Month: August 2014

“The Angel” – The 18th of March 1963 – Milwaukee, Wisconsin

(found by the train tracks, stuffed in an empty can of Schlitz)

Dear Brother Brian,

Loneliness is an interesting feeling, man, and sometimes we don’t know what to make of it until we’ve got somebody next to us, screaming in our ear.

Maybe you don’t feel the same way, but I’m pretty sure I spent so much time alone but never feeling quite lonely. Then I spent some time surrounded by folks but always with this emptiness in my belly and these whispers in my mind.

Then I bumped into a brunette on the street, outside that Kwik-E-Mart on the corner of 5th and Broad, you know? And it must have been like when Mary saw Gabrielle. Man, there she was, the Angel. And suddenly I felt alone and together all at the same time, empty and full, sad and happy. Man, I don’t know what it was, but it was something.

She made me stop in my tracks, and she made me turn around, and I saw everything that was laying there behind me, and I thought “Man, that could have been better, couldn’t it?”

Of course it could have, man, of course.

Because when you’re with the Angel, whoever that ends up being, you always want more. Whether it’s six minutes or six decades, you always want more, just one more second to say hello or tell a joke or hear that voice.

You feel an insignificance. You feel a loneliness. You’re always going to feel that, I think. And – listen, it sounds weird – but you’ve got to appreciate it.

I’m never feeling lonelier than when I’m next to the Angel, man, and thank heavens that she’s still with me because that’s the only place I’ll ever want to be.

You ever seen something, man? That’s how I’d explain it. I mean, we spend all this time looking and watching and observing and biding our time, but I’m asking you if you’ve ever seen something, alright? Seen something in the way that you can’t tear your eyes from it. Seen something like you look up at the sky, and you see the clouds and the haze and the stars all beyond it and the galaxies even further out too, this endless thing that doesn’t even seem to have a start. Seen something that cools your mind and makes you small and makes you realize that you could be doing something better because how else would something like that exist if someone weren’t trying to do something better?

Loneliness is an interesting feeling because we seem to hate it, but we need it, man. We need it more than anything. It’s an anxiety, man, and it’s something that motivates us to be great, to be artists who create, and it keeps us savoring every moment we have.

Without it, just think of where we’d be, alright? Somewhere on a couch, wearing a skinny tie and sweatpants, eating chips and watching Boob-Tube. Content, but not fulfilled. Satisfied, but not enlightened, and certainly not happy.

Loneliness is an interesting feeling. Don’t let it overwhelm you, but just don’t be afraid of it. Just allow yourself to feel it every once in a while.

Brothers in Peace,

Brother Hargrove

 

 

 

Read more excellent responses to the Weekly Writing Challenge here:

