Dearest Rachel –
I don’t know if you ever noticed – if you did, you never commented upon it – but there were occasions when we were out in public, having a conversation, particularly in close quarters, and I would dial up my side of the conversation in recognition of the fact that others were aware of our discussion. I tried to be that little much more animated, or comic, or snarky, as the topic of conversation suggested it be, simply because I was aware others were possibly listening in. It was as if we were on a tiny little stage, performing for those around us, and a little part of me wanted them to think they got the price of admission.
Am I the only one who does this sort of thing?
In a way, these letters are a continuation of that practice, where I’m directing this to you, but for the most part being aware that others are listening in, and trying to give them something worth listening to – or, in this case, worth reading. If nothing else, while I can’t guarantee to give this imaginary audience an accurate flavor of what life was like with you (and to a increasing extent, what life is like without you), maybe a taste of what we enjoyed together might help explain things… and if it appeals to others, that’s fantastic.
The thing is, there are moments when this dynamic slips my mind. I find myself talking to you about concerns that I have that I know we would have discussed in person back in the day. But these aren’t things to be discussed in front of an audience, especially when they involve observations of other people, and the choices they make that puzzle and sometimes even infuriate me.
I used to think of myself as a fairly stoic, unemotional person. Sure, I would occasionally act up and play the comedian, but more often than not, it would be me being the straight man, the indulgent father figure watching as you would jump headlong into an activity with all the energy and enthusiasm of the little kid you never really gave up being. And even this year, I’ve had moments; there was even a nagging voice in the back of my head telling me I should be reacting more as I watched the first responders swarm you at the bottom of the hill, to say nothing of the fact that I still sometimes worry about whether I’m trying to move on too soon from the whole traumatic experience.
But there are things that have started to get under my skin, and I want to talk with someone about them. Sometimes, I can use Erin or Ellen as a surrogate, as they’ve traveled with us from the before time – and can even relate, to a lesser extent, to my circumstances, as they’ve lost you, too. Indeed, since Ellen knew you for so much longer, I suspect that she feels your absence more keenly that I do in certain ways, albeit with a very different perspective. But there aren’t that many chances to connect with them and just… air things out. Not to mention, these things can strike at any moment, and by the time a chance to vent and talk comes around… the moment has passed, leaving a scar without a story behind it.
And so I come to you, in this form.
But it’s not always safe for me to do so. People are watching and reading; there may not be multitudes doing so, but they are there, and I have to be more circumspect than I might have been when it was just me and you. I’ve even found myself wondering what some people who knew us would think about that game show from the cruise: strangers might find it perfectly sweet and adorable, but folks who knew us might be surprised at how much information we divulged about ourselves during our moment in the spotlight. Much as I’d love to reminisce with you about our love life (and how much I miss it), that’s probably not appropriate for an audience.
And that’s just talking about us; I really have to watch myself if something I see gets my attention. No matter how much I want to tell you about it, I can’t forget about the fourth wall here, and the fact that folks here don’t need to – in fact, probably shouldn’t – know about other people’s stories and what I might think of them.
So I’m sorry, honey, but I guess I can only talk to you about so much.
Then again, were you even noticing in the first place?