Combat Zone

An Open Letter to the Soul-Sucking Leeches in My Life

By Anna Graham

Dear Leeches,
It’s been two years since we first met in the hallway of our freshman dorm. Do you remember that hallway? How it always smelled vaguely like brie cheese, and had those kitschy paper-flowered name tags on the doorways? Do you remember how viciously we used to make fun of those name tags? They became our little sort of inside joke — we would always pass them with a gestured finger down the throat: “these things make me want to vomit.” We thought those jokes made us cool — poking fun at the poorly-scaffolded mechanisms of the Student Body Association.

I remember that I thought you guys were also cool at first. You were all tall and beautiful and rosy-cheeked, and you would laugh at my jokes even when they weren’t funny. It made me feel wanted, and I guess in some ways that’s all anybody wants, isn’t it? To feel appreciated and recognized? Whenever we laughed together, I could almost feel myself becoming tall and beautiful and rosy-cheeked, too. The effect was contagious.

I think at some point I started to believe that I was actually becoming permanently cooler, as if the molecules of my being were rearranging themselves into something sleeker and more effortless. I think in some ways I had an excuse to. As time went on, we developed an intimate, special understanding — one that was unparalleled by any other, a bond that verged on the ethereal. We used to corral each other in the lounge at three in the morning with fuzzy blankets, our mascara smudged as we gossiped about Karen from floor three.

I’m not really sure when things started changing. It didn’t happen all at once, the way it does in the movies. It was a slow and steady process, and at first it was mostly obscured by school and stress; it was covered by the intricate framework of our external lives. I’m not even sure when I first recognized the change. Maybe it was that time that you invited me to over to get ready for a party, and then told me you couldn’t eat the tortilla chips I brought because you couldn’t digest human food. Or maybe it was that time you told me that I would look so cute as a stuffed decoration on somebody’s mantle. In all honesty, I think I probably shrugged those moments off. They seem so obvious, in retrospect, but then again, hindsight is always 20/20.

What I do remember is the day you shed your human skins, peeling back the your rosy cheeks to reveal the grayish, leathery flesh underneath. You told me that you were actual soul-sucking leeches from the planet X-14, and that the time had come for you to harvest my soul. I’ll admit it: I didn’t see it coming. I was in shock. I felt horribly betrayed that you — the only friends I had ever known — could turn on me so cruelly. I spent a long time feeling as if you had taken my only identity. I went through all of the seven stages of grief: denial, anger … I bargained with you for hours on end. Alas, our relationship was never meant to be. I think I understand that now.

I guess, in the end, everything happens for a reason. I try to always remember to see life as a grand adventure — one in which we aren’t given any script to follow. The universe throws everyone some curveballs, and if I were given the choice, I wouldn’t go back and change anything. I think I’ve grown immensely as a person from this experience. It might be nice to find a few of my limbs again, but I’m working on it. I’m really trying to focus on having a positive mindset. I’ve taken up yoga three times a week and am only eating pureed green vegetables (mostly because I can’t chew solid food, but the effect remains regardless). I think in the end, you’ve helped me turn into a more evolved person, and I suppose I have to thank you for that.

Yours truly,