Month: December 2015

The 31st of December 2015 – Portland, Connecticut

(found here because you’re reading it)

Friends and Family and all others who stumble upon it –

What are we doing?

I wonder that sometimes. I know we all wonder that, but sometimes I wonder that in such a way that paralyzes me, that freezes me in place and brings tears to my eyes.

I have cried more in the last four months than I have in the last fifteen years. See, I can’t count those first seven or eight years because most of my childhood was spent crying in public due to a still-unexplained fear of noise and all kinds of other doubts and just pure, nervous anxiety.

I have more memories of vomiting in restaurants than anyone should, vomiting because I was nervous, nervous to exist. I have more memories of standing in parking lots with tears on my face and a taste of acid in my mouth while my father changed into a clean shirt than anyone should. That’s how much of a routine it was, for me to break down and explode in public – emotionally and digestively. My father always brought along an extra shirt whenever we went outside.

Do you know how people pick strawberries by holding up the hem of their shirt and creating a makeshift basket? My father did that a lot, except with vomit.

We can never thank our parents enough, it appears.

I don’t know what I’m doing. At least, I am still unable to answer that question – that question – without feeling paralyzed and frozen. I don’t think I ever will be able to answer it. But I have done things. Maybe for the first time in a while, maybe for the first time ever, I feel as if I have done things.

I’ve started crying in public. It’s occurred at least, although not as a regular pattern of behavior. That would be concerning, surely. But I’ve had that feeling, that paralyzed, tears-in-my-eyes feeling, and I’ve felt it in a way I’ve never felt it before. And then I speak and someone listens, or someone speaks and I listen. I hear Ringo Starr echo in the back of my mind, and I get by with a little help.

Isn’t friendship amazing?

I’ve even started vomiting in public again. It was on a sidewalk in Silver Springs, outside the metro station. There was a red lanyard around my neck. Nobody caught it. Nobody held it in their shirt like a bunch of strawberries. Someone was there, though.

Those we love, those friends and family about whom we truly care so much, we can never thank them enough, it appears.

These outbursts, both digestive and emotional, I’m choosing to interpret them as good signs and signs of good things to come.

I care. That’s an amazing realization. That’s the most important lesson that I have learned in the past year. There is a great angel of caring in my chest, and it is warm and bright, and it is something I’ve only just come across.

What are we doing? Why?

It suddenly seems to matter so little.

I know that I’ve been beaten during these last three hundred and sixty some odd days. For all my triumphs and joys, I’ve also been bruised up and battered, and here I am smiling.

I’m smiling.

I like Nietzsche. He wrote this:

“The human being is the most courageous animal, and so it overcame every animal. With sounding bass, it even overcame every pain, but human pain is the deepest pain.

Courage also slays dizziness at the abyss; and where do human beings not stand at the abyss? Is seeing itself not seeing the abyss?

Courage is the best slayer; courage slays even compassion: But compassion is the deepest abyss, and as deeply as human beings look into life, so deeply too they look into suffering.

But courage is the best slayer, courage that attacks; it slays even death, for it says: “Was that life? Well then! ONE MORE TIME!’”

So, here we are. One more time.

Love,

Chris

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The 13th of January 2010 – New York, New York

(found in the gutter by the shoe in the gutter by the shoe in the gutter by the shoe)

Hello Marci,

It’s always pleasant to hear from you. It’s always pleasant.

Pleasant.

Marci, do you wonder if we complicate things too much? Do you wonder if the simple answers are always the right answers, that all we need to say is “Yes” or “No” and that everything else is just a waste of breath?

Marci, I’ve thought about killing myself.

Haven’t you ever seen a dog smile? Or, if not a dog, then haven’t you ever seen a child smile? A young child?

Just look into the face of that kind of smile. You won’t see anything. There is no thought. There is no comprehension or awareness, no self-awareness to be found.

You just see a smile, that kind of smile, and nothing else is there.

It seems so often that the simple things mean so much more than the complicated things, and that our lives would be so much happier if we were just dogs, or children, who could only answer with a simple “Yes” or a matter-of-fact “No,” a gurgle or a growl or a babble or a bark and nothing more.

Everything else, all this talk and all this language, all this flowery speech about the great pains and the great joys and the knives in the back and the heartbreak and the standing-up-on-mountaintops type of feeling that I used to get when she held me in her arms, it’s all just nonsensical prattling.

All there needs to be is a smile or a frown. Haven’t you ever seen a dog frown? Or, if not a dog, then haven’t you ever seen a child frown? One of the younger children, mind you?

Marci?