  1. http://liisthinks.wordpress.com/2014/08/25/big-city-life/
  2. http://neverstationary.wordpress.com/2014/08/25/906-am-august-22nd-2014/
  3. http://risingrave28.wordpress.com/2014/08/25/a-world-of-thoughts/
  4. http://fishofgold.net/2014/08/25/all-of-that-is-over/
  5. http://bumblepuppies.wordpress.com/2014/08/25/self-destruction-insults-my-intelligence/
  6. http://marthakennedy.wordpress.com/2014/08/25/cities-time-and-maps/
  7. http://joscloudfactory.wordpress.com/2014/08/25/in-my-dreams-i-envision-a-place/
  8. http://mutafariqkhayalat.wordpress.com/2014/08/25/109/
  9. http://joantatley.wordpress.com/2014/08/25/trick-the-bear/
  10. http://tomboyforlife.wordpress.com/2014/08/25/where-do-old-signs-go/
  11. http://thebookiemonsters.wordpress.com/2014/08/25/invisible/
  12. http://beginninglifeat43.com/2014/08/25/going-back-to-fix-my-broken-tracks/
  13. http://hotwhitesnow.wordpress.com/2014/08/25/a-yucatan-sinkhole-in-my-dreams/
  14. http://immenselyalive.wordpress.com/2014/08/25/fatalist-no-more/
  15. http://bagandspoon.wordpress.com/2014/08/25/its-a-big-world-out-there/
  16. http://lydiansanyu.wordpress.com/2014/08/25/to-an-unkwown-destination/
  17. http://penciljargons.wordpress.com/2014/08/25/collection-moonlight-oasis-and-dreams/
  18. http://passiondew.wordpress.com/2014/08/25/reflection-of-hope/
  19. http://amaltaas.wordpress.com/2014/08/25/weekly-writing-challenge-build-your-own/
  20. http://musingsfrommyid.wordpress.com/2014/08/25/build-your-own/
  21. http://kritimythoughts.wordpress.com/2014/08/25/losangeles-sandiego/
  22. http://tobreatheistowrite.com/2014/08/25/tracksbackward/
  23. http://capsulecreations.com/2014/08/26/my-hips-do-lie/
  24. http://pukahworks.wordpress.com/2014/08/25/challenged/
  25. http://maryjmelange.wordpress.com/2014/08/25/paulines-dream/
  26. http://teachezwell.me/2014/08/25/i-was-uncertain/
  27. http://jemj47reflections.com/2014/08/25/somewhere-over-the-meadow-land/
  28. http://alwayslovinlife.com/2014/08/25/uncertainty-the-long-road-to-joy/
  29. http://hugmamma.com/2014/08/25/a-dream-come-true/
  30. http://maggiecarlise.wordpress.com/2014/08/26/weekly-writing-challenge-build-your-own/
  31. http://meaningfulmommy.wordpress.com/2014/08/26/walking-the-rails/
  32. http://sweetykannoth.wordpress.com/2014/08/26/in-my-dreams-i-envision-a-place/
  33. http://suzie81speaks.com/2014/08/26/revisiting-my-youth-and-wishing-i-hadnt/
  34. http://thinking-languages.com/2014/08/26/who-wants-to-be-lonely/
  35. http://finaletoanentrance.wordpress.com/2014/08/26/cast-aside/
  36. http://nickbrowniebrown.wordpress.com/2014/08/26/will-i-finally-be-free/
  37. http://littlegirlstory.wordpress.com/2014/08/27/loneliness-is-an-interesting-feeling/
  38. http://medicinalmeadows.com/2014/08/26/weekly-writing-challenge-loneliness-is-an-interesting-feeling/
  39. http://anupturnedsoul.wordpress.com/2014/08/26/the-zen-of-minecraft/
  40. http://thehalfandhalfblog.com/2014/08/26/what-you-dont-realize-about-moving-to-the-city/
  41. http://writingpromptsforrookiewriters.wordpress.com/2014/08/26/writing-challenge-from-the-daily-post-build-your-own/
  42. http://writingpromptsforrookiewriters.wordpress.com/2014/08/26/writing-challenge-from-the-daily-post-build-your-own-2/
  43. http://madmeanderingme.wordpress.com/2014/08/26/weekly-writing-challenge-build-your-own/
  44. http://fieldofthorns.wordpress.com/2014/08/26/the-lie/
  45. http://phoenixgrey85.wordpress.com/2014/08/26/familiarity/
  46. http://notapunkrocker.wordpress.com/2014/08/26/lost-and-found/
  47. http://caliten.wordpress.com/2014/08/26/loneliness/
  48. http://jamescleggartwritings.wordpress.com/2014/08/26/post-title/
  49. http://samanthaengchan.wordpress.com/2014/08/26/i-just-dont-like-you/
  50. http://myjourneytofindmyself.wordpress.com/2014/08/26/loneliness-in-the-search-for-belonging/
  51. http://reveriesofanimaginationjunkie.wordpress.com/2014/08/27/a-decision-towards-happiness/
  52. http://corkybloom.com/2014/08/27/where-did-the-time-fly-myspace/
  53. http://kimaedwards.wordpress.com/2014/08/27/writing-challenge/
  54. http://dont-want-to-exist.com/2014/08/27/tacheles/
  55. http://dalythinks.wordpress.com/2014/08/27/how-i-fought-my-loneliness-addiction-in-one-week/
  56. http://lingeringvisions.wordpress.com/2014/08/27/seeing-with-my-grown-up-eyes/
  57. http://hopethehappyhugger.wordpress.com/2014/08/27/chasing-mom-down-temple-street/
  58. http://worldwidesoulmate.wordpress.com/2014/08/27/loneliness-is-an-interesting-feeling/
  59. http://emo1956.wordpress.com/2014/08/27/last-night-i-dreamed/
  60. http://emo1956.wordpress.com/2014/08/27/i-had-been-here-before/
  61. http://tidlidim.wordpress.com/2014/08/27/writing-prompt-i-had-been-here-before-a-long-time-ago/
  62. http://shutterandink.com/2014/08/27/its-a-big-world-out-there/
  63. http://thetemenosjournal.com/2014/08/27/music-in-a-pasture/
  64. http://l5gn.wordpress.com/2014/08/27/vs-descent-build-your-own-the-daily-post/
  65. http://lingeringvisions.wordpress.com/2014/08/27/in-my-dreams-i-envision-a-place/
  66. http://lifesunfilteredramblings.wordpress.com/2014/08/27/somewhere-only-we-know/
  67. http://faithunlocked.wordpress.com/2014/08/27/the-river/
  68. http://jahnavichintakunta.wordpress.com/2014/08/27/loneliness-an-experience-to-be-cherished/
  69. http://towerofthought.wordpress.com/2014/08/27/dream/
  70. http://silverleafjournal.wordpress.com/2014/08/27/2342/
  71. http://silverleafjournal.wordpress.com/2014/08/27/hide-in-dreams/
  72. http://bornkenyan.wordpress.com/2014/08/28/loneliness-and-all-that-it-is/
  73. http://laughagain.wordpress.com/2014/08/28/jai-deja-vu-la-mort/
  74. http://kaapitimes.wordpress.com/2014/08/28/tell-me-your-story/
  75. http://melanielynngriffin.wordpress.com/2014/08/28/writing-challenge-the-story-of-john/
  76. http://frenchtouchincebu.wordpress.com/2014/08/28/you-can-take-the-girl-out-of-maui/
  77. http://stephaniemartinglennon.com/2014/08/28/the-empty-nest/
  78. http://daysingrey.wordpress.com/2014/08/29/loneliness-is-an-interesting-feeling/
  79. http://smalltowngirlsmidnighttrains.com/2014/08/29/bare/
  80. http://rockandrollsupermom.wordpress.com/2014/08/29/crossroads/
  81. http://rockandrollsupermom.wordpress.com/2014/08/29/i-sold-my-soul-to-the-devil-and-now-he-wants-a-refund/
  82. http://kristineriddle.wordpress.com/2014/08/29/the-dark-path/

