Outside the cab of Jim’s little old Nissan, the day was beautiful. The sky was a rare shade of blue, and so clear the sun gets to put its greedy hands all over everything it damn well pleases, and those things feel warm to the protests of the northwestern chill. The archetypal May in Seattle: a contradictory dichotomy, just one of many; corporate prosperity and comfortable poverty, bicycling enthusiasts and murderous topography, Starbucks imperialism and sovereign cafés; the city was full of them.
Traffic was light, even for noon on a weekday. Only a couple of other cars shared the bridge with him, and they were coming the opposite way over the Duwamish. On the far side, the hills of West Seattle resembled a studded belt, bedazzled by a swath of trapezoidal suburban roofs. One of those studs was the old house, where Lisa still lived with their son.
But baby, the love that you crave is public domain.
But true love is secrets.
True love is whispers.
What waves carry are echoes of unfulfilled promises.
I put this letter in a christmas gift to my father. He has never mentioned it, and I still don’t know if he has ever read it. I don’t know if I could ever repeat these words to him to his face without breaking.
We pass each other in the same house, never saying more than a few rehearsed words to each other. What I never say to you is how I think about you every day, whether you’ve been in the same shoes I’m in, what you hope and fear, whether you dream of me the same way that I dream of you.
As a man I have had thoughts of you I couldn’t have had as a child. I could never have thought of you as being same as I, doubting yourself, having regrets and uncertainty. I would never claim to know you intimately, but simultaneously I want to let you know that I understand now. I know what it is to be you, to be a man.
I want to let you know so much that it’s so hard in the world that I live in, one where making your father proud is shades of grey, rather than black and white. With all the honesty in my heart I want you to know that there have been moments in my life that no one will ever know of, much less you. Moments where I told the truth even though I knew it would bring me pain and misery, moments that I did the right thing thing even though no one would ever know. Moments that I know would have made you proud.
If we never speak to each other again before our time comes, my only regret would be to never let you know how highly I think of you. All the questions I have about you, about your life, about what you have done, do not matter at all. Even the smallest moment in your life has led you to create me, and in turn, every moment in my life; the beautiful moments when I find the greatest joy, the horrific moments full of dread and despair; I will cherish all of them, because my moments only exist because of your moments. I am thankful for each moment of your life that I shall never know.
I will remember always that no matter how different I consider myself from you, that we are cut from the same cloth, and that my flesh is yours. I wish you knew that although I failed in my own mind to outright make you proud in a world that judges by social and material wealth, that I have come so far, and learned so much in the short time I’ve been given, and I can’t wait to learn more, so that when I die we may both rest easy knowing that OUR flesh has grown.
I want you to know that I still use every ounce of knowledge you have given me; that I still roll my clothes as tight as I can when I pack them into a bag, that every time I walk through a park I leave it cleaner than when I came, and that I still judge myself by the scout laws, and feel the worst shame imaginable every time I realize that I have not lived up to them.
And if we get to the pearly gates, and if either of us is not allowed to pass, I would shout at the top of my lungs shamelessly to those who lounged beyond them: that their God was wrong, and that we stand here as men who lived lives as best as men could with but a glimmer of divine purpose, and we will stand pround in that place we end up, knowing we did the best we could. I trust that behind every one of your intentions was the pillar of divine providence and goodness, the universal conscience of our human race that one day may unite every man of every creed and color.
Above all I want you to know that in spite of my silence, it weighs upon me every single day of my life that I am your son. Though the voice God has given me is meek, my heart is still the same as yours, and it will seek out every way possible to let itself be known.
I love you, Dad.
Your body is a national park.
I will look, not touch,
And try not to leave trash behind.
