Had breakfast today.
Dithered and yon.
Slice of greasy pizza.
Walk through mall.
Some phone calls.
Had breakfast today.
Dithered and yon.
Slice of greasy pizza.
Walk through mall.
Some phone calls.
The day I kissed her and didn’t leave at the end of her party not in that order.
28.5. 57/2. On an on. Backwards down the number line on the radio today. Hours worked. Looking at old calendars. From 2008. Once, so new. Now, gone and gone. The Great Recession. Gone and gone. Lines on Mom’s face. Gone and gone. The blog, gone and gone. Silver new Honda. Gone and gone. Her. Gone and gone. Swifter now. Gone. Here. Hare today, goon tomorrow. Hop. Run, run, Rudolf. II. And Tycho Brahe. TMA-1. Full of stars. There. Blink. Here. Blink. Old. Blink. Not here. Blink. Something else.
Computation. Theseus’ Ship. Switch. Blink. New. Her. Cannot know yourself, have to know another. The purpose of life is to love and have your heart broken, and in the final breaking of the heart, come to peace with your own sad transience. Swifter now. Ever swifter. Just over — just around — where — else — others — whispering — not yet — not yet — not yet —
— — —
Went to bed last night in the midnight with great intention and thought. Woke up this morning, with great intention and thought, late. 10 Am. Thinking about who woke up late in Ulysses. Only Molly. Guess that’s me. Moved my bowels with great intention (though mostly I was reading the newspaper.) Poured my breakfast cereal and coffee with great intention as I again mostly read the newspaper. Had a moment to myself, with great intention. Went searching for my wallet, on every surface of the house. Got in the old Corolla automobile, and drove up Church Road and Glenside Avenue, listening to the news about the Gulf Coast Oil Catastrophe for a moment, then turning it off. Driving down Easton Road, and watching Glenside become Roslyn, and a very nice suburb become more of a middle class one — came to the Willow Grove Mall, and thought about FK and my father’s story of going to that place when it was an abandoned amusement park, no mall, and finding a beautiful ancient ornate cash register that weighed a thousand tons and having it stolen — unclear if I thought about that whole story at the time or just the Park, and my young father and his friend — and then went to the Food Court and walked around a bit in a daze and a dream looking briefly at teenage girls who are too young, uninterested in them, really, it is the young mothers — some beauty there — and watching an old couple, so old, walk across the Food Court to the exit doors, slowly, so slowly, he leaning on her, one step at a time, the great love — and then looking at others, eating, talking, a man with his baby, and then walking walking trying to find shorts to buy shorts to wear Gap, then J Crew, then Macy’s, oh yes, bought coffee, gave the cashier a winning smile, she can sort of see the gazey dream I’m walking in, walked behind a beautiful girl for a moment, while I was riding the escalator down in Macy’s, the sun burst through the clouds and the skylight and I looked up at it, bright, and there was a makeup girl doing a girl’s makeup, and all her coworkers had gathered around to watch, and the makeup girl was smiling, and I watched a young boy and his mother look briefly at shorts, it is hard to pick out shorts, I know what you’re going through, and then left, and drove home, and turned on the music, and it was Frightened Rabbit, a Scottish Band a girl played for me one morning after I woke up in her bed this past February, and they played a wonderful song about breaking up, about seething with anger when your ex-lover winds up with someone new, but nevertheless, it didn’t seem that angry, it was just beautiful, my windows were rolled down, I thought about the girl/woman who I had spent time with and wanted to write her a letter, a message, something Bloomsday related, but got home, and didn’t, don’t know what to say, she is online, could chat with her now, I prefer the asynchronous, were catching up with the present here, my brother is downstairs yelling for some reason — on the telephone — deep dull — mean to him — what else — the clouds have returned — it is 3:30, ancient time when elementary school ended, played hooky today from myself and responsibilities — Torts — I know what a Tort is — let it go — a pint, a guinness, I am fucking this up, I am foam on waves — see the ocean — wanted to drive out and see the ocean — oh oh — oh oh — a book came for me today — Wittgenstein’s Mistress, by an author who just died, oops, Fell off the World, the way of us all, my mom’s friend died yesterday, oops, oops, Fell off the World; Caught up. Wrote this. Shakespeare is his own Grandfather. In Love’s Labour’s Lost, there’s a wit named Boyet. Old Man. Hangs with the Maidens. Sounds like someone I’ll know.