The 31st of August 2012 – Washington, DC

(found taped to the cover of an overdue library book)

For the Future,

So the Wheel of Life turns, and – whether it swings us up or down – we are wholly at the mercy of its fortunes.

Years and years ago, you stood at the door of a school bus, which – because of the tears in your eyes, had been reduced to a streaky yellow blur. Somehow, surprisingly, you stumbled on board, found an empty seat – alone, of course. You survived that first day, which was good because there were about a million more to go through.

A handful of grades later, when walking home from that same bus stop, you saw time stretch out in front of you. There were nine more months left to the seventh grade, and years more after that.

“God,” we’ll both remember thinking. “How much more of this do I have to go through?”

Then you blinked.

Then it was senior year.

“God,” we’ll both remember thinking. “Where did all of that go?”

Then it was another first day, more nerves – like always – but a few tears for the first time since that first day so many years before. There was a dorm room and a roommate and a kitchenette. There were hundreds of thousands of nooks and crannies scattered all around campus, and finally the freedom to explore all of them. But, somehow, none of them seemed to fit.

Then you blinked.

There was another cap and another gown and another diploma.

“Huh,” we’ll both remember thinking. “How?”

And, for the first time, there was no scorn, and there was no joy or laughter or frustration or sadness or regret. In fact, it instead just seemed unwieldy.

Because then you looked ahead, and time stretched on in front of you, but it was only there, without schooldays or essays, grades, exams, lectures or classes that you could use measure it.

