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.