Odysseus goes to the the Hall of Maidens and finds Achilles in a dress playing with a sword. Ten years later, Odysseus is lost, and Achilles is dead. Their names have lived forever.
The day after the Phish show, dropping ZR off at the airport, me driving back alone to Philadelphia, in the Green Corolla that still exists (from out of which Elsewhere was born), out along the Delmarva Peninsula, little towns, beautiful country, quite roads, turning right to go to Ocean City, MD, and parking, and walking alone along the beach, looking at the ocean.
A forever ago. Five years. Everything that was going to happen to me hadn’t yet happened. And still I stood there. And got back in the car. And drove back to Philadelphia. And then this, and then this, and then this, and now this.
Other than the obvious reason, for her
GROSSNESS, but there it is. Day 8937.
Why learn anything? When I was in high school, about five times a year someone would raise a hand in math class and ask, “What are we doing this for? When will we ever use this?” It was a smart-aleck question, but troubling.
There was a very good answer to the question. The teacher could have said, “You’ll need to master this stuff to become an investment banker, which is a career you shouldn’t box yourself out of at the age of 15.” Instead, she would generally mention something about “higher math” and leave it at that.
Ultimately, that type of answer does both math and investment banking a disservice by perpetuating the apparent disconnect between academic study and the practical work that is done in the world. That same disconnect applies to the liberal arts, and can make it difficult for someone like me, a history major, to find out what they’re good at and what skills they can offer the marketplace.
I graduated from college two years ago with a wealth of knowledge, great research skills, and no idea of what I could do to make a living. I got my current job based on a skill I had always considered secondary — an ability to edit web pages — and was quickly able to leverage that skill into an online marketing position that has been eye-opening. After years of working largely on my own in school, I am now an essential part of a team that is bringing new products out into the marketplace. Our business is threefold: audio conferences for human resources, finance, and sales professionals; reports and training tools in these same areas; and newsletters. I am involved in all three of these areas, in addition to coordinating our online marketing campaigns and analyzing the results.
It has been great to gain expertise in this one particular field and become the go-to guy for matters relating to our online marketing. I find my role as an advisor to management on these matters one of the most interesting parts of my job. What I love most is being able to use my knowledge to justify a company action, make sense of a marketing campaign’s results or prevent the company from making an avoidable mistake. I would now like to expand that expertise into other areas, to be an advocate on a larger scale.
I believe that the marketplace is very good at reconciling skills with employment, and eventually, most people find their economic calling. IN my own job, I’ve found mine — informed advocacy. The study and practice of law will allow me to combine my love of learning with useful and needed work, thus answering in my own life the question that was asked in math class.
I was recently discussing my plans with a colleague, and he asked me if I really thought the world needed more lawyers. Of course it does, I said. Those who don’t understand the law thinks it’s about suing people or going to court. For me, law is about putting knowledge and expertise at the service of society. Fundamentally, law is about making things work – resolving conflicts and claims, assigning and apportioning value. At its best, the practice of law does not obstruct but facilitates the workings of society. The world gets more complex every day, and lawyers help manage that complexity. For example, employment law used to be about paying your workers overtime. Now companies struggle with benefits, discrimination, retaliation claims and medical leave. The same logic applies to every part of our society. Every new technology brings with it new legal and ethical questions that must be settled. Every new financial instrument requires new protections. Every new threat – terrorism, urban violence, stock fraud – raises new questions of justice and fairness. So, yes, the world does need more lawyers.
I want to make an impact by applying my learning to the world, by helping people make good, fair and informed choices. I want to be the one who does the research, who understands the issues, who can make recommendations and explain the benefits and drawbacks of a given course of action. A career like that will combine everything I loved about college with everything I love about work. I believe I will find it incredibly fulfilling.