What it always was, the coming of a new year, was a reminder that the world spins around a star that spins within a galaxy that spins, and for all that spinning, there isn’t much point in crying about getting dizzy. There isn’t much point in arguing for the horribleness or the difficulty or hatred or fear in the world. There isn’t much point in doing anything but searching for the good moments, forcing them into being and sharing them with others.

So that’s it.

-The Past

 

Check out other great responses to the Daily Challenge here:

  1. http://abozdar.wordpress.com/2014/08/27/ancient/
  2. http://abozdar.wordpress.com/2014/08/26/take-it-easy-its-sunday-morning/
  3. http://tombalistreri.wordpress.com/2014/08/27/another-season-gone/
  4. http://sweattearsanddigitalink.com/2012/09/21/writing-the-seasons-autumn/
  5. http://tuckedintoacorner.wordpress.com/2014/08/27/ambivalent/
  6. http://itsmatthewburgos.wordpress.com/2014/08/27/if-i-could-daily-prompt/
  7. http://vexingpoint.wordpress.com/2014/08/27/daily-prompt-august-blues/
  8. http://psychologistmimi.com/2014/08/27/as-i-am-bored-to-tears-in-yet-another-meeting-its-an-honor-to-be-nominated-for-the-very-inspiring-award/
  9. http://thoughtsofajunkiemisfit.wordpress.com/2014/08/27/the-hues-of-the-school-blues/
  10. http://designersophisticate.wordpress.com/2014/08/27/summer-can-be-too-long/
  11. http://pepperconnection.com/2014/08/27/season-change-schedule-change/
  12. http://lindaswritingblog.wordpress.com/2014/08/27/school-days/
  13. http://agirllikemee.wordpress.com/2014/08/27/as-a-kid-i-hated-school/
  14. http://drdinoz.com/2014/08/22/the-first-of-warmth/
  15. http://cardinalguzman.wordpress.com/2014/08/27/spider-web/
  16. http://amaltaas.wordpress.com/2014/08/27/daily-prompt-august-blues/
  17. http://afostinis.wordpress.com/2014/08/27/there-and-back-again/
  18. http://laughagain.wordpress.com/2014/08/27/end-summer-start-school/
  19. http://yichinglin.wordpress.com/2014/08/27/as-often-as-we/
  20. http://kevinsunny.wordpress.com/2014/08/27/back-to-school-ye-uh-nope/
  21. http://dcmontreal.wordpress.com/2013/08/27/the-sacrilege-of-going-back-to-school-in-august/
  22. http://fibercompulsion.com/2014/08/27/4879/
  23. http://veiledflames.wordpress.com/2014/08/27/dp-fall-is-coming/
  24. http://mariotypes.wordpress.com/2014/08/27/the-holidays/
  25. http://oneseventwentyfourteen.wordpress.com/2014/08/27/me-and-mr-winter-dont-see-eye-to-eye/
  26. http://mariotypes.wordpress.com/2014/08/27/the-summer/
  27. http://flippyzipflop.wordpress.com/2014/08/27/1178/
  28. http://kansamuse.me/2014/08/27/after-labor-day-the-world-changes/
  29. http://preciousjalisa.wordpress.com/2014/08/27/summer-i-didnt-even-notice-daily-prompt/
  30. http://mywitchkitchen.wordpress.com/2014/08/27/saved-by-the-school-bell/
  31. http://shesrambling.com/2014/08/27/even-more-happy-school-is-back-in-session/
  32. http://soulnspiritblog.com/2014/08/27/celebrations-on/
  33. http://chasingdestino.com/2014/08/27/august-ending-daily-post/
  34. http://yzhengblog.wordpress.com/2014/08/27/the-first-day/
  35. http://torschlusspanic.wordpress.com/2014/08/27/august-blues/
  36. http://sarahwbartlett.com/2014/08/27/august-blues/
  37. http://myjourneytofindmyself.wordpress.com/2014/08/27/fall-another-season-of-change/
  38. http://themasculinepen.wordpress.com/2014/08/27/the-learnings-of-september-now-come-early-the-daily-post/
  39. http://td421.wordpress.com/2014/08/27/why-i-like-back-to-school-it-has-nothing-to-do-with-the-kids/
  40. http://jahnavichintakunta.wordpress.com/2014/08/27/august-blues-then-as-a-kid-and-now-as-a-parent/
  41. http://pippakinclawz.wordpress.com/2014/08/27/3399/
  42. http://momentsthrulens.wordpress.com/2014/08/27/back-to-school-days/
  43. http://csaravg.wordpress.com/2014/08/27/august-blues/
  44. http://angloswiss-chronicles.com/2014/08/27/daily-prompt-august-blues-just-an-extension-of-july-really/
  45. http://seikaiha.wordpress.com/2014/08/27/daily-prompt-august-blues/
