Won’t you help to sing
These songs of freedom?
‘Cause all I ever have
El Chacal de Nahueltoro (Jackal of Nahueltoro) is a Chilean movie based on the real story of José del Carmen Valenzuela Torres, a man who brutally murdered Rosa Rivas Acuña and her five children on a drunken stupor. “Now they are all angels in Heaven,” he naively told the authorities when they asked him why he did it. In his illiterate and uneducated mind, he believed he did them a favor by killing them. But, after 32 months of imprisonment, he learned how to read and write and fully understood what he had actually done. Regretful and completely aware of the repercussions of his actions, he was ready to face life as a changed man. Instead, he faced a firing squad and the end of his existence.
(Fade to black. Cue an apartment in Nørrebro, July 9th, 2018.)
That is exactly how I felt shortly after receiving the final message from my ex L, when she laid on me the full extent of my horrible behavior towards her during our time together, in a brutally honest and disheartening testimony. “You were an abuser,” she wrote; “Throughout our entire relationship, you emotionally abused me.” And she was right. Fucking spot on.
I wasted years resenting her for cheating on me and breaking my heart in the hazy beginning of our relationship. After she confessed what she did, I became infused with anger and resentment, and felt entitled to treating her terribly. To being passive-aggressive, belittling her, diminishing her worth to less than nothing. I completely overlooked every single thing she did to fix our relationship and any amends she made to move on from this mistake. She did, undeniably, tried her best and more. But all I cared about was this one thing she did wrong, and I gave her shit for it until that very last message. And then, just fucking then, I understood. But it was too late. In her last paragraph, she asked me to never try to contact her again and told me she would block me everywhere. Which she did, right after pressing the “Send” button.
I was confused. Devastated. Hurt. Furious. But, unable to reply, I finally let her harsh, but honest words sink in. And just as desperation and the initial shitstorm within started fading away, it dawned on me: I fucked up, severely, and there was nothing I could do to repair what I broke in her, to erase the suffering that I caused. To apologize, even. Nothing could be done; not then, not ever. I harmed her so badly that forgiveness, from her or myself, was impossible. I comprehended that it was a lost cause. Until today, it hurts. Awfully. And not because I am not over her, but because I don’t know if will ever be over the unfathomable damage I caused to somebody I loved so deeply.
“What do I do with this knowledge? It is so enlightening, so moving, yet it feels so fucking useless now that all the shit I did can’t be undone.”
When haunted by the memories of the turmoil I caused, I’ve felt the urge to contact L with the most profound and heartfelt apology ever known to man. But her final message served as both those 32 months in prison for the Jackal of Nahueltoro and the firing squad that ended his life. The mere idea of breaking her peace by, once again, offending her with my presence… It feels dreading and, ultimately, selfish and stupid. It wouldn’t bring anything good to her and would only add insult to injury. What could I even say that wouldn’t make matters worse, nor sound like mockery? “Hey L! I know that I fucked your life up and that you never wanna see me again. But, guess what: I will never be like that to anyone else in the future, and it’s all thanks to you. How cool is that?” Who gives a fuck!? The only sensible and respectful thing to do is what I’m already doing now: respecting her wish of staying the fuck away from her for the rest of my days.
If you never have fucked up as hard and deeply as I did, it’s difficult to relate to how bad I’ve felt ever since I learned what really happened in my previous relationship. It has gotten better, though, with time. But if you love or care for someone, you don’t want them to ever even graze the surface of this agony; this horrendous hindsight and relentless guilt. You’d do anything in your power to avoid them to experience the fucking pain of what can’t be undone. You’d tell them the truth, no matter what happens or if it’s uncomfortable or it hurts. Tough love. That’s why I have made it my mission to never let things with anyone slide to a point of no return, where the only thing that’s left is a final message, a firing squad, a fade to black into oblivion.
Will I fail? Have I failed? Will probably never know for certain.
It’d kill me to be unsuccessful in my mission after L, or failing to embrace what she meant to me. Ever since that gloomy summer day, I sweared to change, to grow and become better, to never hurt anyone even remotely close to how I hurt her. That message she sent me was immensely hurtful to read, but those words weren’t filled with resentment, as she warned me they would, but with love of the purest kind. She, understandably so, couldn’t forgive me. Yet, as the last proof of the remains of her affection, she gave me something much more valuable than forgiveness. She gifted me not with her truth, nor mine. She gave me THE truth. I will be forever grateful to her for awakening me to this certainty I have now, regardless of how painful it is.
I firmly believe in redemption. Not because of my mediocre Catholic upbringing nor any adherence to Christian values. It’s a very selfish believe, to be honest. I desperately need to believe in redemption because I can only live in a world where you don’t become your mistakes and aren’t defined by your errors, but by the lessons you learn from them and how you apply them to your life. If I don’t hold this belief, existence itself is unbearable. So I’m not working on my personal betterment to be forgiven or admired. I don’t care about going to a heaven I don’t believe in, or getting back with an ex whose eyes I couldn’t look into without shame. I want to be better because I can’t stand myself otherwise. Specially, not after what I’ve done. I need this. I crave this.
Yes, I believe in redemption and in forgiveness. But I also believe that you must fucking work for it, hard. You must earn them by, honestly and humbly, owning up to your mistakes, acknowledging your faults and correcting those wrong behaviors or actions to the biggest extent possible. Making amends, being hold accountable, apologizing and compromising. Because nothing is free. Nothing that’s worth something. And these fundamental concepts are, undoubtedly, priceless.
I know I don’t have any moral high ground to speak about ethics and righteousness with such property. But, after what I did, I gained perspective and invaluable experience. I don’t want all this suffering to have been in vain, nor I can move on if I don’t become the change I want to see in the world. As cliché as it sounds.