Month: November 2013

The 6th of September 1997 – Valley View Elementary School, Portland, Connecticut

(found with a smiling face drawn on it, hidden beneath a pile of crayons, markers and pens)

Dear Suzy,

Thanks for reaching out. At first I thought your letter was sent to the wrong address, but I appreciate you reaching out.

I like dogs, too. We had one when I was a kid. He had brown fur with black spots and a big orange collar, probably a lot like your dog. He got hit by a car.

I hope you don’t mind that I focus on your first question. “How are you?”

Well, unfortunately Suzy, things aren’t so hot for me right now. I feel angry. I feel alone. Every once in a while I am so overwhelmed by some kind of emotion that I just curl up into a ball and wretch around on the floor for a few minutes. I can’t really describe the emotion, but it’s powerful, trust me.

I think about killing myself every day. I know this isn’t normal, Suzy, and hopefully you never have to fend off a similar idea later in your life, but I wake up every morning and the thought is already in my head, attacking me, prodding me. All I can do is shrug and wait for it to leave, and hope that it does soon because some days I don’t know how long I can last. It’s that thought saying that my life is worthless, that any effort I expend to make it better is nothing but a waste. That’s what I am, I think, nothing but a waste.

And I can’t stop thinking, I just can’t. Her face, my shitty life, all the things I want and wish were different just keep flashing in front of my mind’s eye and I hate them and I can’t make them stop and I hate that too. You don’t know what it does to me, this feeling. You can’t, at least I hope you can’t, and I hope you never can. I just feel like throwing things and breaking things until there’s just nothing else left. But then all I’ll have to deal with is myself, and I definitely don’t want any part of that.

Do you think I need help, Suzy? I think I need help, Suzy.

Anyway, enjoy the second grade. It should be fun. Fractions or something.

Your pen pal,

Martin

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The 26th of May 1975 – Shenandoah, Pennsylvania

(found buried in a spinster’s sock drawer; amongst a collection kept in a folder which was labeled “If I Had The Courage”)

George! Oh, how could you?

Emptiness. Emptiness!

That’s it. That’s all I can say right now, George. Emptiness.

It was high school, the last time I felt this, George. This emptiness.

The last time I felt my foot trembling, the last time I felt my calf spasming, just like I do right now. Then all I felt was this emptiness. I saw her slip a love letter under his locker door, and I just felt emptiness.

George, I don’t understand how you could do this. Oh George, oh George!

Did I really start crying, George? Did you really want to make me start crying? Because I could not believe how dry my face was. But I wish I could, George. I think it would have made me feel better. I think it would have just washed everything away once and for all. But I couldn’t. I didn’t. George, I don’t know why. George, I don’t.

And do you know what you’ve done? Do you know what you’ve ruined? I can’t even begin…

Oh I wish I could tell you, George. I wish I could show you what you’ve done to me and to us. How could such a powerful seed exist and not even be planted, let alone given a chance to grow. How could I feel so much and just have to squash it back into whatever part of my soul it came from. And, of course, you know – oh George you know – that doing so would hurt. Oh it would hurt. It would just be impossible for me.

After I read the announcement in the paper, I just stood there, George, struck by lightning, in a vacuum with everything around me all charged up and burned away. Only when the thunderclap came did I wake up and realize.

How could you marry her? George! How could you?

I’m afraid I’ll have to forget all about you, George. I’m afraid I don’t think I can. Oh god, George! One day you’ll have a family and you’ll move away. Oh god, one day I’ll never see you again, George. One day you’ll just be another person.

How could you do that to me?

Always,

Donna

The 14th of August 1997 – Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

(found in the median somewhere along 10th street)

Johnny, Johnny, you mother-effer, Johnny –

Listen, Johnny, I got what you said. You said your life is hard. You said that you’re not sure that you’re gonna get what you want. And that makes you scared. But that makes us all scared.

Because we want things and we think those things are important, so we want them even more. But is that it? We just want, we just collect and move on? Johnny, is that it? We’re just stumbling across the Monopoly board, hoping we don’t screw up, embarrass ourselves and get thrown in jail? We just keep moving, wait to pass go and collect our 200? Johnny, is that it? Are we just playing a game? Johnny?

Now’s where you got to ask yourself: do I just want it? Or do I want to experience?

Because you can get whatever you want if you play game the right way. Close everything out, focus and you’re sitting in a hotel on Park Place. But, listen Johnny. You’re not gonna feel it; you’re not gonna experience it unless you let yourself, unless you open yourself up to world. You got to strip everything away and tear open your chest and let your heart beat in the open air.