Sam wanted to be inside with the others, to talk to and be seen talking to Selene, but he knew he’d just be let down. Selene was one of the first friends he’d made in the downtown scene, and she was still his friend. But the late nights of watching cartoons and weekends eating dinner and playing cards with her family had grown farther between, and now that her music was taking off, now that she was becoming somebody, it seemed like everyone else was rushing to fill his place as her friend. Inside, he imagined her swarmed by a crowd of friends and ‘interested parties’ while the music equipment was breaking down behind her. If he tried to be her best friend in there right now, he’d just be one of a hundred posturing around her, also trying to be her best friend. He opted instead to sit outside, hesitantly sipping the last of his second beer, putting off the inevitable decision to walk away without saying goodbye. It was better this way, walking off without saying goodbye rather than awkwardly trying to seem like he belonged in there. She’ll still be around tomorrow, or the day after.
Good for her though, he thought, she deserves to be someone. She worked hard, and it’s not her fault that her time was not his anymore.
On the sidewalk around him, people who had been inside were milling about, talking to each other in exaggerated body language. Most were dressed well. Dressed carefully, dressed like they were somebody. A girl ten feet away was a good example. She was wore a black skirt that clung to her calves through the wind matched with black heels, talking to two boys who were dressed as chic boys dress with chic haircuts, the kind that mimicked the fashion of the impoverished, the revolving culture appropriated from people who couldn’t afford to wear better things than plain, weathered tees and cutoff jean shorts, loved so well by middle class twenty-somethings that lived off of their student loan money, either waiting or surfing the scene until they became somebody. He could tell by the tones of the words he didn’t hear that she was talking like she was somebody. He had a confident clairvoyance to what she was saying; oh, you know her, I know that person to, we did this and that together, I hear someone’s doing something sometime.
Sam caught the bitterness creeping back into his thoughts. He reminded himself that sometimes he did the same things this girl did. Sometimes, he went to the bar openings, the big shows like this one, the weekend flings where he knew other somebodies would be, places where he could be seen and heard, where someone might mistake him for a somebody.
Deep down, Sam wanted to be somebody too, and that’s why the bitterness lived in his marrow, sometimes bleeding into his veins when he saw others. A little voice in his head had always told him he would be somebody, and all these little clues surfaced just often enough in his life to keep him believing it was true. Twenty-eight years later, he was still hopping along from clue to clue, while in between each stepping-clue he waited tables, convincing himself that he was somebody as a good waiter in the best restaurant in the city, and he could tell everybody that he waited on this somebody or caught sight of that somebody at work, and when he told strangers about the big someplace they worked, they would say, oh I’ve heard of that place, I’ve heard it’s great, and that would make him feel good about himself.
Maybe if he’d stuck it out playing guitar instead of occasionally looking at the Telecaster knock-off leaning against the wall by his television, he’d be just like Selene, or maybe somewhere close. Maybe he could be playing with her. It’s far too late for that though, he thought, wiping the smell of the nameless girl’s cigarette from his nose. He’d never catch up to Selene, nor could even hope to be somewhat talented before a respectable age at this point.
He looked around. More people were filing out and lighting cigarettes and talking. None of them looked at him. He felt small and unrecognizable, though with the time and talking and money spent on buying shots and beer and drugs for the people in this town, he thought he deserved at least a nod from somebody here. But here they were, twenty-something twenty-somethings around him on the cafe patio who were desperately engrossed in becoming somebody, and beyond them for thousands of miles in every direction were eight billion other people doing the exact same. Eight billion people wanting to be somebody, like him, like Selene. A weight of peaceful hopelessness settled on him through the gentle waves of his two-beer day-drunk. He took the last, warm, malty sip, set down the can on a table and looked at it until he got the inspiration to walk away and back to his apartment. It was better this way.
Been on a real FF7 kick lately. I really appreciate it when a game gives me the option to derp things up a bit, like the one I’m about to take, above. They throw you a tempting little slice of pie, after dropping multiple hints that this will definitely kill you and that you should be doing some other thing that’s not this pie. And you take that goddamned pie, smear it all over your face-hole, and ask for seconds.