Sunday, March 5, 2006

Letter to Dru (p. 13)

June 23rd, 2005

The Dru,

I must confess that it's been awhile since I've sat down with the express purpose of writing a letter. I don't know how well I'll fare, or how many of your questions I will answer. I have a specific goal in mind, you see, and if that goal does not coincide with your inquiries, then I have every intention of "letting them slide." These days are too hot to try and do anything else. If you had written me in autumn, then you may have stood a better chance of getting a direct response.

Ah! How refreshing. Now that the hedge is out of the way, I feel like I can write both candidly and with purpose. The two are not opposing forces. Actually, I often find that writing off-the-cuff can illicit a better response than mulling over something for many days. I encourage you to try it.

But now on to other things. The weather in this town is unbearable. The air is suffocating and almost as irritating as the basketball-sized bees that live just outside my window in the carport. I sweat at all hours of the day and night, even when taking a cold shower. As a result I take far too many naps and read far too much poetry. I've taken a great liking to Anna Akhmatova and Fyodor Tyutchev (excellently translated by Vladimir Nabokov).

You may be asking, "Hey, what are you getting at?" Well, the summer heat always has a strange effect on a young person. It makes one remember the happier days. Riding bikes with old friends until dusk, catching fireflies as the porch-light comes on, sitting in parks after dark talking with an old lover as the air cools and the stars become visible. Ah, to be young! I suffer this affliction every summer, pining for those times when talking about feelings came as naturally as skinning a knee. I often poured my heart out on those summer nights, sitting on benches, staring across the vacant baseball fields still alive with the energy of those who had played so ardently during the lighter hours.

I associate all of those emotions with being young, and in doing so, I tacitly admit that I no longer have the capacity to do them. I haven't set myself upon a bike in more than five years. I doubt I could ride one for very long, and I doubt even more that I will ever have an inclination to. I have no lover to share a starry evening with, and even if I did, I have been alone so long that I have forgotten how to talk about how I feel.

Only in the summer do I mourn the passing. I am not a man given to talking about myself. Most of my problems are either stationary parts of my character that I long ago learned not to talk about, or the sort of things I or Time can solve. I think of my past as a series of unfortunate, often embarrassing attempts to act out my favorite movie scripts mixed with a desperate adolescent desire to pass my woes off as battle scars. If that's what passes for communication between lovers, then, for my sake, I'm glad I don't have one. If that isn't the normal fare, then I'm glad, for the world, that I'm the only one who practices such silliness.

In the summer, however, the whole process seems magical. My past has the aura of a storybook, and all my actions are filled with the scent of romance run dry. Once, when I was much younger, I celebrated my anniversary with a certain girl by having a candle-lit picnic in our favorite park. I conned a friend of mine into setting up the picnic while we (the girl and I) went to the Botanical Gardens. After the Gardens closed, I took her back to the park where the picnic was already laid out. The whole night seems a work of art in retrospect, and I can't help but sigh, wanting desperately to relive it, to make it a part of me again. It makes me want to shower the first girl I meet with gifts, to take her out to an expensive restaurant, to listen to her stories about her past, and to tell her that I think she is very special and that I love her. What an evening that would be! And how quickly my interest would fade. After the summer was over, perhaps even after the night was over, I would wake up and realize it was just me painting something that wasn't there. I would come to find I didn't think the girl was that special, and really we didn't have anything to talk about (since I really have found that I have an inability to talk about myself for an extended period of time). Then, as always, I would feel trapped and would want to be alone. I remember all of this and it makes me hate summer, the season that always brings with it a failed attempt at love. It is the season of passion misspent. But enough of that. In response to your letter, I fear that I can give little comfort or advice. For quite some time now I've been using overdoses of melatonin to get to sleep, since chronic headaches have been plaguing me incessantly for about a month. I can only hope that you are able to get past your restlessness soon and can teach me your secret.

You did, however, mention that you have an inability to communicate with others, or an inability to relate. I find that I have the same problem. I've stopped going places where there is a risk of me talking to people outside my family since I often get myself into awkward situations in which I make a complete ass of myself. A week ago, for example, I went to a party at The Bivouac. Usually I wouldn't have gone, but I was feeling lonely, and I knew Brock would be there. Also, it is only two houses down from us so I knew I could leave suddenly if I had to. Well, I made myself a gin and tonic and trooped down. People on the porch yelled hellos at me, and I haphazardly responded with some nonsense about the time of night. I do remember saying "'Tis the season!" as I went inside, but I don't know what the context was, if there was a proper one at all.

Upon coming in the door, I saw that the living room was empty except for one drunk girl from my Ultimate Frisbee class who was dancing by herself. I didn't remember her name, so I tried to sidle past her, but she suddenly came out of her trance and shrieked at me. She had me give her a hug, and as I backed out of the hug, I found myself retreating as she asked me an array of questions about my age and major. I retreated into a corner, and she stood over me for fifteen painful minutes as I tried to field her questions. In the course of that conversation, I managed to down my whole drink. She laughed at me and said I was the most shy, awkward person she had ever met. I wasn't sure if she was hitting on me, and I wasn't sure if I wanted her to, so I asked her where the bathroom was (even though I knew). When she moved out of the way, I fled out the back door and would have left if Brock wasn't standing right there. In short, I was scared silly. I know how it feels to lose the ability to communicate. It's very lonely and kind of sad, even if the stories are funny.

I would like to give you good news, but I don't think it will pass. I've given the matter a lot of thought recently (after the Biv. incident). We are people of literature. We are too used to communicating with texts that don't demand a verbal response, and we are ill equipped to deal with social situations. It doesn't help that we almost never leave the house and only express our feelings in writing, either to each other or in our work. It is part of our occupation to passively observe, to absorb what we see and experience so that it can later be used for our own ends, mutated to fit a theme with dialogue we can make up after the fact. We are too used to constructing our own controlled environments that the characters can breathe within. We are not used to life without context. We are, as you once noted, "just to the left of life," unable to join in completely because we are busy taking notation. It is just our way, and I can embrace that. Sacrifices must be made, I guess, and I can make them. Can you?

I have been writing a little, when my head gives me reprieve, and I think I am close to finished with a new story. I've also been working quite a bit on the Awkward Alligator, reading the submissions and wishing there were a couple we could leave out. Overall I think it will be good. I have the utmost faith in Nikki, and she seems very excited. That means something to those of us who seldom get excited.

I don't know if this is quite the response you were looking for. I'm thinking probably not. But it's the best I can do in this oppressive heat. Do your best to stay in good spirits, and for your own sake please eat something. There's nothing more absurd than a person with good teeth who doesn't use them. Summer will end soon enough.

-Vincent Saint-Simon

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