, driving you more mad.

And because god has a sense of humor it begins to rain. And now it’s a perfect storm. I ask you calmly why you’re so angry, and you tell me you’re unsure. Because you like me. Because you want me to tell you I love you right now. I tell you you’re insane, and that you’re saying hurtful things, but the truth is, it isn’t hurting me baby. Because this? This is inspiring. It’s so beautifully tragic, this ending. A wonderful, epic, romantic ending, because I know you wont remember it at all. No you won’t remember a single thing.

I take your hand and I give you a hug and I tell you to come home with me. I buy you eggs and a milkshake on the way there to sober you up. You ask me, for what is the first time in six months, all sorts of questions about myself and my life. And now you’re sorry. Sorry for losing it back there, and I of course forgive you because it’s already over for me. You ask me if I’ll take care of you, forever. You need to know that a woman like me will take care of you. You also really don’t care what the rules are because you need to hear that I love you as well, and so after you plead a hundred times, I give in.

I tell you I love you.

Oh I didn’t exactly lie, you see, because I did love the idea of you. I loved the idea of a beautiful 6’6, Scottish lad, one that was a bit too rough with me, always. I loved the idea of you in your perfectly tailored business suits—me fastening your tie for you in the morning to the smell of coffee in the air.  All the while, in my bathrobe, trying to keep quiet so as not to wake the children. I loved the idea of meeting your mother. The one you told me has red hair, and never wants to leave Scotland. Because maybe I’d never want to leave Scotland too.

I want to tell you now that I really was meaning to save you. The foolish girl in all of us, that really thinks she can.

And they say “hindsight is 20/20”.

But perhaps foresight is as well, right? Because the idea started looking  a lot like me in that bathrobe, trying to get the children off to school alone. Because you came home at 4am again, wreaking of alcohol, and you’ll need to sleep it off until noon. And that’s when you’ll say sorry…again. Yes the idea began looking like an arbitrary hate for Scottish accents and the pain that they bring; the music of it long since faded into a menacing reminder of all of the glorious potential you never reached.

I’m writing this letter of course because after weeks of mutual radio silence you sent me that message this morning at 4:34a.m. It was a video, absent a caption, of you in a club as a famous DJ played in the background. Were you trying to say “See I’m still happy? Look at what fun you’ve missed out on?”. Because all I could read was “I’m surrounded by a lot. Feeling nothing, and thinking of you”.  Yes, I gather that you miss me.

And I’m so sorry I left—so incredibly sorry that I didn’t try to save you, I really am. I’m even a bit sorry I didn’t respond last night, perhaps leaving you feeling wounded this morning. I was awake in bed when you sent it. I had actually typed out a response to you 100 times, I just couldn’t find the courage to send it.

It read:

“You can’t save people. You can only love them.”

I hope you can understand.





  • Ayrton Mercado


    I enjoyed your piece and it left me a bit perplexed. The notion that people need saving seems foreign to me. We are who we are, and to me it is that inner voice that nags us, tells us we are wrong, that insists we apologize and makes us promise to ourselves we will not doing again -your mom’s voice- echoing through, it is that voice that helps us be better.

    It is thus the saving part that left me wondering: Was it that you couldn’t save that idyllic future full of kids, morning coffee and trips to ancient Scotland? or that you were unwilling to risk waking up to a stumbling bellicose husband?
    It seems to me that whatever issues ________ has, stem from far more than can be changed during casual conversations on lazy Sunday strolls. Rain had a better chance as the feeling of cleanliness that it leaves behind forces us to reflect on the dirt that it washed away.

    There are millions of us out there, looking for answers to questions that we can’t begin to formulate. As a consequence we invariably find the wrong answers, for ________ it seems to be late nights, alcohol, and “heavily made-up women lacking in both clothing and self-respect”, people who in turn are probably looking for answers to their own unformulated questions.

    All too often we ignore that voice the only one we can use to change, and the result is the same, we are unable to ask anything of ourselves.

    I am now a fan.


    • degree180

      Thank you for reading. When I took on the word “saving”, I meant it in a more literal/traditional sense of being a women. We birth children; there is an element of nurturing that truly is just built into us. It’s my personal theory regarding why we stay too long in relationships even though we know we shouldn’t. Because it’s in our nature to nurture, and nurse things back to health. In this piece/time in my life, I felt I was fighting between logic and nature. The former won, but it didn’t weaken the emotions in any way. In a weird way, it was sort of, beautifully doomed. I knew I couldn’t save him, but I found beauty in the space between my good logic and nature, and that’s what I’ve attempted to convey in this piece; a predictably beautiful disaster.

      • Ayrton Mercado

        I figured there was an element of that, at times it felt like both a flight of fancy and an Requiem for a romance…indeed a good read, I look forward to hearing more from you