Then haven’t you seen them smile?

And then haven’t you then seen the face of god? And then haven’t you then not ever needed to see another thing in your life?

I think so.

Jamaal.

The 19th of August 2000 – Freeport, Maine

(found by a hair tie and the front wheel of a green touring bicycle)

Dear Diane,

You figure it out. I know you want me to figure it out. I know you want me to at least help you try to figure it out. But it’s on you. You figure it out.

Life is what you make of it. I don’t say that in the fuddy-duddy, put on a happy face and let the whole damn world smile along with you kind of way. Life is what you make of it.

You can make it a game. You can score points and have points scored against you. You look up the stats afterward and find reasons to pat yourself on the back or kick yourself in the ass. You can win or lose and always find some way to be happy with the result. And that’s the thing. You can make life a game and always have that result. That’s all you want, sometimes. You just want that result.

You can make life war with sweat and tears and death and hard fighting. But, still, it’s just a result.

Diane, any which way you look at it – any way you make it, I should say – your life is going to be some kind of result. A win, a loss. A good performance. Something to improve upon.

I don’t know if that’s right or wrong. But it is a creation. It is a fiction of the mind. It is something you would create in order to deal with what is often too hard to deal with.

So what is too hard to deal with?

Life is inexplicable. That’s what makes it amazing. That’s what makes it amazingly painful. It doesn’t make sense. It just seems like random chaos, people hugging each other and then beating each other with fish carcasses and never for a good enough reason.

You can think it all comes down to hard work and effort and discipline, but sometimes you can do your best – hell, you can be perfect – and you can put in all the hard work and commit all your focus to life, and it won’t get you much more than a bruise on your temple, a seat on your ass and a general feeling of anxious discomfort. And even then, you get up because that’s what life is.

So I don’t know what to tell you. You figure it out.

Let me know how it goes,

Jasper

The 17th of October 1943 – Norman, Oklahoma

(found in the midst of a pile of the old things)

Dear Jackson,

I’ve been dreaming about her too much.

I can’t tell you exactly what those dreams are about. I can’t exactly tell you, and I can’t exactly remember, either. But they are about her.

The warmth, they’re about that. The serenity. The peace.

I wonder if they’re lies. The more I think about them, the more I think about those dreams, the more I begin to think that they’re all just lies.

Not big lies, not completely artificial and constructed fictions, but half-truths, mis-tellings of the truth, personal liberties that I’ve taken which blur the line between reality and artifice.

At the end of the day (that horrid cliché!) the only one you live with is yourself. So you become a sycophant, and only to the self. The good was always good. It was better. It was the best. There were moments, I’m telling you that there were moments, when the world stopped moving just so it could properly acknowledge our beauty.

And the bad, it was rare. It was blameless, or – at least – certainly not my blame to bear. I lay the faults at the feet of another because it is my prerogative to do so. This is my narrative – and that’s all it was, all it will be – I can write however I please.

But I’ve been dreaming about her too much, and as nice as life has been, these dreams are powerful, and they are enticing. I want them to be true.

How else can heaven exist?

I hope to hear from you soon.

Best,

Milton

The 18th of March 1994 – Boise, Idaho

(found in a pile of potatoes or something…potatoes. Idaho potatoes)

Bradley,

What is going on? How are the kids and things like that?

I’m sorry because I don’t know how many letters I’ve written, and I never start them off the right way like that. I just get right into talking about myself.

It’s the most amazing thing.

I’m not talking about your kids. Your kids are alright. Brandon’s a little odd, but your kids are alright.

The most amazing thing has happened. The most amazing and terrible and sad and heartbreaking thing has happened.

It’s always the amazing things that hurt the most, always the amazing things that remind you of what extraordinary pain the human being is able to feel. Nobody would look at the sunset if it was there all night. Certainly nobody would cry when they saw it.

That song came on the radio. That song, you know it, right?

The one we first heard the summer when we were seven years old, playing out in the field out past the Henderson farm, remember? We’d throw rocks at squirrels and jump in mud puddles all day, and then get some adult to turn on the radio just before dinner so we could listen to that song.

It always made us feel like we were flying.

I always loved listening to that song, and I loved when we got to listen to it together. All the way through high school, driving home from football practice, talking about girls and algebra homework, listening to that song. And how much it meant. Back in high school, that song was just so full of meaning.

It just felt like when you hold a balloon between your two hands, and – when you squeeze it – it feels solid, but you’re not sure why. But it’s there, and it is solid. And you know that it’s precious and delicate, and you’re really scared that it just might pop. But it’s there, you know?

