Dearest Rachel –
I’ve occasionally lamented that, unlike the letters we exchanged between each of our graduations from college – between the time I acknowledged that you would have been the one I would have chosen to spend the rest of my life with, had I been offered the opportunity (the window of which I had assumed was closed at that point) and the time you said “I do” to that very same offer – these letters I’ve been sending you haven’t contained much of the same measure of love and devotion that the ones did from so long ago. I’m not entirely sure why this is, since that was much of the original intent. It may well be that there are no promises either of us can make to the other at this point; we have no future together on this earth, and what future there is in heaven, I don’t know the details, and you can’t communicate with me about what to expect (and I don’t have the faith Daniel seems to in that one lady with the YouTube channel who claims to go there and back on a regular basis, and answers commentors’ questions about what to expect – even when her answers seem sensible, they aren’t conveyed with the proper authority, in my mind).
There’s also the fact that we would let each other know about our inner life, as a sort of warning of what to expect from each other once we were finally together. After all, living together isn’t all roses and butterflies; we knew full well that we wouldn’t always think alike, based on our upbringing, life experiences and even the fact that we were of opposite genders. Again, that’s no longer necessary, although I guess I’m continuing to express certain thoughts as they cross my mind. I do miss the exchange with yours, however.
All that’s left is for me to try and remember certain things about you – and us – when I can, and relate them to things that are currently happening. I’m well aware that I’m deliberately trying to have a multitude of things going on in my life these day almost specifically to drown out the emptiness left by your absence, and I think you ought to know about what’s going on in that field (and, to be honest, it still sometimes feels like I owe you an apology for making all these changes; and come to think of it, I probably owe Daniel those same apologies, too, as he’s having to live with them despite not being fond of change by nature). It comes off as a little self-absorbed, I’m afraid, when I step back and look at it, but when there’s no ‘we’ anymore, there’s little else to talk about save ‘me.’
It’s a selfish, self-centered perspective, but it’s the only one I have – let’s face it, it’s the only one any of us has. Life is played in first-person; we don’t have the ability to change our view.
So, what all is going on today? You know, I’ll leave that for another time; it’s like that old joke: “Heard the latest?” “No, what is it?” “Oh, it hasn’t come out yet.” It’s too early in the day to relate its events yet. So, I’ll be bringing up an event from yesterday, along with a little more thanks for continuing to wish us luck like I always ask you to. But first, a little bit of inner life, just like back in the old days…
When I was a kid growing up here in the suburbs, I was, as much as any other suburban kid, a mall rat of sorts. Maybe not to the same extent as the kids in the John Hughes movies from back then (if nothing else, I didn’t have that kind of disposable income that those kids seemed to have; Hollywood has never had any perspective on what an average family made or could afford, quite frankly), but I would spend a fair amount of my idle hours there, as it wasn’t all that far away from home – although it was twice the distance from home to school, to be sure. I do find myself feeling sorry for you, having to travel some forty-five minutes’ drive to get to the nearest one, and there didn’t seem to be much of one when you got there, quite honestly. I suppose you didn’t see the appeal until you moved up here.
Be that as it may, unlike the typical mall rat, I didn’t spend most of my time in the arcade (although I did wander through more than occasionally, rubbernecking at the real experts as they did their thing; even the games I got good at on my old Atari set had vastly different controls on the stand-up machines in the arcade, so any practice at home would prove worthless there), but rather in the lower level of the local bookstore. The Krochs & Brentano’s was really quite a massive store, and one could easily get lost in there. But I knew exactly where the humor section was, and on those days when there were no band practices or other extracurricular commitments, that’s often where I would hang out. It wasn’t the most social place, but then, I wasn’t the most social person, so it all worked out. I would collect comic strip collections, anthologies of humor writers… and there was one fellow whose work sort of straddled the two concepts.