And that’s gonna hurt. That’s gonna hurt bad, especially when things don’t work out, especially when all those dreams come apart into a million pieces. But, Johnny, sometimes it won’t. You have to know that. You have to believe that sometimes it’ll be the best thing you ever felt.

So ask yourself.

I remember this girl, Johnny. It’s always weird how I remember the girls and you remember the job applications and the promotions and the raises, isn’t it? Whatever…

But with this girl, it was sort of like I just put my head down and ran forward, trying to break through, but after a couple tries she just said “Jesus, it’s a brick wall. I know cuz I built it.” So I stopped.

But it feels good to want something, even when you aren’t supposed to. It feels good to want and just let yourself go after it, unabashed, unashamed. Because have you ever not wanted anything? You just look around and see everything in the world, all the people, all the trophies, all the happiness, whatever, and you just don’t want any of it. You just don’t care. That’s not a nice place to be. It feels good to want something, to experience something.

Johnny, I’m telling you it feels good – sometimes not for a long time, but eventually it feels good, even when the brick wall you hit ends up being too solid to break through or the ground in front of you gives way to a cliff’s edge. It feels good to just throw yourself forwards into life and just try to experience.

You know what I mean?

Johnny, just think about it.

– Trevor

The 15th of November 1987 – Monongahela National Forest, West Virginia

(found beneath a pile of dried leaves just by the intersection of the blue diamond and black square trails)

Dearest Father,

I hate to bring up such a disconcerting conversation, because I know it really bothered you when I said it, when I told you I felt disconnected, when I told you I felt I was wrapped in gauze and kept separated, isolated and muffled, from the world. But today I saw something, and it slashed away whatever filters were blocking out everything that was around me. Today I saw something, and I felt it reach into my soul, and I felt it pull me out of myself, and I felt the world.

I was walking Nixon down the usual path when he saw something in the forest and he just pulled the leash right out of my hand. I wasn’t sure what he was after at first, so I chased after as Nixon bounded off the trail.

By the time I got to Nixon, he had already gotten to the thing, just a poor harmless chipmunk. He had lunged at it and now he just stood there, barking and snarling. I hustled over the leaves and grabbed Nixon’s leash and pulled him back before he could do any more damage. I guess Nixon bit the thing, or clawed at it with his paws, because it had a big hole in its side. It was a tear that ripped open the chipmunk from its neck all the way to its back paw. There wasn’t much to see, no guts or blood. It was just pale flesh with a little bit of white thigh bone poking through in the leg.

But something happened. Or maybe there was just a moment when I thought I saw something. In that twitching, dying animal, I found a piece of myself. In that glassy, fear filled eye, I found my mirror. I finally connected to something.

Then I felt the leash slip through my hands. Nixon leapt forward and yelped. He got right up to it and chomped down. By the time I pulled him away, the poor thing’s head had been bitten clean off.

But I found myself, Father. Do you understand? I have found who I am. He is pale. He is shivering. He has spent the last two decades locked in a dark cupboard underneath the basement stairs. But I have found him.

Faithfully,

Your Son

The 8th of September 1962 – Winterset, Iowa

(found caught in the branches of an oak tree in Whistle Stop Park)

Dear Tracy,

It’s all gone wrong, I think. I feel alright about it, but I know that it’s all gone wrong.

Have you ever seen a little boy trying to steal from his mother’s cookie jar? That’s what I feel like.

The toddler struts around the kitchen, his chest stuck out, his arms whirring at his sides. They work up his confidence. Then he sets his sights on his target.

He stands under the top shelf and digs in with his feet. He tilts his head and flings his arm up to the ceiling. The boy feels his arm stretching away from his shoulder, stretching, stretching until it might pop out.

But he’s still five or six feet too short.

So he stomps around the kitchen again, thinking, strutting, arms wagging back and forth across his puffed out chest. Then he has an idea.

He returns to his place underneath the jar, plants his feet and stretches his arm out again. Then, very carefully, he raises himself up onto his toes.

Now he’s about five feet, eight inches too short.

He collapses in on himself and, for the first time since he walked into the kitchen, his shoulders droop. He looks up at the cookie jar and shakes his head.

But he has another idea. He grabs a chair from the table, the one with his sister’s booster seat on it. It gets dragged into position. Then he picks up a little step stool and tosses it on top. And he climbs up the little tower he’s built.

And he’s reaching and reaching and reaching, and you think he’s going to fall and get hurt, crack his head open on the hardwood. But he stays up. The chair somehow stays underneath him, and you think he might get to it. His hand is sweeping back and forth, and it’s so close to the jar. His fingertips brush against it and he stretches out just a bit farther until he can finally get the thing in his hand…

But it all goes wrong. The jar slides off the shelf and falls past his head. It shatters on the floor. Broken cookies are scattered across the kitchen.