Then in college, a few times freshman year, I tried listening to that song, but I couldn’t. I just missed it. I missed it all, and that feeling – feeling so happy and so sad and at the same time – it was just too much for me to handle. I stopped listening to that song.

I don’t know, maybe a few times I’ve heard it since, and it made me smile. Sometimes it made me sad. Sometimes it made me feel like I was flying. Sometimes it just made me feel, you know? It just made me feel meaningful, like something more than what I thought was happening was actually happening.

Then I heard it today. It was just a song all of a sudden. It had the same words, but they were just words. The same music, just as beautiful, but it was just music. Brad, I don’t know where it went.

Sometimes that balloon pops, and we all get the satisfaction of a dramatic conclusion. But most of the time, we let it recede into our memory, you know? We stick the balloon in a closet and forget, and – hidden from our view, almost incomprehensibly, all the air leaks out. When we finally open that closet door, we find it on the ground, just a flaccid hunk of rubber.

Where did it go?

It was just a song. That’s all it is now. Just a song.

So I hope you’re doing well. I hope your kids are alright.

Best,

Chuck

The 12th of December 2015 – Washington, DC

(found in a deep corner of his heart, bloody and bruised, broken)

My Leah,

This is what happens when you stop listening. For better or worse, I need some way to get rid of this pain, this thought. So I climb onto a stage and cut open my chest. But don’t be alarmed, for I am no masochist. I find pleasure in the audience’s gaze, not in the pain.

I would have done so much for you – anything, in fact. I would have swam oceans with you on my back if only to give you the opportunity to see dolphins swimming in the deep sea. I would have moved mountains with my bare hands if only to give you a better view of the sunrise. I would have sat in the basement of the library, flipping through book after book, if only to whisper into your ear every word of love written in the English language.

But it is of no matter now.

The one you loved is dead, and you have killed him. You shattered his heart into pieces, and he spent months with tears in his eyes, trying to fit the thousands of shards back together. Then he tossed it carelessly to the side, knowing that he couldn’t make it right again, knowing that it would all be futile even if he could.

But it is of no matter now.

The world is my heart, and I feel the pulse of the earth beat through the soles of my feet. I walk down sidewalks with my arms outstretched, taking in the feelings of billions, absorbing the thoughtful auras of those walking by, satisfied with the dissatisfaction that surrounds me. My mouth hangs open, like a dog’s, and I take in ragged gulps of polluted air. I do not even try to stop the blood pouring from my chest. There will be a mess to clean. There must be.

Because it is of no matter now.

You know my power. You know that, one day, I will sit beneath a bodhi tree and silence an army of a million demons with nothing more than a single gesture.

Congratulations on giving me back my anger and my hatred – for you, for the world and, most of all, for myself. I thank you for returning to me that sense of being wronged, that eternal grievance I had so carelessly dropped when our eyes first met over two mugs of steaming cocoa. I had been so happy without it and, yet, itching with discontent.

But it is of no matter now.

There is work to be done.

Be gone, my precious memories.

Farewell my love,

Topher

The 16th of November 2006 – Atlantic City, New Jersey

(found by the lump in the throat, the tears in the eyes, the ringing in the ears that all occur when a moment so fraught with tension comes into existence that its existence can hardly be believed)

I’m so sorry, Henry.

Because it should have been forever. Unfortunately, though – and I know all of your arguments for and against this fact – it just could not. It just could not, and that’s all there is.

Sometimes life is about the simple facts, the irreversible, unignorable facts, the hard pills to swallow, the bite of the cold breeze on the exposed torso, the lash of the whip and all of that horrific terribleness.

I understand that it should have been forever.

Henry, it’s all just a mess. It’s a mess in my mind. It’s a mess right here, standing on this beach, and it’s all just a mess. Sometimes you look out over the ocean and you see the waves and the tides that go in and go out, and sometimes you see the pattern of it all, and you hear the calming tones of splashing water on a sandy shore, and you can just relax. Well, Henry, sometimes you look out, and you just see a mess.

I don’t blame you, but, then, I don’t blame myself either. We are the ones who die when we get old, and – so – to a certain point, when you are young and when the world is overwrought with the chance to experience, you must live for yourself. You must make decisions for yourself in the hopes of finding brighter dreams and better futures.

It is painful because it should have been forever and because it should have been easy and because – if nothing else – it should have ended without so many tears.

But, whether they be of pain or guilt, joy or otherwise, Henry, these are our actions and decisions. These are our memories, and we must live with them. The world demands of us to bear the burden of our own honesty.

Take care of yourself,

-Jeanette