7:00 AM – I haven’t seen a morning since the summer. It’s weird to watch the sky change. ——-
Last night my mother called me. Her voice was quite, shaken,
weak. She was unsure of what to say. She was hesitant.
“I didn’t know whether I should call,” she said.
“Well, it’s too late now,” I said.
“Just tell me,” I said.
I knew what it was. My uncle, he’s been sick for about three
months now, dying of cancer. I guess he wasn’t really dying, because
everybody was just finding out about it. I mean everybody is always
dying, but I mean, I guess you don’t start dying until there’s no hope
So that was why my mother called. For three months, my uncle
has been in limbo, going back and forth to the Mayo Clinic, getting
tests, surgery, more tests. He had a bunch of cancer. They got rid of
it. It grew back. That’s what my mother needed to tell me. That Uncle
Mike wasn’t really in limbo anymore. That he was going to die. Soon.
God. I look at the paragraph, and I mean, what does it mean?
He’s going to die. Soon. He’s going to die. Soon. I don’t know what
that means. Nineteen years old, a morbid beat who diddles in Kerouac
and grows out his beard, the great white hope, the brilliant
playwright, at least among Boyettes, the Ivy League son of
sharecroppers and salesmen, and oh, how I loved to dance with Death,
oh, how I relished in tragedy, yearned for catharsis, and I look at
that paragraph, and I don’t know what it means.
He’s going to die. Soon.
He has four children. The oldest, my cousin Sam, who was really
my first brother, will be fifteen. The youngest – Jenny – my last
sister, in a way, well, she’s what, three now? Two? I think she’s
three. Three makes sense.
In the middle, Rebecca and Jacob.
Rebecca must be what, twelve now? Pushing it anyway. Becky –
God, when she was little, she used to love me. They all did. Now I
don’t even know what she wants to be called.
Jacob, Jacob, Jacob. Seven. He is seven. But he’s a young
seven, maybe, and Jacob was always so full of anger, so teeming with
darkness. I loved Jacob. He was the first baby to be born after I had
gained a little bit of maturity and perspective on the world. Not a lot
of maturity of perspective. But enough.
I remember baby-sitting all of them once, and it was after
Jenny was born, and she only loved her mother, like I once only loved
my mother, and I was watching her, and Sam, like any big brother, I
don’t know, I guess he was picking on Jake, like I pick on my little
brother, and I don’t know, I don’t remember the circumstances not
really, but I do remember Jake walking into the living room, holding a
knife, and saying he was going to kill himself.
I took the knife away from him. Did I tell Aunt Karen and Uncle
Mike? I think I did. I must have. It seems like that should have been a
bigger deal, Jacob, who was probably four, holding a knife, and saying
he was going to kill himself. Right? Isn’t that a bigger deal?
Shouldn’t that be a bigger deal?
I told my mother. I told Aunt Karen and Uncle Mike. And I tried
not to babysit for them as much. I didn’t want to deal with it.
Jacob and I don’t really look the same, but there was something
about us, something about staring at my baby pictures and then staring
at him – it was haunting. I always sort of felt it meant something,
that he looked like me, that we were the blond babies with the curly
hair. My hair is no longer blond, and it’s only sometimes curly, so I
don’t know, looking at Jacob, it was like looking in a mirror of time.
Jacob was a moving baby picture. A moving baby picture of myself.
But I never held a knife up to my throat, did I, Mom? I never
said I wanted to die, did I? I don’t want to die. It’s still my biggest
fear. That scares me sometimes – because I don’t want to live because I
want to live. I want to live because I don’t want to die.
Uncle Mike is going to die. Soon.
In my crazy psycho-shattered dreamlife, I think its all
connected, that the world is revolving around this moment, this state
of grace, and I’m standing there, right on the outside watching it.
I was eating dinner with my family, throwing out pseudo-babble
and philosophy, really getting off on my own intelligence, just
throwing some crazy shit out there, really excited about the new year
starting and all, and really feeling like I was in some sort of Zen
state, this electric feeling like I was ready to be enlightened.
