The 14th of February 2015 – New York, New York

(found in the comfortable bed under the comfortable pillow in the bedroom of the apartment)

Dear Marlie,

It feels surprisingly real, tangibly so, permanent.

Like the feeling just after the shivers have been taken away by a warm, soft blanket.

Like the memory of a parched throat that takes a moment to fade after enjoying a sip of ice water.

Like the tension I feel in my face, constant and radiant and aching so wonderfully, because there hasn’t been a moment – not a single, single moment – when I have not been smiling.

This is one of those stories. This is one of those Forever Stories about the prince and the princess who meet each other by chance and then never let go of each other’s hands. This is one of those Forever Stories that I imagined for so long, dreamed of for so long. And now it is here, and it is cloaked around me like a warm, soft blanket, and it is cooling the sore back of my throat and it is keeping me smiling for each and every moment of every single day.

It feels so real, and I can feel it – in my heart, yes, but even in my fingertips.

Love. I almost cannot believe it is here.

Sincerely,

Charles

The 14th of February 2015 – Exit 7A, New Jersey Turnpike

(found in the box of homemade chocolates)

Dear Martha,

There’s a feeling in my back, Martha, a feeling in my back that I have because there are these feelings that I lack. There are these feelings that other people have that I just don’t have, or – at least – I don’t have them in the same quantity. I don’t have them with the same ease.

I don’t have happiness and joy and that loving warmth one will get when the baby looks innocently into the eyes and smiles with pleasant naivety. I don’t have them, or – at least – I don’t have them as often as I should.

Instead I have this feeling in my back. It is a cold, heavy feeling, and it drags me down. It is an anchor that sits on my spine, that tightens the muscles of my lower back until I fear they will rip like an overstressed rubber band. Instead I have this feeling in my back.

But, Martha, that feeling melts away when I’m sitting on a bench in a garden and watching the sunset and being right there next to you. There is nothing else I need. Suddenly I feel safe in the world.

I have never seen anything last, Martha, and – so – I lack faith. I lack security. I lack love for the universe. I do not believe it is a possible thing, an actual thing – for anything to last, for any ending to be truly happy.

But I see your eyes, and I know that there is nothing else I need. I feel warmth. I feel as though my lifetime of grief could be all worthwhile. I see a possible future, and it is shining brightly. Suddenly, with you, I feel safe in the world.

There is no longer that feeling in my back.

Heartfelt and True,

Harold

The 19th of July 1977 – Sonoma, California

(found by the hills of sand in the desert or something)

Dearest Magnolia,

What a terribly long and circuitous journey this has been. What a long and winding path to travel and only to have gotten here.

I have had trouble sleeping these past few nights, and – dear god – I fear that I will never sleep again as long as I live.

Where will all this walking lead me, is what I wonder now. When will I have a chance to rest my feet and catch my breath, allow the sunburnt skin peel off from the back of my neck.

So many snakes and scorpions, but this is all just typical, clichéd drivel. This is a journey. Journeys are perilous. Ah – of course, of course and of course again – LIFE! Life is a journey too, my dearest.

What a crock. What a phony, phony fool, thinking there is originality and sincerity in the paths so well-traveled that they have turned into dust. Cold-hearted cows in fields chew cud, and here I am, writing a story and becoming nothing different. Attempting to share something so unshareable that the only way to share it is by ignoring it and writing down something else entirely, something simpler, something that can be understood and sold on a mass-quantity basis.

You’re all idiots, Magnolia. Every last one of you, and all because I wrote about snakes and scorpions because I figured that it’s something you wanted to hear about even though it is not at all something worth knowing. What a crock. What a phony, phony place.

It is terribly dry here. Send water. Just pour it in the envelope. I’m sure the postman won’t mind. I’m somewhere in the desert, if that helps you with the address.

Hopefully (but not expecting much),

Paul

The 307th of Marzleblarzlestub EO8E3T1 – The Institution

(found in the padding on the walls)

Dear Maria,

I hear all these people. All the time, I just hear all these people, all these people who want to be happy. They cry out for it. Happiness. They crave it and nothing more.

I tell them, I say “If all you want is to be happy, the go somewhere and decide it. That is all happiness is. It is the decision to be happy. It is the conscious cessation of desire, what happiness is, and such a cessation is well within the grasp of even the feeblest mind.”

But still they rabble and grouse.

So then I tell them, I say “If all you want is to be happy, then go find a carton of ice cream and eat until you cannot anymore.”

And so they are silent.

Oh, I go to bed infuriated and hungry.

But TO TRY is to be Insane. But to give All That There Is To Give and to give it to every moment, that is to be Insane. Ah, but the wormholes open up in the mind and the soul, and such an attitude will suck the hero dry. Ah, but to die dry on a trek through the desert is certainly desirable when the other options involve swimming through lakes of sticky, manufactured and self-proclaimed Satisfaction. Especially when the desert expedition involves a Search for Truth.

But what? And what and what and what is there to find? What is there to find but disappointment – pure darkness, if not just even slightly less than what there was hoped to find?

For not even Love can BE ETERNAL.