  46. http://biancapaigesmith.wordpress.com/2014/08/27/september-brings/
  47. http://joatmon14.wordpress.com/2014/08/27/thought-heard-round-the-world/
  48. http://chasenchanceranch.wordpress.com/2014/08/27/august-blues/
  49. http://practicallyserious.com/2014/08/27/back-to-school-sucks/
  50. http://oldmomsunite.wordpress.com/2014/08/27/august-blues/
  51. http://mylittleavalon.wordpress.com/2014/08/27/summers-end-a-flash-fiction/
  52. http://robertjepson.wordpress.com/2014/08/27/change/
  53. http://insimplewordsblog.wordpress.com/2014/08/27/remembering-my-school-years/
  54. http://flowersandbreezes.wordpress.com/2014/08/27/different-phases/
  55. http://grieflessons.wordpress.com/2014/08/27/waiting-for-the-bell/
  56. http://lifeisgreat0.wordpress.com/2014/08/27/august-blues/
  57. http://emo1956.wordpress.com/2014/08/27/if-i-wasnt-anxious-i-would-be-happy/
  58. http://debooworks.wordpress.com/2014/08/27/august-blues/
  59. http://traversinglines.wordpress.com/2014/08/27/tempus-fugit/
  60. http://jilliannette.wordpress.com/2014/08/27/end-of-summer/
  61. http://thinkdreamdo.wordpress.com/2014/08/28/back-to-school-haikus-mother-and-son/
  62. http://cherispeak.wordpress.com/2014/08/27/bidding-adieu-to-summer/
  63. http://djgarcia94.wordpress.com/2014/08/27/not-when-youre-homeschooled/
  64. http://marthakennedy.wordpress.com/2014/08/27/mom-im-bored/
  65. http://amandarocksyoursocks.wordpress.com/2014/08/27/professional-student/
  66. http://itsdeanna.wordpress.com/2014/08/27/negative-vibes-on-school/
  67. http://79nexus.wordpress.com/2014/08/27/sommer-solls-noch-sein/
  68. http://alotfromlydia.wordpress.com/2014/08/27/cheers/
  69. http://teepee12.com/2014/08/27/summer-lies-heavy-in-the-deep-green-leaves/
  70. http://soulcurrynrice.wordpress.com/2014/08/27/my-school-boy-journey-started-at-21/
  71. http://chestersforthewin.wordpress.com/2014/08/28/i-kinda-need-that-hundred-and-four-days-of-summer-vacation/
  72. http://mydearestcassandra.wordpress.com/2014/08/27/food-for-thought-response-to-august-blues-daily-prompt/
  73. http://dossiersofsbk.wordpress.com/2014/08/27/august-august/
  74. http://spadethought.wordpress.com/2014/08/27/27-08-14-back-to-school/
  75. http://mydailyminefield.com/2014/08/27/death-knell-for-freedom-aka-1st-day-of-school/
  76. http://bohemianstargypsy.wordpress.com/2014/08/27/aesthetics-101-daily-prompt-august-blues/
  77. http://pharmamike.wordpress.com/2014/08/27/august-blues/
  78. http://yashikibuta.wordpress.com/2014/08/27/end-of-summer/
  79. http://looking4godtoday.wordpress.com/2014/08/27/endings-and-beginnings-poem/
  80. http://thehalfandhalfblog.com/2014/08/27/the-dos-and-donts-of-going-back-to-school/
  81. http://waywordness.wordpress.com/2014/08/27/daily-post-17/
  82. http://corinthialynne.wordpress.com/2014/08/27/writing-prompt-august-blues/
  83. http://pollyannapress.wordpress.com/2014/08/27/redaugustblues/
  84. http://eastelmhurstagogo.wordpress.com/2014/08/27/see-you-in-september/
  85. http://myviewonlifeafter65.wordpress.com/2014/08/27/buster-brown-where-are-you-now-wp-prompt/
  86. http://kimaedwards.wordpress.com/2014/08/27/daily-prompt-goodbye-summer-and-hello-autumn-equinox/
  87. http://insach21site.wordpress.com/2014/08/27/good-old-times/
  88. http://thirdeyenine.wordpress.com/2014/08/27/august-of-my-life/
  89. http://risingrave28.wordpress.com/2014/08/27/schools-never-a-thing/
  90. http://weebitwordy.wordpress.com/2014/08/27/august-blues/
  91. http://endeavoury.wordpress.com/2014/08/27/august_blues/
  92. http://thegadabouttown.wordpress.com/2014/08/27/daily-prompt-schools-out-forever/
  93. http://thedailyblabber.wordpress.com/2014/08/27/bittersweet_summer/
  94. http://psibrone.wordpress.com/2014/08/27/most-wonderful-time-of-the-year/
  95. http://chroniclesofvi.wordpress.com/2014/08/27/back-to-school/
  96. http://geekergosum.com/2014/08/27/august-blues/
  97. http://thebippityboppitybeautifulblog.wordpress.com/2014/08/27/august-blues/
  98. http://365daysofthankyou.com/2014/08/27/as-summer-winds-down/