And like some callous asshole who’s got it all figured out, I
told my family the meaning of life. I told them that I wasn’t really
scared of death anymore, that I thought that maybe the mind never
really died, that the mind couldn’t handle death, so that really, you
just spend that last final moment in an eternity of your memories.
It was half-assed bullshit existential nonsense, cribbed from
comics, movies, and maybe one or two great works of literature. I was
damn pleased with myself, let me tell you that. “If life were deeper
and not wider, we would never die” I said. I told my parents I was
going to go start my own religion with that shit. This is a running
joke between me and my parents, a sort of low-brow self-ironic
And then, the moment passed, I was no longer the star, and
dinner conversation turned to my uncle.
I don’t really understand why I had never heard about it. He
hadn’t been feeling well all summer, I had seen him at the beginning, I
had thought he had seemed fine, but I don’t know, after he went back to
San Diego, he had gone in for tests to see what was wrong.
The doctors said it was nothing, like the doctors always do.
Second opinion. (What’s with opinions anyway? Is that really
what a diagnosis is? An opinion?) Dinner Table. My mother tells me that
Uncle Mike is going to get the test results soon.
The test results of what?
You didn’t know? Uncle Mike has been sick all summer.
What? How come I didn’t hear about this? And I had no idea
then. But you know, I really wasn’t around that much this summer, I
really wasn’t interested, I was just going out, getting high, not
really thinking about much of anything really. I guess it wasn’t so
ridiculous that something like that would slip through the cracks of my
summer. I’m nineteen.
“If I had a girlfriend, I’d be living the life of a rock star.”
That was my clever summer summary, a slightly depressing, but then
again, refreshing look at a summer full of both malaise and music, a
drug dream full of sound and fury that really, when you got right down
to it, signified nothing.
Dinner table. Sorry. DIGRESSION. When I was in Israel for my
junior year of high school, me and Elly we used to sit downstairs,
studying for tests, working on her papers, and just talking, just
talking, and I guess it was mostly me that was talking, but hell, she
was doing a whole lot of listening, and we were always getting off on
these rants, and we both loved Catcher in the Rye, and do you remember
that part about the kid in oratory class or whatever, and he’s trying
to tell this story, and he keeps on digressing, and they keep on
yelling at him, and he keeps on digressing –
The week before I went to school I had lunch with Elly. She
wore a low-cut shirt, and I wondered what it meant. But I had decided
long ago that I was done with Elly Green, for a single slight that was
my doing not hers, and who knows what could have happened if I’d played
my cards right, and maybe she was sending me these signals, and O, what
have I lost? What have I forsaken? It’s a digression. It’s a digression.
The whole thing was a digression. But the point is that, those
digressions, falling in love with Elly, falling in love with being
listened to, that was what I loved about Israel. And nothing happened
with Elly. She loved someone else back then, and I wouldn’t fight for
her, I didn’t think she wanted me to, and maybe she did and maybe she
didn’t, but I should have tried, if it mattered to me, if she mattered
to me, I should have tried, and maybe she didn’t matter to me, but I
don’t think that’s true. I think I loved her. I think my heart beat
faster when I saw her.
Love turns to lust. Through the marriage bed runs a river deep
and profound. Romulus Linney said that. Dante to Romulus, to Danny’s Uncle Remus,
and a dream is just a rebus, from the inside staring out.
I don’t think I love her anymore. My mother says love is a
choice, and its really not that hard to fall out of love. I think I
believe her. I think that’s what I’ve been doing all my life. Falling
into love when I thought I should, falling out when I thought I had to.
And now a nineteen old virgin, and all my loves are unrequited, and
sometimes I wonder if I’m good, if I’m worth loving. Sometimes I wonder
what I want.
DINNER TABLE DIGRESSION and we’re back there, at the White Dog
Café, sitting around a table, in a dark booth, where I ordered a steak
without the vegetables, just the way I like it. My sister was leaving
for Israel in a couple days. It was Friday, September 7th. Her summer
romance, Mitch, one of my roommates, was there also. I was trying not
to rag on him, but it was tough, man, a guy my age, dating my little
And the conversation turns to Uncle Mike and I learn that he is
sick, that he is going in for testing again. This is the first I’ve
heard about it. My mother apologizes, but no one is really sure how it
happened, how I somehow missed the memo.
