Saturday, December 22, 2012


Today there were a few letters to write. It was a good thing; long I'd put off--no, simply forgotten--to write the letters, but today there was suddenly and blissfully time and mental space for them. Going visiting will do that to you; visiting the house where you were once a child, an angst-filled teen, will do that to you. The place is your own so you're free to do as you'd please, and comfortably--make the strongest coffee upon waking, forget to clean the scattered grounds from the kitchen sink, start your wash and give your old dog free reign. Blessed places, these childhood homes; there's always someone else to do the business of keeping them up, and since you've been gone you're only a welcome, beloved, longed-for presence. You're allowed to sit at the table and write your letters while someone else vacuums the living room. (A promise to any possible future offspring of mine: I'll do the same for you. I'll provide you with such a space.)

There were a few good lines in the letters. One came after three-quarters of an Old Fashioned, a lit Christmas tree and a fire place, a dog curled at my hip. The other was the product of a late morning run through snow, the only act I've ever known in my short life to clear my mind and my soul as purely as they may possibly be cleared; though I've traveled little, I do keep a short list of places I have run, among them a stretch of desert highway at blood-red sunrise just outside Canyon de Chelly, and a spine-curve hilltop of road that drops unabashedly towards the Atlantic ocean.

One letter I sent away that way, ocean-wards. Towards a tiny, salty town whose loneliness I've known, whose loneliness I've both longed for and felt it once in my power to cure. To this person, I should have perhaps written that I wished to cure his loneliness, but it's taken me until my twenty-ninth year if my count is correct to know that none can cure another's loneliness, no matter how desperate the desire. For the moment at the mailbox, for the two hundred and forty seconds it may take to read the letter, for the card with the picture of the country houses swathed in winter's weight pinned to the board above the desk where dreaming and despair alike are undertaken--for these things I've sent the letter, whatever good it might do in reaching out into the world, this wide and difficult place.

In the second letter I wrote about Christmas. It's almost always the shameful case that I've very little money for gifts for the people I love most in this world, and to whom I'd love to give all my money. This is always a result of my own poor choices and an inconvenient romanticism about life's work. And yet time and again when I go about Christmas shopping with my few dollars, I am amazed to see that in the crowded aisle and on the street dirty with mid-December snow there remains that thing which may be called cliche but which is also aptly called good-will. This year, it was in the man in the wheelchair at the photo shop who offered to take me for a ride, and told me that I had a sense of humor. At first I avoided his gaze, feeling myself the brunt of a rude joke, but then felt suddenly that I didn't need any money, none at all. I would have liked to be a different person then; someone who wasn't quite so careful. Someone who might have stood longer with the man and told a dirty joke or two. Such a person I am not. It is a perfectly acceptable and regrettable thing to be the person I am. I often know that God might like me to be better. I often know that he thinks I am doing just fine.

This was the main topic of the final letter, this life as a good-enough but never-good-enough living being. Let me just say that there's perhaps not enough ink or paper to tell all the tales about the mistakes made, the drunken arguments, the words that go right to the quick and you say them knowing they're going there, the broken temper and the practical impossibility of pure remorse. There's not enough paper to tell it all. It seems to me that it's the regrettable self that gets all the ink, all the words. The woman I want to be, when I am her, is happy with a blank page and only a few simple things to say, only a few questions to ask. I'll do my best to be her more often, this woman. I'll put some money aside, and learn a few rude jokes, and wash my coffee grounds down the sink. I'll offer to vacuum the living room for my mother. 

Thanks for reading.