So he looks over the mess he made, somehow – miraculously – making it through unscathed himself, and he finds that there isn’t much to do except think. He did have a chance, he tells himself, he had a chance to catch the jar, but it slipped right through his fingers. With this realization planted in his mind, maybe his lip trembles, but he decides that it isn’t worth it. Maybe he glowers at himself or stomps a foot, but the frustration quickly passes. He climbs down from his perch, walks out of the kitchen and never looks back. The mess can deal with itself.

Hopefully.

Love,

Benji

The 18th of February 1995 – Sechelt, British Columbia

(found taped to the Coke machine outside the Cozy Court market on Inlet Avenue)

You Know Who This Is For –

Okay. I’ll admit that I’m pretentious, that I think I’m important, that I think my life should be special, different.

And I’ll admit that this doesn’t make me the happiest person. But I’m confident that it will soon or that it might or that it should.

You see, I’ve been waiting my whole life for one moment, one thing that means – just…just means. Sometimes I think I’d give up my whole life for just one moment.

And then I thought I found it. I mean I’m pretty sure it happened.

No.

No.

Listen – I found it. I did. You were there. You should know.

There was a moment when you smiled and I smiled and our feet struck the concrete of the sidewalk and then I said something stupid, and I stopped in my tracks, but you kept walking. And you still smiled. There was a moment when I felt something and I’m damn sure that you felt it too. It was that moment when I looked over at you as we walked down the alley and I saw your face.

I still see your face. It pops into my brain when I’m drifting off to sleep. It morphs onto the head of the McDonald’s cashier handing me a greasy bag of food. It floats up with the clouds when I walk through the park.

I see it in my shoelaces and in the popcorn on my bedroom ceiling and in the steering wheel of my car. And I can’t stand it. And I can’t get enough of it.

I still see your face. And I think of that moment. I think of how close it was, how close it felt. And I think of how far away it seems right now. I think of how lonely that moment must feel, now that it’s so far gone, even though it seemed to shine so brightly.

And I get why it’s gone. And I get why you let it go. And I get why I can’t. Because you’re a human being, and you’ve got a life to deal with. And I’m just here, whatever the fuck I am, dealing with whatever the fuck I have.

And it’s been, what’s it been? It’s been weeks or something, or maybe years. And I can’t stop thinking about how you probably don’t even think about me. And I can’t…I just can’t.

I found it. I’m telling you that it was there. And I found it. We did.

– You Know Who This is From

The 16th of March 2009 – Washington, D.C.

(found in the grate of a gutter at the corner formed by M and 33rd Streets)

Hey Danny,

I gotta tell you something. Something fucking great just happened to me.

Maria left and all that bullshit, so I was kinda bothered the last couple of days. Her sister kept calling and just fucking screaming through the telephone at me and I got pretty fucking sick of it. So the days just went fucking by for a few weeks till I finally decided to just get out.

So I peel myself off my floor and walk out my apartment. I push past some dopey fucking tourists gawking at the fucking river or George Washington’s giant dick or some shit and I head down the block.

And I’m walking across the Key Bridge, not going anywhere, just trying to get some shit outta my head, you know? I’m walking across the bridge when this fucking plane comes right over my head. It was a big motherfucking one, too – probably an Airbus A300 or something – heading for Reagan.

And I saw it. And it was close, real, real fucking close. I watched the landing gear come down. I hadda squint cuz the lights were shining right in my eyes. The plane was so close I coulda fucking touched it. I coulda licked its pussy.

So anyway this big metal tube comes roaring right overhead and that’s when I look down and see this kid freaking out on the sidewalk in front of me. He has his arms stretched out from his sides and he’s prancing around and shouting “Big Metal Bird!” That’s what he keeps shouting. “Big Metal Bird! Big Metal Bird!”

And I’m watching this kid. I don’t even know if his parents were there, but I’m watching this kid dance around and I can’t help smiling. Then another plane comes flying over and the kid starts yelling even louder. “Big Metal Bird! Big Metal Bird!” He flaps his arms, you know? He starts jumping and he’s still screaming.

“Big Metal Bird!”

Then, finally, some wild-looking woman with tiredness creased into her fucking face comes sprinting down the street from behind me, screaming: “Get back here Arthur.” She pushes past me and finally gets close enough to grab at the fucker, but he slipped away. She reached for him again and hoisted him onto her shoulder. They’re walking back and when they’re about to pass me, the kid looks me right in the face and fucking shouts: “Big Metal Bird!”

So I just bust out fucking laughing. I couldn’t help it. I just can’t stop laughing. I just can’t.

Anyway, hope things are good.

-Steve