And everything I’ve said before, my entire philosophy, it just
goes out the window. But I try not to think about that. Nothing is
definite, nothing is true, and Uncle Mike is still healthy, and he’s
just going in for tests.
Was it that night? I don’t know.
Maybe it was the next night. We walked around, we went to a
bunch of frat parties, I was chilling with girls, something I never do,
and they were cute too. God. If I had played my cards right, I probably
could have hooked up that night. Of course I don’t know poker from gin,
and I’m not really a good card player even when I know the rules, so
the chances were slim.
The first frat party got busted. We hopped a fence and snuck
out through the next door neighbor’s house. That was really nice of
2:45 PM: And I’m back, hours later, woken up from a morning sleep, and I guess I’ll get on with the story without too much more digression. —–
The first frat party got busted. We hopped a fence and snuck out through the next door neighbor’s house. It was weird. That girl, the one who’s house it was, she was probably the first person I met not in my hall, last year. We never became friends, I never really ran into her again, but there I was, walking slowly through her living room while the Campus Police was checking IDs and breath right next door.
We walked around a little bit, until the ruckus died down, and then we were standing on a street corner, in between parties, waiting to see where we would go next, when Mitch checked his cell phone.
“Your sister called me. Should I call her back?” he asked.
Why did he ask me? That one is really up to him.
“I guess so,” I said.
He called her back. They talked. And that’s how I found out.
“Man, your uncle is sick. I’m sorry.”
And that was that. That’s how I found out. Like that, the world started to close in on me, to smother me, and thoughts long buried threatened to bubble forth, and all my fears and all my worries, they were starting to boil over, and I was in the middle of Beige Block, between frat parties, staring at girls I wouldn’t hook up with, and now my Uncle has cancer? Two days ago, the world was perfect, and now my uncle has cancer?
The horrible part about it was that I was distant enough from Uncle Mike that I could stay detached. Oh, I love him, I really do, I probably have a closer connection with Uncle Mike than with my blood uncles, I mean our two families, we lived around the block from each other, but they had moved away, and I had gone to college, and you know graduating is like dying anyway, so I really felt like I wasn’t going to see them that much anyway.
Now he was dying.
I went to class Monday, my first screenwriting class, where I was told I had to write an eight to twelve page screenplay, I had to make it vivid, I had to make it interesting.
Walking back from class, I threw out idea after idea, but it all kept coming back to Uncle Mike. But it’s not exploitation, it’s a memorial, it’s an honorarium. All I could come up with was the story of a man who was asked to die before his time.
I decided I would make him a hero, a man who had faced down disease and emerged on the other side, a man who knew how much time he had left, and then was asked to put that time on the line, to sacrifice it all for some noble goals of heroism and truth.
Fuck that shit.
Uncle Mike wasn’t behaving like a hero. He was dying. He was himself. He was ornery. He was stubborn. That’s what I hear. He goes to work. I can’t imagine it. The world goes on. But that’s a digression. It’s still Monday, the night of my first screenwriting class, and no one knows, no one knows but Mitch, and I go to bed thinking that the world is so happy and I am so sad.
I wake up the next morning. I have a directing class at 10:30, so I’m up at 9:00. I take a shower. I take my time. I’m probably out by 9:15. I go over to my computer, check the weather, check my email. Jaimie sent me an instant message, and it just stared at me, a little window of little importance.
“If you haven’t heard about the planes, turn on the TV.”
I figured something had happened. A plane crash, or something.
Closer to something.
I turned on the TV. The Pentagon was under attack. The Twin Towers were burning. I remember staring at the smoking gashes in the towers, gashes I had seen in one movie after another, and I remember wondering how long it would take to repair them.
I went to the bathroom. My roommates were waking up. While I was away from the TV, the first tower fell.
I sat there, staring at the TV.
I went to class. People were shaken. Afraid. The rest of classes were canceled. And suddenly, the entire world was in mourning. The entire world was changed.
