The Enchanted Box

Dearest Rachel –

It’s the kind of day that makes one not want to head outside. Oh, it’s not raining buckets like it was last year, when I found Chompers on the opposite side of the driveway, toppled over in his wheelchair in the gulley. It’s actually perfectly sunny outside; too much so, in fact. The temperature isn’t quite in the triple digits, but it’s pretty close – certainly enough close enough to be decidedly uncomfortable. It’s the kind of heat where you take a shower to cool off, and spend much of the time wondering how much of the moisture on your body is actually from the shower head, and how much is your own perspiration.

As a result, we find ourselves inside, sheltering from the weather’s oppression, and thanking God for allowing mankind to discover the wonder that is air conditioning. At the same time, we have positioned ourselves in our individual seats in Kevin’s living room, all pointed towards the other wonder of mankind, the television screen.

Which is a bit of a problem, since it’s hard for me to attend to you while the three of us are sitting around like this. And yes, I know I’m not required to ‘attend to you’ in the first place, but we’ve been over this before. There’s still so much to tell you about, even on days when there isn’t all that much going on. But it’s hard to focus on writing you in this situation.

It’s not even that we’re talking all that much; if you were here, looking at us, you’d think we were all off in our separate worlds. Kevin’s got his earbuds in, looking at TikTok and communicating with his Anastasia. I’d tell you more about that, but I think that’s really his story to tell; besides, this story, like mine, is still a work in progress, and even if I were to tell you, I’d just as soon it be resolved before I do, and happily (assuming it will be). Daniel has his computer open, watching the political videos he favors. And me? I’m just sitting here, alternating between this letter, my news feed… and the enchanted box.

You know what I’m talking about. Even back in college, it was always hard for me to pay attention to anything else when a television was on. And I’ll be the first to admit, that weakness goes back much farther than college, too. For whatever reason, I would find my focus drawn to the screen, trying to follow what was going on onscreen. It didn’t matter if I was at all interested in whatever it was showing; even the commercials were difficult for me to pull away from, as embarrassing as it is to have to admit that. If I was doing something – or holding a conversation – and it was switched on, I might be able to keep my focus on what I had been doing or saying for a while, but eventually the screen would drag me in, like it or not. And, of course, it made it impossible for me to remember anything apart from what was on that screen.

I wish it were otherwise. I know there are discussions we had that I can’t recall anymore because I was simply paying more attention to the screen than whatever we might have been talking about. True, those conversations may have been of little real importance even at the time, but every little bit I could remember now would be precious; at least, in comparison to the shows that may have been on that were dragging me away from you. The irony is that now, I have all the time in the world to watch what I might want to, and I’ve learned that I don’t really have any interest in anything that the thousands of networks have to offer.

Meanwhile, I could never understand how either you or Daniel could pay attention to whatever you were working on when that television was on. However you did it, I wish I could – and could have, back then.

At least at home I stay away from the screen, so even as I might miss out on this show or that game, I know nothing about what I’m missing, and I’m perfectly fine with that. Truly, ignorance is bliss.

But that’s not really an option around here. With it too hot to leave the house for too long (and only when we get too hungry to stick around), there’s not much to do but sit around with the television on – and pay attention to it rather than each other.

Then again, it may just be for the best. I try not to pry too much about Anastasia – I’ve said my piece after my own misadventures in online dating, and there’s little more to be said after that. The same goes for memories of you – there isn’t more to be said that hasn’t been already, and to find more to talk about on the subject would only be picking at the wound. And of course, to get Daniel talking about predictions of the future is just asking for trouble. So there are a lot of major topics that, while not so much off-limits, require caution to navigate. Watching the television, and discussing what we’re watching, is so much safer, even if it is decidedly surface-level – to say nothing of the fact that it’s hard to put together a particularly coherent thought like this.

Anyway, I’ll try to talk to you later. Until then, keep an eye out for us, and wish us luck; we’re going to need it.

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I am Rachel's husband. Was. I'm still trying to deal with it. I probably always will be.

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