Unlocking Towers

Dear Mrs. Marook, 

I think we’ve met, but you might not remember me. I’m Willa, Amanda’s roommate from  college. I’ll get around to telling you why I’m writing this, but it will make more sense after I tell  you how your daughter and I became friends. 

Amanda and I developed an illegal hobby. We broke into locked campus buildings and  explored them. Fortunately, we never got caught. Please bear with me. I write this letter so you  will understand a bigger point. 

We began when we found the padlock on the gate to the tower in the college library was  broken. We slipped into the tower, climbed up some spooky stairs, and stepped into an arial view  of the Hudson Valley that took away our breath. Overflowing with giggles, we replaced the  broken padlock with one that looked just like it and kept the keys. Almost every day, we climbed  the spooky stairs just to be devious. 

Once security came and rattled the gate to make sure it was locked. We almost died first  from panic and then, after he walked away, from trying not to shriek with laughter because we  got away with it. For weeks, we had daily picnics of potato chips and wine in the tower. Then  someone replaced the lock, and we realized how lucky we were to not have been in the tower  when they changed it. Being bubbleheads, I guess we were relying on someone else’s common  sense to check that the tower was empty before locking it up. 

Deprived of the tower, we broke into the attic of the archeology building. where we found  stuffed birds hanging from the rafters like discarded parts of mobiles, gritty grates filled with  archeological artifacts, and a bunch of taxidermied animals that included a bison. We took  pictures of ourselves leaning on the bison. We tied a bandana around a marble bust of Darwin  that made him look as if he had a toothache and regretted not having deely-boppers to put on  the stuffed ape. 

That’s how we formed our friendship — breaking into buildings and being silly. Now here  comes the important part I want you to understand. Hold your judgement because it’s not what  you suspect it is. 

Amanda and I broke into each other’s hearts. We swore friendship of the forever kind. I told  Amanda I lost my mother to breast cancer and lived in fear of it. We cried over that. She told me  she was a lesbian and spilled every worry she had on me. 

But I almost died. Nobody is lesbian in my family because it’s a disgraceful thing to be, as I  know it is in your family. I thought of avoiding Amanda in case people began to think I was the  same or in cas they thought we were girlfriends of that sort. What people might think we did  began to haunt me. I considered not being her friend, but that wouldn’t work because she was my  friend. I developed a severe case of whattodos that would not go away. 

When we broke into the art building, I wondered if your daughter felt lust when she looked at  female nudes, as if I’d ever felt lust when I looked at Michelangelo’s David or all those urns with  naked Greeks. I never got up the courage to ask, and now, I’m glad I didn’t because I would have  sounded like an idiot. All the while I had whattodos rattling in my brain. 

Amanda asked me to room with her the following year because her secret was safe with me. I  couldn’t bring myself to say no despite the whattodos. When all was said and done, we’d become  best friends. I made her promise not to tell anyone else, and she agreed if I also promised not to  tell anyone about her, making both of us wonder who was more afraid. For different reasons, we  found ourselves living inside the same fear. 

A secret of that magnitude will bond you if it doesn’t destroy you, and we continued to be  friends. Eventually, she came out fully, and I learned to say “Yes, she’s gay. No, I’m not.” And life  continued. 

So moving forward to now: Amanda is engaged. During a class reunion, she introduced me  to her fiancé, Tessa and asked me to be her maid of honor. I was thrilled and deeply honored.  She also said you would not be going to the wedding because you did not approve of how she  lives or who she loves. Quite frankly, my heart broke when she told me that. 

The three of us celebrated by buying a bolt cutter to remove the padlock from the library  tower gate and climbed up the spooky stairs to look at the Hudson Valley. We replaced the lock  with our own and kept the keys. Someone from maintenance will eventually figure it out. Your  daughter’s fiancé thought we were brilliant and treated us to ice cream afterward. 

Today I understand the tower is locked for safety reasons, not just to peeve curious students.  The college is afraid someone will go up there drunk and fall. We all lock things up when we feel  afraid. Nonetheless once you engage with a forbidden space, it becomes a part of you and you  loose your fear of it. 

I’ve written all this to encourage you to peek outside what you believe and the space you rule.  What you will see is never as spooky as how you think it is, and you will discover you have many  things in common with it. It’s one thing to break into a forbidden space and another to have it  opened gracefully so you can become a part of it. We went into the tower because we found it  unlocked, and we were not afraid. The tower is now locked, but I no longer am. 

Please ask yourself: Is your disappointment in having a lesbian daughter more powerful than  the love of the forever kind you felt when you held Amanda after she was born? I ask you to please consider attending your daughter’s wedding. It means the world to her to  have you there because she has love for you of the forever kind. Please keep in mind she has not  denounced you because you do not approve of her. She still hopes you will come around. 


Respectfully yours,