My mother called me later, crying. Uncle Michael, well he had been slated to fly to Mayo Clinic that day, but now the planes were all grounded, and who knows for how long.
I did what I had to do. I got out of Dodge.
——– Finis 3:08 PM
March, 19, 2002
Driving home in warm February, my dad is warning me not to waste my life. “So I hate to give you advice,” he says, looking over, but I don’t look at him, I’m just staring at the highway, as he makes a wrong turn and then quickly compensates and gets back into the correct lane, “but I would hate for you to go through college and not get out of it what you want to get out of it.”
You see ever since my uncle got sick and died, which was pretty much in the space of three months, last semester, and to tell you the truth, I’m still not over it, but back to the sentence, ever since my uncle died I’ve had this major crisis of faith, and just sort of this disgust with everything and a general malaise about the future. I use to be very idealistic – in a sort of half-assed cynical brilliant egotist kind of way – but now the old Business School creep is sort of sinking in, and I’m thinking about all the college loans I’m going to have to pay back when I graduate and I’m wondering if it might not be best if maybe I went to law school or something like that.
“I would just hate for you to sell out before you’ve even really given it a chance,” my Dad says, and we move onto the expressway and the river’s to my right and I just sort of look straight ahead, not really thinking about much at all, just sort of digesting. What do I say? Because when it comes right down to it, all my questions lead straight back to my father, all my goals and aspirations, my very being, stems from the fact that I want to be like Mike. Mike being my father. Also my dead uncle. Two unrelated men, married to sisters, with the same name, and my father lives and my cousin’s father dies. I guess life just works out that way sometimes.
Why do I deserve to be a writer? I want to ask, what makes me so special? What, my High School English teacher thought I had some talent? Talent. Overrated. It’s still just hard work – and maybe not even that meaningful. I mean, writing a book ain’t ever gonna feed a child. It’s not like building a house, or something real like that – and in a lot of ways it’s dishonest. It’s pandering. What, I’d like to write escapist fiction for all the bustling suburbanites of tomorrow, the brilliant children who will one day be grown and slaving way to feed their children, and just struggling to make ends meet and send their kids to a good school so that they can –
What? So that they can what? Why am I here? Why am enrolled at this Ivory Tower of Higher Education when all I’m learning is that if it’s a big enough class no one really notices when you skip it? I got this one class, and all we talk about is how there are these writers now, these post-structuralists, who are breaking down language, because language is an oppressive system that gets in the way of truth – and I’m like, shit man, I want to be a writer, and above and beyond that, I’d like to be able to talk to people.
How the hell are we gonna do that without language?
Of course I don’t want to offend the instructor, I mean my grade depends on it, and is this really worth making a big stand about, how Modern Literature is a little bit bullshit, I mean he’s this little gay Zen monk kind of guy, and though he seems sort of serene, I don’t want to fuck with that, because hey, if it makes him happy, let him run with that, you know? And underneath that Zen-Tranquility-Peace-Now kind of thing going, he does seem a little nervous, and I’d like an A, or at least a B+, which is what I expect, so I don’t think I’m going to raise my hand and tell him I think his intellectual underpinnings are absurd.
But they are. You can break a lot of things. Not language. I’m sorry if English is oppressing you, man, but you’re just going to have deal, alright?
But that’s just a long and uninteresting rant about nothing, about why I’m not really happy with what they’re teaching me here, and it gets me away from where I am, which is sitting next to my father, in the car, driving home to my grandmother’s birthday party, with him telling me, no, begging me, imploring me, not to give up on my dreams.
I want to tell him that I’m almost twenty, and that if I give up my dreams now, that’ll me give seven years to get ahead of the competition while everyone else is bumming around Europe trying to find themselves. But that’s just a bitter joke, and what it really is, what it frankly is, is that I just don’t know if any of this writing shit is ever really going to make me happy. And let’s be real. That’s all I want to be. Happy. Happily married. Comfortably numb.