The 14th of March 2011 – Carson City, Nevada

(found by a boulder or something immovable like that)

Claudia,

It isn’t worth a damn to you, I’m sure, but I’m writing this with a fatal dose of contrition. You’d hear it if I were speaking – the solemnity in my voice or some kind of heaviness that’s dragging it down – but I’m writing, so I figure I should just let you know.

Whatever truth is and whether it exists ultimately – objectively, I mean – it seems pretty certain that we can’t escape certain facts. We can have arguments and debates about semantics and metaphysics, but some things are necessary for existence, and one of those things is the idea that knowledge, somehow, is possible.

We can all get our nihilist glasses on (they’re just really, really dark sunglasses) and talk about whether two plus two actually equals four or whether the sky is blue because what really is two and what really is color and all of that nonsense. At some point, those things are just facts. They can’t be changed. And to discuss them doesn’t do anything other than to observe properties of our universe. We aren’t passing judgment or making a philosophical point. We’re just stating something that needs to be stated, and no matter how many times that statement is repeated, that doesn’t change.

I’ve come to a conclusion that how I’ve spent the last month – and it’s been exactly a month since I last spoke to you – amounts to nothing. I might as well be pacing around in circles and muttering “Two plus two equals four” and scribbling “The sky is blue” on all these sheets of paper. Doing that doesn’t change this knowledge, and it doesn’t make me feel any differently about that knowledge. It does remind me, though, about that knowledge.

There are things that I know, Claudia, things like adding two and two equals four, and I know them just as much as I know that I really messed it all up. I really made a mistake, and it wasn’t just on that one night. It was a months-long mistake, years-long or maybe decades.

It’s not sad, and it’s not happy. It’s just what is. It’s an observation and it’s without judgment. Maybe it’ll motivate me to be different in the future, but who knows?

I know I messed it all up, and now it’s just a little fact in my brain, a little, unignorable fact. Even if I manage to fix this, and I really wish that I could, nothing would change that knowledge.

There’s no meaning to it, no intent – self-flagellating or not.

So why do I keep having to remind myself?

I seem to love you still,

Bertrand

The 30th of January 1910 – New York, New York

(found by the mask, smudged with some kind of makeup)

I’m sorry Bethany.

You weren’t meant to see that.

If all of this had only gone to plan then you would have never seen me again. If all of this had only gone to plan, Bethany, I assure you that you’ve would have been smiling when remembering of me, now that I’ve gone forever. I assure you that your memory of me, the myth of me that you’d created under my guidance, would at least be much more positive.

If all of this had only gone to plan. If and if and if and more of it, too.

