8.03 / March 2013

Always Looking For Ways To Forgive Myself For The Things I Can’t Forgive Myself For

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You can’t just forgive yourself for the horrible things you do to yourself and the things you do that harm other people, though you might want to, though you wish you could.

I vandalized the parking lot in high school. It was fall, and I scattered dead leaves all over the place. I had several garbage bags full of them, released them out into the parking lot, letting time and nature do the rest of the work for me. Soon leaves were everywhere. Soon it was a parking lot covered in oranges, browns and reds. Then it started to rain, and the rain made the leaves squish under foot. What I had done was unspeakably terrible. I was treated as a pariah, kept apart from my peers, who’d never really been friendly all that much.

And then there was the tragedy at Benghazi, which I had no role in whatsoever but, as an American, as one of many Americans (and I felt I had not been one of many Americans enough when the tragedy befell us) and news of it broke, and we as Americans needed to come together, and as one of many Americans I refused. I could sense people not being ok with my decision to refuse to come together as one of many Americans.

Worst of all was the time I left that sheet on the line in my backyard. I didn’t let it go free into the wind’s clutches myself, personally taking it from its pins and sending it off. But I did nothing as the wind pummeled it, the elements rained down upon it. And eventually the sheet cascaded from the line, away.

Matt Rowan is a native Chicagoan. He lives there presently with his girlfriend, Ashley Collier. Together they edit Untoward. His story collection, Why God Why, is coming soon by way of Love Symbol Press. He can be found elsewhere in Artifice, Requited and Another Chicago Magazine, among others.