For a little while I thought that I wanted to be a hero. An artist. One of the Great Ones who burn their names into the history books and leave their marks on the world like battle scars. But lately – lately I’ve realized that I don’t care what the history books say about me. I’ll be dead – and all I get to have is the love I can muster up in this life. So instead of worrying about my legacy and my gift to humanity, maybe I should worry about getting a girlfriend or something like that.
When I wanted to be an artist, I worried about not being better then my father, who is a talented writer who ghostwrites medical books and writes copy about doors. Now – now I pray I’ll be his equal.
And that’s how I know we’ve reached the end of history. America is done. None of us want to strive anymore. Our parents gave us everything we wanted and everything we needed, and now, our only goal is equilibrium, the hope to do as well, to provide the same, to give our children the same chances that we were given.
Twenty years old, I’ve kissed one girl in my entire life, and all I want to do is be a responsible dad. Want a dream? How’s that for a dream? I want to be a good father who provides for his wife and children.
It’s pedestrian. It’s backwards. It’s reactionary. It’s 1950s suburban dogma – and here I am, an overly-educated child of the Twenty First Century, and that’s it man, that’s the Meaning of Life. Have kids, and try not to fuck ‘em up.
“I would hate to see you waste your life,” my father says.
Me too, Dad. Me too.
Before I ever picked up a guitar, or dreamed of making movies, I wanted to be a writer. I still keep that with me. While I think it would be cool to be a rock star, what I really want to do when I grow up is write.
Now I’ve always considered letters like these the coward’s choice on the battlefield of relationships, but since your phone doesn’t work, you’ve left me little choice. (A cheap shot, I’ll admit.) So I guess I’m forced to write this letter, and maybe that’s for the best.
Somehow, the white lies and half truths that so clutter real conversation are absent from the page. Perhaps its because you can’t just lay a person aside if you don’t like what you’re hearing. If a letter makes you cry, all you have to do is burn it. So if I must to resort to writing, perhaps its for the best. The truth comes easier when it flows out of a pen, and indeed if this is the last resort of cowards, well I can wear that mask as easily as any other.
I suppose that if were truly bold, if cowardice was a word outside my lexicon, I would come to your window, like John Cusack in Say Anything, and demand to be heard. But that’s a little much even for me, no matter how nuts I am, and unlike that girl in Say Anything, you don’t really owe me anything. Whatever we have, it really only comes down to like two and a half dates, a shared appreciation for good music and good bud, and half a dozen unrealistic hopes and expectations.
Still if there’s one thing my twenty long years have taught me, it’s that when life comes knocking on your door, it doesn’t pay to make it wait. I feel that maybe a bit of context might help you understand a little better, so I’ll tell you a short story about myself. Bear with me – it doesn’t exactly have a happy ending.
At the beginning of last year, I was reading a lot of philosophical books like Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and the Fountainhead and On the Road, all sort of pointing me to this idea that the fundamental problem in the world can be traced back to people not getting it, people doing the wrong things for the right reasons and the right things for the wrong reasons, and that since state of mind is as important as anything, each scenario is equally deadly.
With this newfound wisdom gleaned from books, I felt ready to take on the world with new eyes, to make it my own, to claim and then shape my own life. I felt that since I was making my own choices with open eyes, I was in control.
I was standing outside a frat party when my sister called. She told me that our uncle was sick – with cancer. And it was pretty bad.
Now I had always been real close with Uncle Mike. The whole family had lived around the block from us for most of my life – it really felt like one family in two houses. He wasn’t quite like a father, but his children really feel more like siblings then cousins.
I was pretty shaken by the news. The worst part was that the party kept going. How could everyone be so happy when I was so miserable? I cried myself to sleep, certain that he would die.
The next morning, just another Tuesday in September, I discovered that one world had ended and another had been born. That day my uncle, his flight now grounded by this fearful new world, set out by car for the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota.
He left ostensibly healthy. They operated and removed the cancer. The doctor told my cousin that his father would live.
To make a long and terrible story short, my uncle died last January. Right around the time I took my hiatus from pot.
That’s why I didn’t smoke for sixth months. It’s why every now and again I get quiet for no reason. It’s why, despite the fact we spent every night of last fall together, we never spoke.
