I am writing a letter because I want to know what it feels like to write without expecting an answer for a long time. What our parents always talk about. The quiet of their lives. Imagine what it would feel like, to be a kid, and still have time. What is that kind of quiet like?
I wonder if it’s like the pool on Mayberry.
I rode past it today. (Oh yeah, by the way, I am here now. And you’re not. Where are you? It’s the first time I’ve been back in over a year. Your page has nothing posted since July.)
The pool is covered in algae, a deep green color that looks oddly inviting. I had to resist jumping over the fence and diving in. Remember when it used to close in early September and re-open in May? There was a rhythm to things. Then, for a long time it stayed open all year long. Now it’s gone.
Still there, but also gone.
Do you chew Bazooka bubble gum still? Do you wear Converse high-tops and carry around erasers that smell like strawberry? Do popsicle sticks fall out of your pockets when you do cartwheels on the path behind the ravine?
And is there still no rain? You posted that July 4th. Immediately you answer anyone who comments on your photos, yet you don’t answer your phone. Always around but never there when you need us. The grass is parched. But I actually remember it like that. Why won’t they switch over to wildflowers? Why the ghastly need for Kentucky Bluegrass that is choking us?
It doesn’t seem right. The grass, but also that after all your life wanting to be anywhere but here you stayed in your empty gray house with the half-finished goddess painting and the planks piled high for the treehouse in your backyard your dad was always going to build.
I rode past my house. The sign for Earl Gray tea and the steps to the sea and the lilac were all there exactly as they should be. Who lives there? I picture a woman in a silvery slip. She wears it out as a dress. Jasmine perfume and blood-shot eyes.
Junior year, when everyone suddenly wanted to leave – to “get the hell out of here” – I felt sorry for our town with the tiny ice cream parlor full of outdated flavors like Rocky Road. The same way I used to feel sorry for the stuffed animals you gave away. You said you donated them, even the monkey with the Velcro arms, but did you really donate them Asherah, or did you throw them out? Someone would have taken them. But you couldn’t wait, and you wanted to travel light even though I was the one who was leaving. My Mom tried to make that last year as normal as possible, but she didn’t understand that the fact of leaving was like a sticky, inky substance, infecting everything.
So where are you anyway? How come you’re not here? I’m sitting on the bench near the blackberry bushes, fingers stained. Here, see? My fingerprints, for you to keep.
Or for whoever might have seen our long shadows stretched out under late summer pines, whoever might have wondered what dark operas took place as the dust rose and stuck to the sweat on our faces. The sweat that made us shine and made us seem like we were still alive.
How do people end letters?
You get to the end, past the summer we left wet imprints on this wooden bench, read Romantic poetry with sunburned cheeks, followed my father to Betsy’s house and wished we had not. You get to the end and it’s like, oh, that’s all it was. A love story. Just a lust story, really. And that’s why we had to leave. Wasn’t it obvious? Everyone knew.
How is your brother? I am finding his intense gaze creepy now, in the photos you post. Like, is he okay? Why is every white guy of our age now terrifying?
We have been living all of our days with endings, but we don’t have ways to end simple things like a letter. Also, where do I send this, since you are not here? Do I put a water lily stamp on it and write the address of your gray empty house and half hope maybe somehow you got the hell out? You should have let your father still build the treehouse. I have my Carson McCullers books and the stuffed giraffe with pink dots and some granola bars – no nuts – and I would stay a long, long time there listening to the rain that never came, waiting for you. It would be quiet, life in the past conditional. And we’d both still have time.