His name was Ashleigh Brilliant, and his modestly (hah!) referred-to ‘Brilliant Thoughts’ (although, to his credit, he would much more frequently refer to them as ‘Pot-Shots,’ which I didn’t really understand at the time, but given that he was a visible member of the Haight-Ashbury scene in its heyday, makes perfect sense now) were collected in a series of books throughout the eighties. I had probably half a dozen of them by the time I was bundled off to college, and you’ll probably remember some of his lines on the buttons I created to wear on my old black denim jacket (which were only replaced by anime characters after we were married and started attending conventions and such).
I couldn’t tell you which came first – did I develop a snarky, cynical view on life by being exposed to his (and others’) sense of humor? Or was I drawn to it because I already had that sense of humor myself, and this simply served to crystallize it, and create a feedback loop? From this far away, I couldn’t tell you, and in any event, the result renders the point moot, I suppose. In any event, one particular line stuck out, and was used by another favorite artist of mine – although most likely arrived at independently, and phrased juuust differently enough that Brilliant (who is notoriously litigious about copyrights on his epigrams – and I always assumed that hippies prided themselves on not being hung up on material things) either wasn’t aware of its use or otherwise didn’t consider suing:
Words to live by.
To be fair, I wasn’t usually as cynical about life as Steve Taylor was – although his points were certainly well-taken. In this day and age when the two sets of rules are becoming so much more obvious in the wider world, it’s becoming a more reasonable position to take than that of any Pollyanna or Pangloss, that’s for sure. But as for my own life – and you know this so much better than anyone else – I applied it to myself specifically with regard to finding romance. Once I decided I would never find a girlfriend, I got so much more comfortable around girls when I was in college, and they had no fear of me (unlike several of my dormmates, who ran the gamut in attitude from Lothario to what today would be called a ‘simp,’ with little variation in their lack of success). It’s how I befriended you – although my having given up hope almost cost me the opportunity to be with you, so it could have been taken too far, too.
So what does any of this have to do with what went on yesterday? Well, not much, and yet…
You might remember that I’d gotten hooked up with the same landscaping service that Mom and Dad use. They’d been here to clean up in the fall (and I’m concerned that they not only cut down, but uprooted the raspberry bushes, so that’s an ‘oops’ that’s on me), and were supposed to be coming regularly to cut the grass this season, but I hadn’t seen them by mid-May (to be fair, it would be hard to find a place to park in the driveway, what with the construction team being here), and decided to trim the front yard at least before we got cited by the village for letting the grass get too long. After not having seen them through the end of the month (and their phone mailbox being full, so I couldn’t leave a message), I was about to give up on them, and cast about for another service. I even got a reference from Kris when she came over yesterday to do what cleaning she could in the middle of this chaos.
But before I went to call and make an appointment with this new service, I had another appointment to go on. Our broker and I spent the better part of two hours talking about investments – it was a lot of time spent to basically conclude that no action needed to be taken at the moment, despite the current economic headwinds, but there is so much to be said for the occasional face time to maintain a business relationship, after all – and I walked home, satisfied that everything there was in order, at least for now.
As I approached the house, I realized there was another truck in front of it other than the tapers’ and painters’ – our landscapers had finally shown up. Indeed, they were very nearly finished with their work already. Had I known they would, I would have taken a picture of the grass field out back before heading out to the broker’s – it had to have been well over a foot, maybe closer to a foot-and-a-half high – but then again, had I known, I wouldn’t have given up on them and asked Kris for the number of this other service in the first place. As it is, I found myself talking to them on the phone as I attempted to make out a check to our service, as they called to introduce themselves as I was discussing matters with the owner’s son – I had to apologetically turn them down, of course.
I don’t know that there’s a specific moral to all this. Maybe you just have to know when to give up; not to give up too soon or too completely. Unfortunately, I clearly don’t know when that point is yet, and I’ll probably miss out on a few opportunities because of it yet.
Hope for the best; expect the worstMel Brooks
Life is a play, and we’re unrehearsed.
Anyway, thanks again for wishing us luck, and continue to do so. Love you; take care.