Ah, but still the effort must be UNCEASING. The TRYING, Toiling, torturous EFFORT must never falter. For that is the root of failure. That is the root of disappointment. Life is a search for something that can never be found – PEACE – and Life is a search that must never capitulate, not even to the smile.

Life is effort, and I will stop when I die.

Ah, but if only –

The 20th of February 1999 – Skokie, Illinois

(found with the crumbs in the cookie jar)

To Mom & Dad or Susan or whoever finds this while looking for cookies –

It’s really all your fault if you think about it.

I’m the kid, I know. I’m the little preteen boy who needs to learn discipline and self-control, but it’s really all your fault.

You don’t just call something forbidden and stick it in the middle of the kitchen. That’s not fair. Of course I’m going to try it. Of course I’m going to sneak a bite.

I don’t need anyone to tell me to do it. I don’t need anyone to trick me or tempt me.

If you didn’t want me to eat out of the cookie jar, if you’re going to get really upset about it and if you’re going to – I don’t know – kick me out of the house because of this or something, then you shouldn’t put the cookie jar right in the middle of the kitchen.

It’s right there. You said don’t eat out of it, but the cookies just looked so good. Of course I’m going to eat out of it. And that doesn’t make me bad or weak or stupid.

It just means I don’t care about playing your wacky games. I’ve got better things to do, like enjoy these tasty cookies and not feel hungry anymore.

It’s really your fault. I’m not taking any of the blame for this one.

If you didn’t want me to eat the forbidden cookies, then don’t put them right in the middle of the countertop where anyone can get to them. They’re not bad. They’re not poison. You just wanted to keep them all for yourself. You got some special kick out of knowing about the cookies and keeping them all for yourself. That just seems petty. Surprisingly petty.

Why’d you even put them in the kitchen if I’m not supposed to eat them?

-Bradley

The 11th of October 1982 – Wichita Falls, Texas

(found beneath the middle cushion of a leather sofa)

Dear Ralph,

My goodness.

I don’t know what it was, but it did just strike me to reach out to you. How long has it been?

I just had a memory of you that knocked me right off my feet, that hit me harder than a tornado, that pushed me down on this couch where I’m not much more than a lumpy sack of potatoes. And that’s where I still am, on the couch and trying to catch my breath back from the tornado of you that stole it all away.

I’m wrinkled now, Ralph. I imagine that you are too. I’m wrinkled and forgetful. I couldn’t find my shoes the other day. Oh, Harry and I searched all over the house for that old pair of shoes. You’ll never guess where we found them.

You just won’t Ralph. Or maybe you will. You did always know me well, maybe even better than Harry does.

Well, the shoes were on the shoe rack in the foyer. The shoe rack! Where else would they be?

I know I walked by there three or four times yesterday morning. I just don’t believe how I never even saw them. In my defense, Harry moved them while he was vacuuming in there. So they were on the shoe rack but in a different place.

You just walk past something for so long that you can’t ever see it for what it is, I guess.

Ralph, I don’t know. I just don’t.

Does that make sense to you? I remember that it used to. Harry doesn’t understand when I tell him that. He’s been so wonderful to me. He always cleans up my mess. He’ll help me find my shoes. But he’ll never understand when I tell him “I just don’t know.”

Last week we all went apple picking, with James and Marilyn and the Grandkids. It was just a whale of a time! And Harry, gosh even though he’s that old, he kept picking me up so I could reach the ripe apples on the top branches! It was just a whale of a time!

But I still just don’t know.

So I just had a memory of you, and it knocked me right the heck over.

Love,

Clara

The 16th of July 1967 – Charlotte, North Carolina

(found by a pile of horse manure)

Oy Marci,

You ever seen a donkey with a top hat on?

Yeah? Yeah.

You ever seen a cat with a mouse tied to its tail with a pretty pink ribbon? You ever seen a cat like that except with a saucer of milk between its paws and trying to lap up the liquid with the tip of its red tongue?

Yeah. Yeah?
You ever seen two dogs chasing each other’s tails, except running in concentric circles that get tighter and tighter until the two dogs become a single dog put together, except with one end of the dog being made of a squirrel body and the other end of the dog being made of the head of a Bengal tiger?

Yeah? Yeah?

You ever one time turned on the television, except the only thing that happens when you turn on the television is the blender in your kitchen turns on and suddenly there’s a man at your front door trying to sell you vacuum cleaner accessories, except when you go to the door and open it, it’s not a man out there at all? You ever opened the door and expected to see a man on your porch trying to sell you vacuum cleaner accessories and instead saw this little two year old seal doing tricks with a balloon on its nose like you usually see at the zoo?

That ever happened?

Marci?

You ever tried to put on your shoes except when you put on your shoes you remember that thing that happened and it strikes you deep to the core and you feel the blade of a cold knife in your back and your hands start to tremble? You ever think about the first time you ever fell in love and just feel like puking out your guts? Huh?

Yeah! Yeah!

Marci, you ever had somebody look at you, I mean really look at you and hear what you’re saying to them, hear what you’re really saying to them when you reveal your true soul to them, you ever had that and had that person not flinch?

Yeah?

Jeanette