Now I’m not looking for sympathy or pity. Some kid once told my mother a thousand years ago he had Hodgkin’s Disease so she’d go out with him. That’s not what this is. It’s just context. If you’re gonna know me, you have to know this.
So watching him die, that wasn’t fun. What’s strange is that no matter how young you are, if you get sick and die, before that you start to grow old, really fast, as if the body is catching up with your life expectancy. I hope you’re still reading. The sad part of the letter is almost done.
Did I learn anything? Just the trite shit you learn everyday, to “rush and never waste a day.” But I’m not the same person I was. I won’t suffer the same things any longer. I know what life is worth and I’m tired of wasting it.
So on one hand, I’m not going to take the time sitting around wondering why you didn’t call. I’m not going to make a habit of getting my heart ripped out every other weekend. At the same time, if I’ve still got the slimmest of chances, I can’t just walk away without at least knowing that I tried. I won’t be haunted by the ghost of a chance, not anymore. I have enough ghosts to deal with.
Now I’m not declaring my undying love. Maybe it would make for better copy, a more dramatic and decisive gesture, but I’m a romantic not a fool. All I’m declaring is this – I think you’re great. Never have I met a girl (no, a woman, to be honest and fair) a girl as true and as strong as you. You’re worldly but not jaded, tough but not hard, beautiful but not vain. You’re funny, you’re kind, you’re deep, you’re talented. Your husband will have a great wife. Your children will have a great mother. Your dog will have a great owner. Who knows if anyone will ever buy your art? Who knows if anyone will ever buy my words? Success has more to do with luck and connections then with devotion and talent. But if someday, someone stumbles upon a vintage McKenzie in a small gallery and decides to buy it and put it up, well they will look at that picture everyday and it will touch them so deep and they won’t even know why –
I guess I was waiting for the other shoe to drop, for you to realize that you’re Julia McKenzie and I’m only Josh Boyette. At the same time, I know that given a chance, I could treat you like a queen. I could make you laugh. I could you make you happy. I know that guys must fall in love with girls like you all the time – but girls like you have to be careful.
It’s easy to fall in love with a girl like you, but you need to make sure they’re not feeling the right thing for the wrong reason. Who ever winds up loving you, make sure he loves you for the right reasons, for your strength of character, not your sleepy eyes, for your piercing intuition and not your pouty lips. He needs to love you for your kindness, not only for your kiss.
I don’t love you.
Maybe one day I will. Maybe not.
I can’t tell you how it all turns out.
I know that when I don’t see you for a few days, I get this tension in the back of my neck I can’t explain. I know that when I’m with you the world does this crazy thing where it speeds up and slows down at the same time. I know that you can hurt me.
I wish that I had kissed you. Maybe if I had I would know what’s wrong. I thought I was just taking my time. I guess I was wasting yours. I’m sorry for that.
I can only imagine what it would have been like – like kissing the city, like inhaling the ocean, like embracing the void that strips you to your core. I imagine it being gentle, fierce, lasting forever like Bull Durham’s three day kiss.
Or it might have sucked.
I can’t tell you how it would have been.
I had a great time that night. We did everything but touch. If you had wanted me to go, you could have said that you were sleepy. If you had wanted me to leave, I would have.
Watching you paint – taking in the world and throwing it down on paper, layer upon layer, until suddenly it’s there – If that’s all I get of you, I won’t be satisfied, but it will be a nice parting gift.
I can’t tell you what went wrong.
So talk to me, Jules. Tell me how it all turns out. Tell me how it should have been. Tell me what went wrong. Was it something I said? Bad breath? Big nose? Did your cat die? Did your phone break? Do you just never want to see or talk to me ever again, as long as we both shall live?
If that’s the way it is, well it hurts but its life. If you want whatever that was to be over, I’ll let it go. If you want it to be done, I’ll walk away. But before I do, I just need to know that we both tried, that we didn’t let the future pass us by because any other option was too scary, too hard. If I have to let you go, I want to know it’s not because I didn’t try. Life is too short to be wasted. It’s too wonderful to be missed. It’s too horrible to be ignored. It’s too important. It’s too precious. Call me.