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

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