If all of this had only gone to plan then there would have been absolutely no need for a plan to begin with.

I’ve been wearing a costume since birth, I feel Bethany. It’s a whole variety of costumes, actually, depending on the occasion and the audience and the mood. The whole collection has been on so long that I even only know myself as “The Costumed.”

There’s a lot of planning involved. Wardrobe changes, exits of both hard and soft variety, management of people to ensure that scenes go as close to the script as possible. There’s a lot of planning and a lot of traipsing from moment to moment like a dog on an ice rink.

With the apologies, Bethany, please also take the knowledge that the closest I ever came to removing the mask was in your presence, and the most forcefully genuine smiles I’ve worn were when you sat next to me.

But it all goes wrong in the end, doesn’t it?

It’s a horrible thing, the feeling that you get when you step down from a performance and realize that you were the only one who saw the stage to begin with. It’s a horrible thing, the confusion that clouds your mind when you step in front of a mirror and wonder whose face that is. It’s a horrible thing, Bethany, when so much goes wrong that the only way to make it right is through pretending.

So, Bethany, you weren’t meant to see that. Some dolt wanted an encore or something of the sort. Just as I was about to go away for good, the curtain rose once again, and it caught me by surprise, and I was revealed to the world as what I really am, revealed as what I was this whole time.

I do remember warning you, but I should have just left instead. Left when I first had the opportunity – years and years ago – and never come back.

Perhaps we’ll see each other again. Perhaps you’ll even be able recognize me.

I always had a feeling that you could see right through the accoutrements.

Love,

Melissa

The 6th of June 2013 – Miami, Florida

(found by a hooded sweatshirt)

My Son,

That feeling you have, of the ground shifting beneath your feet, is not the sign of some great and effective change. The rumbling is not some earthquake, meant to topple pyramids and split seas and free the people.

It is the shrugging of a pair of shoulders. It is the shuddering of a Giant’s back as a massive breath of air is exhaled.

It is the back of this Giant that carries us all. It is the back of a Great and Mighty System that carries us all.

There is only privilege in the System, or there is sanguine benevolence adjudicated by the upper echelons of the hierarchy. Those are the only roads to self-improvement. There is only taking advantage of the advantages as they are handed down to you.

There is only the System, and like all things of matter, it is unchanging, at least from within. The System will call for compromise and reason, and the System will call for the oppressed to accept their oppression – because that is the way of the System. “Them’s the rules,” the System declares, shrugging. The System points to papers and accords and constitutions. It holds up flags and signs and dusty books and says “If you don’t like it, then you can leave.”

So you do, if you are allowed, if you are not shackled by indifference or fear or just the worst feeling of learned helplessness. And so the System seals its own doom. What the System doesn’t realize is that it is not all powerful. It is not exceptional from all the other systems littering the graveyard of history.

Differences occur, change happens, when the System is overwhelmed by pressures from outside of it. When a group jumps down and ceases to ride along the System’s back and refuses to be carried by it, then the System will change. When enough people focus on tripping the System up, rather than propping the System up, then the System will change.

And these radicals, these rioters, these terrorists, these users of extra-legal means – or however the System will choose to label them, unaware that their simple existence and willingness to fight are enough proof of its own failings to condemn the Great and Mighty System – are the ones who create change.

Or, perhaps, we can learn to walk on our own and enjoy peace and harmony without having to be carried by anything but our own reason and compassion.

Hopefully.

Junior

The 8th of December 1973 – Waco, Texas

(found in a place that was just alright, to be honest)

Ulrich, dear,

Don’t be so worried about me. Things are fine. Things are alright. And – I know, I know – that they’re always alright and that they’re always fine. But, listen, dear Ulrich, just shut up and listen to me, for once.

And don’t give me that look whenever it is when we see each other again, and you ask me how I am. I’m just fine. At least, I can only ever hope to be just fine.

And don’t insult me by implying that I’m anywhere nearly as simple as you hope.

Fine is a perfectly good place to be, Ulrich. I don’t understand how that’s difficult to understand. I’ve felt better. I mean, I’ve always felt better. As long as I’m alive, I’ll always know that to be true. That I’ve always felt better, that that better feeling remains possible, remains something I can chase down and maybe feel again.

