14 August 1016 – I’ve started this letter a dozen times or more. Each time hoping I’ll get far enough in to commit, or at least not feel the need to abandon ship before it’s even left shore. It’s like I’m waiting for the weather to clear when the real issue is that I don’t have a destination.
Maybe it has more to do with not knowing how to write to you. You’ve been gone a long time. There’s nothing current between us anymore. Nothing active. No present tense. I still see you now and again, of course. In memories. For this I am glad. But the memories, for lack of new ones, are beginning to fade and blur. You’re becoming a figure in a grainy old photograph. I have to squint to define you.
Sometimes I feel the same way about myself. My past self, that is. I don’t recognize the person I was when you were last here. Such a skittish girl. Always so afraid and lonely. It almost hurts to remember. But, you know, this may just be memory playing tricks. Because I was never that way with you. And never ever let on to mom or dad that I was having a hard go. I guess that’s part of what you do when you’re trying to find your way. Pretend.
Life goes on, as they say. Things change. People. Circumstances. Everything undergoes something. And for me, losing you was a big something. It gutted me. Turned me inside out. Seemed so random and unfair. Just couldn’t wrap my head around it. For a while there I went into hiding. Simply stopped trying. Time was adversarial. There was no end to it and I couldn’t muster the strength to do anything to make it go faster. Couldn’t eat, couldn’t sleep. Leaving my apartment was a trial. I fell behind in school. Self-loathing followed me around like it was somehow my fault you were gone. My shadow wanted nothing to do with me. I couldn’t see straight, and what I could see didn’t look right. The worst of it was that because you were my go-to person I didn’t have anyone to turn to. I was stuck with myself and had to let time do its thing.
Finally, I hit upon the notion of writing you a letter. Like this one I had a difficult time finding the right entry point. But once I did, and all the words started gushing out of me, a kind of personally-driven therapy began. I spent weeks on it. Writing, healing, finding closure. I fell back into a regular pattern of eating and sleeping, went for long contemplative walks, even managed to catch up on schoolwork. By the time I finished the letter I felt better about myself than I had in years (and this was the point—not so much to say goodbye to you but hello to me). The feeling stayed within me and grew by degrees as I slowly came to assume an identity approximate to the person I was with you. A better me. Without the apparent need to pretend.
Right now I can’t pretend to ignore the man prancing about the room behind me. He’s wearing naught but boxers, the phone in his hand blaring elevator music that’s occasionally interrupted by computer voice declaring all customer service representatives are busy etc. Looks like he’s mimicking a spastic emu. Or desperately needs to use the washroom. Knowing the man as I do, either could be true. This is Griffin. My soft maniac of a man (by which I mean he’s prone to being a dope, but only in closed company). A terrible dancer, but otherwise a good egg.
Here, my inclination is to put down something whimsical that captures the moment and subsequently affords me an opportunity to transition to another line of thought while making a clean break from the above—a penetrating one-liner, as Griffin would call it, articulated in a deeply nasal English accent. And since he left the room, about five minutes ago, I’ve been contemplating the very thing (FYI, I did come up with one line: Got netting anywhere). Something else has happened though. It’s just occurred to me that my problem getting this letter started relates to trying to write it as I would a notebook. Not any old notebook, mind you. The one on the desk before me. That I started about a year back (with the lines: “Car in shop. Had to take train in to work this morning. Early early. All those half asleep faces. Everyone avoiding eye contact.”) and finished almost two months ago (with the following words: “Might be time for another letter. To Marcus? Yes. Dear Marcus. About a year ago….”).
And you know what else? I’m beginning to fasten on to the idea that I’ve had the letter right here in front of me this whole time. As in, the notebook is the letter.
Whoa! Head spinning.
This rather changes things. For one thing, I won’t have to tell you everything all over again. It’s already written! No need to toil over pertinent details. (Now that I’m thinking about it this was probably my biggest obstacle—how to spin relevant events in such a way as to keep the proverbial ball from rolling into a quagmire of details requiring more and more detail.) I can’t tell you what a relief this is. Wow. Goosebumps!
(Though I didn’t have a destination at the outset it seems I’ve arrived somewhere. This is one of those intangibly thrilling moments that kept me coming back to the notebook. How good it feels when the pieces you’ve been making a puzzle out of suddenly fit together to form a readable whole. Funny what following words, and trusting your instinct about where they’re going, can do. It’s like Griffin says, “If you don’t at least try to write it down the magic won’t happen.”)
OK. Enough for now. Time to take a break. A good long run to let this all sink in. And who knows, maybe conjure up some fodder for where to go next. You ready?
Got netting anywhere?
Wherever you are?