Dearest Rachel –
I don’t mind telling you, now that I’m home relatively safe and sound, I find myself wondering what to write to you about such that I’ll get the kind of attention that I’ve had for the past week or two. I’m not going to make any secret of the fact that I keep an eye on my analytics, and it’s been gratifying to watch as those numbers have skyrocketed during my confinement. As boring as those days were to me, there were a lot of people that found the whole situation quite interesting, it would seem. The combination of an exotic location (although, quite frankly, a hotel room is a hotel room, no matter where you are), my dealing with an illness (and its fallout) that has been the subject of the world’s attention for the past two years, and the fact that in that confinement, I’d been able to crank out a prodigious number of both words and letters made for an impressive increase in views and circulation.
But back home, in my own workaday world, I have other things to occupy myself, and my life is no longer as exotic as it was (although again, I might argue that point – it’s all a matter of perspective). There’s not as much unusual to write about, nor is there the same kind of time to write you in the first place. And as a result, even after this first day back, I’m seeing what we both know from our college statistics classes as a ‘regression to the mean.’ The last two weeks were an anomaly; while my numbers may go up should I dare to travel again in the future, they are probably going to remain moribund for some time yet to come.
Now, you would be well within your rights to ask why I care. I’m not writing to them, and so it shouldn’t bother me when they do or do not bother to drop by and read what I have to say to you. At the same time, I consider them proxies for you; since I know full well you will never read a word of what I have to say to you, I would hope that by standing in for you, they would be able to understand and appreciate what I’m experiencing and how I describe it. To a lesser degree then my more obvious recent situation of dealing with Covid while abroad, this has been a guide of what to expect in so many aspects of day-to-day life – dealing (however reluctantly) with an aging dog, going through your possessions and the painful memories they stir up, cleaning the house and preparing it for a thorough remodeling, and trying to relate to a child who has suffered as much loss (if in different ways) as I, and is trying to cope in ways I sometimes find quite worrisome – having to do with suddenly having lost you. I’d like to think that my situation is somehow relatable to my (admittedly peripheral) audience, and to see those numbers drop off suggests to me the opposite.
Of course, I really should know better than this. Life in a city halfway across the world is by definition more interesting than the things I deal with back here at home, especially considering that (I believe) most of my readers are from ‘back here at home.’ In any event, I can certainly confirm that I have yet to gain a single Swiss reader, so there’s that: a place like Basel is unfamiliar to every single one of my readers, and therefore that much more interesting than the everyday errands that are my typical life.
But I can’t seem to help myself. It’s that typical human need to be liked, I guess. I’ve told you about that dopamine hit I get every time the app tells me that I’ve added another day to my streak of writing you. And while I don’t get a notice of every time someone reads something I’ve sent to you, I am told whenever somebody like some thing I’ve read, or subscribes to my letters going forward. And those little things give me that same addictive rush, and I have to admit, I want more of that.
At the same time, I also know that there’s certain things that I simply can’t give my audience just because what they want to read about. There will be no more Chompers stories, for instance, despite the fact that so many of my subscribers have something to do with dogs in their monikers. So I’m pretty sure I’m not going to hear from them again going forward. That’s just how things are. I can’t appeal to everyone who has read these letters at one time or another, and I have to learn to accept that. But it’s more of a challenge than you might think.
It’s funny; I started this out with absolutely no expectations of what I wanted with this series of letters. And to be honest, I haven’t said everything to you that I’ve meant to; it’s hard to write a love letter to someone who you know will never reciprocate. And of course, some of my most treasured memories are things I would do well to keep between myself and you; some things are just not meant to be shared with a wider audience, no matter how wonderful they were (and how salaciously interesting certain people would find them to be). So again, that’s material that will never see the light of day. And of course, I miss out on the clicks such letters might generate.
Anyway, my apologies for leaving so heavily on the fourth wall this morning. I’m fully aware it’s not something that I should be concerned with; it’s not as if I’m trying to monetize what I’m doing (and indeed, I consider that to be fairly crass. I get that certain people do this for a living, but this sort of thing simply has to be a labor of love; money shouldn’t enter into it). Perhaps I understand Samuel Goldwyn who, upon the release of his latest picture, claimed, “I don’t care if it makes a penny. I just want every man, woman and child America to see it.”
If I knew how to make you Internet famous, I’d do it. This is all I know how to do.