My heart is breaking as I think about you just now. Walking from the carpark into the hotel, I couldn’t quite work out what I was seeing for a moment.
I saw you both, facing towards me but not really seeing me. The can of vodka that was in your hand probably contributed to the dull but pleading look in your eyes.
I’m guessing it wasn’t your first drink that evening. Otherwise I’d have thought that me walking into the foyer and seeing you both naked from the waist down, one of you taking photos of the other, would have caused you to cover up.
Yet you just looked at me, or more precisely, through me. There was urine on the ground, and liquid. Some more of the vodka I guessed.
All I could say was, “Girls, what are you doing?” You both made comments that didn’t make a lot of sense.
You were blocking my entry to the hotel, but that wasn’t what caused me to stop. I stopped because my mind was grasping for what to say to you. Would you even be able to take it in or were you too drunk? Should I try to say something to you or just try to save you from this moment?
It felt like several minutes but was only several seconds, and then another woman and her young son arrived, and she cried out for security.
I watched you quickly cover up just as the hotel managers arrived. You denied everything and then left, back to your room, looking like you might cry. I understand they were going to check security footage and you were going to be asked to leave the hotel.
The mother was mortified her little boy had seen you in such a state of undress. He looked embarrassed and unsure.
I failed you in that moment. I wish I had thought of the right thing to say to you, and helped you cover up before that little boy walked around the corner. I wish I had told you that your value doesn’t lie in the attention those photos will collect on Insta or Snapchat. I wish I had told you that you are so much more precious than you appeared to the distressed mum. I wish I had found the right words to let you know that your worth is not found in being an object that people look at or leer at.
We failed you in that moment. We have normalised drinking past the point of excess. We have normalised the trading of your sexuality for online attention. We ignore the fact that alcohol may numb your pain for a moment, but won’t mend your heart. We ignore the fact that naked photos offered up to social media don’t empower you, they exploit and erode you. We have forgotten what it means to truly love and be loved. We have misplaced substance, and settled for surface.
This is what I should have said to you. But I was silent.
May I never be silent again. You matter way too much for that.
In one sense, this is a nod to another letter I wrote once. It’s a sequel in a sense, a sad one, as the two are not unrelated.