Satisfaction, Ulrich, is for the elderly. Contentment is for those coughing their last breaths on their death beds. What do I have to be satisfied about or proud of? I’m not dead yet. I’m not dying. What use is there to sit back on my throne – if there is even any throne at all – and count my blessings when there are still more blessings to be gathered?

I will work towards something, keeping my head down, Ulrich, and my eyes focused steadily on the mundanity of the world as it passes beneath my feet. I will work and work, and I will be fine. I will be fine until something strikes me, some cacophony of feeling that forces me to be good or great or fantastic. Then the moment will pass, Ulrich, as all moments do. So then I will be working again, and I will just be fine.

And, I have to be honest, Ulrich, that this is the way I like it. This is exactly the way I would prefer things to be.

If things got too good, I mean, if they ever got great, well, there just wouldn’t be anything left to do. There’d be nowhere else to go.

So things are fine. They’re either fine, or they’re something less than that. But right now, things are just fine.

I am just fine.

How are you?

My best regards,

Isabella

“Foolish Compassion” – The 19th of September 1993 – Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

(found on a nightstand, between a pair of plaster eagle statues)

Dear Lydia,

I’ve been thinking about something for quite a while, so I figure I’d just share it.

It’s been on my mind quite a bit lately, but so has most of everything else, if I’m honest.

I don’t know how much I ever told you about my grandfather. He grew up in a small town, a dying coal town somewhere out there, in between the west and the east. It’s a place a lot of people don’t seem to get out of, once they find themselves stuck in it. But he got his kids out to college, and he did it by working his whole life in a butcher shop. He was the kind of person who’d spend a weekend wading around a flooded basement and never even think of calling a plumber. He was a tough, independent man and a hard worker and an entrepreneur and all those other red-blooded American man qualities. But that’s never why I admired him.

I admired him because he was the most selflessly generous man I’ve ever met. I admire him because he was compassionate to ridiculous and stupid extremes. At least, that’s how I remember him. At least, that’s how I choose to.

He’d shovel feet of snow off his sidewalk every winter, and he’d shovel his neighbor’s sidewalks too. He did this until he died, and he did it because he felt his neighbors – retirees just like him – needed the help. Luckily he wasn’t bedridden until the summer. Even if his cancer had come six months earlier, I’m certain that he would have dragged himself and his IV down the stairs and out to the sidewalk to shovel snow.

The story that best demonstrates both his compassion and his wonderful foolishness is one that revolves around the removal of stitches. My grandfather was a butcher, so he had the tools and the skills of a butcher. The tools and the skills of a butcher must resemble the tools and skills of a surgeon because there was this one time when he had to remove stitches from his own arm. The doctor was away on vacation, and the stitches were starting to irritate his wound as it healed. So he cut them out, bandaged it up and was none the poorer for it.

A few days later, a woman comes into his shop, and she’s complaining about her stitches. The doctor was still away on vacation, skiing up in the mountains. My grandfather saw someone in pain (as slight and seemingly insignificant a pain as it was), and he understood there was a way that he could do something to help. So he offered to remove the woman’s stitches. He sanitized his tools, and he did the best job he could, and he removed the woman’s stitches. He went to check on her throughout the rest of the week to make sure she was healing properly. He drove her to the doctor when he returned from the Poconos.

And whenever anyone tried to thank him for his work, whenever someone even tried to acknowledge his good deeds, he would always say the same thing. He’d say “thanks is for strangers.” Then he’d get on to the next thing, the next good deed – small or large – that he could do for another person.

I’m convinced that the world changes that way. It doesn’t change through technological innovation or entrepreneurial spirit. It doesn’t change through religion or politics or government or anything like that. The world changes – and the world gets better – because there are some individuals who are courageous enough to be completely, entirely and foolishly compassionate and selfless. And they are willing to do that even when it’s tough to do. And they are willing to do that for no thanks – even when it’s offered.

Impossible as it may seem, I wish that we’d all be that way – foolishly compassionate. There can’t be enough of that in the world.

All of my best,

Quentin

 

 

See more responses to the Weekly Writing Challenge here:

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