< re: separation anxiety & getting chummy w/ your mom.
Answer my email, you coward. I’ll make it so ugly you’ll unmute yourself, just to tell me to stop. I’ll make it postcard-beautiful. I’ll do it just to prove that it wasn’t only you who had a way of talking anybody into anything. I’ll include your favorite things as well as pictures of them I find online. I am sorry I am such a bad picture taker myself. So bad, in fact, that people will tell me what I’ve done, and I have no real choice but to believe them. So bad, in fact, that I download pictures of you from your Facebook page.
I’ll change the font size, color, and style to agree with the mood of the words. I’ll curse the insufficiency of the word to convey the small horrors of the damaged soul. I’ll ask if you believe in the soul. I’ll say that I am not sure I believe in the soul (then put, down at the bottom, that I do [i.e., believe in the soul] but am embarrassed to say; you know what I mean). If the soul exists, then A, but if not, then B. And so on and so on. And then it will have become multiple emails, each vying for affection, like neglected children.
I’ll ask what you have been up to, though I might not actually care, unless whatever it is is shocking. I’ll ask questions whose answers I’ll fill in with best guesses. I’ll lament my inability to indicate what voice something should be read in. I’ll try reading what I have written in your voice, and feel stupid, if not a little sad. I’ll try to read in your voice trying to imitate my own. I’ll try to remember whether you type with both hands, in an adult way, or if pecking is one of your childhood keepsakes. I’ll consider CC-ing your mom. She could take it.
In a separate paragraph I’ll outline three different types of sadness (destructive, instructive, cathartic) before realizing there must be more. I’ll share an anecdote from elementary school in which I shit my pants. I’ll chide you for nail biting. I’ll reach a level of indentation after which the email will begin to look jumpy, unbalanced, and needy; the designers never anticipated this level of digression, of pain. Bless them. I’ll make up my mind to refer to you once-and-for-all in the past-tense third-person: that filter they slide over Wikipedia articles once the article-ee becomes, like you, posthumous. I’ll consider BCC-ing your mom. I have to be honest: I’ve never trusted the BCC. I will remember when your mom made me a cup of hot chocolate and it, like, was an important moment for me.
I’ll tell your mom you smoked. I’ll skid off various anecdotes between us that seemed to contain, to me, seeds of, like, romance, because it makes it easier. Psych! Haha! I will append JKs, one or two XD’s. I’ll try to catalogue the movies I have seen in which one character, having been called by another character, says something like, ‘you only call me when you need something.’ I’ll do the stat-anal on how often the thing needed is actually done, how often the common line is delivered with a smirk, how often the whole thing is only them pretending to be annoyed. I’ll watch the call-ee wrap the phone’s curly cord around their index finger, and smile.
But listen here: I need something. I am trying to be chill but I am not. I think that email is more desperate than the telephone, like, way more. And I mean, And like I think, that this is because of the fact that, were I asked about whether I understand that there is pain universal between any two people separated in any sort of way, I would say, well, yes of course. And that I am really trying to compare myself to all those faceless ‘thems,’ hurting, out there. That I am one amongst many. That we are all of us brothers, and sisters. And that I am sorry.
But I want to destroy anyone who says they’ve got it worse. I am feeling a little stuck between my world, which feels very small, and what everyone tells me is the case. I have prepared a very nice face, for parties and grocery shopping. And I am tired. And I am looking for you in the surfaces of puddles. Sometimes I think that I am only imagining something that hasn’t happened yet, to the very ends of its worst possibilities. That this email, more than any conversation could, presents a desperation and folded confusion—a sick optical illusion of substance and depth—that even your living breath could not pick through, or ease.
I’ll embed that video you hate. In short, I will say this whole format prevents me from saying things like that I love you, or miss you, or am, despite it all, still angry about a couple of your past demonstrations of carelessness, which are simply not washed out by the tight wringing of the laundry of death. If I say any of these things straight, though, they will vanish—they will crack like lead paint or a torture victim, and then I will be all alone and aware of it, too.
If necromancy had had more success people would be murderers. And those murdered might consider death as vacation, or rebellion. It might be cool to get killed, I mean, in the same way it is cool to not wear a bicycle helmet, or to vape. And it might expose new complications, too, because people get antsy when no decision is final, even if that decision is something as terrible as death. Something needs to be final, I feel like people say. Something needs to be real.
It might become a kink, were the border between life and death to become porous. Do you want to hear a secret? I have a sigh kink. When people sigh I cannot not admit that I am at least a little excited by their disappointment: physically. I have been known to hype up locations for minor dates that, while beautiful, are not nearly as captivating as my behavior implies they will be. I watch dewy lips clench around disappointment so incredibly unjustified and petty and poorly conceived that their owners have no choice but to swallow it all, lest they appear like total assholes. The tiniest sigh will escape like woodfire smoke from a prairie-home chimney. That is one example of how I feel about the quaint satisfaction of seeing the crop of my seeds. I have been known to begin the kiss before the sigh has left the immediate area of their mouth. I’m like a sigh sommelier. So shoot me.
Remember that time, I’ll type, as a preface to a story that happened to someone else. I’ll fold my little sister into the growing narrative, wondering if it is okay to blame everyone in my life individually for a little piece of who I have become. My door still has a scrawly ‘STAY OUT, GIRLS’ in magic marker on it, because you laughed at it literally just once. I play around with the idea of blaming myself for you—just a little, just under the surface—which I know would make your blood boil, your voice rise to its true register, make you gulp your little bits of air before your sentences that force the listener of your glassy words to, as you have always made them do, feel your punctuation marks as the projectiles they are. Argue with me. Respond to me. Stop talking to me through objects on the walls and things I am still embarrassed about. I know so many little spells about you. I try to squash my superstitions by learning more about you, to the exact opposite effect.
Listen to this in-depth description of a dweeby guy I saw walking down the street with his shoulders up to his ears. Listen to my huge wandering clusterfuck of a conversation on obscure élite topics peppered with pithy self-admonishments about how I never read what I should, of how stupid and idle I am, of how I never felt very extremely and seriously sad, less so because I have built a great and supportive life, but because it requires great effort to commit to something as seriously as you. How did you convince yourself so thoroughly of your hopelessness?
Watch me as I proofread the first paragraphs of copies I have of your high-school essays. Your mom gave me the box. I have gotten coffee with you mom and she has, on a couple of occasions, thanked me. Apparently not everyone sticks around. Watch me tell you why you got the meaning of Moby Dick so totally, laughably wrong. Watch me insult you. Watch me invalidate your ideas to make myself feel better. Watch me lie. The scale of my comments will be immense: their range similar in range to certain, now-banned (and for good reason) intercontinental ballistic missiles. I will get rude. It might look a little like I am typing nothing of substance at all. The little email terminal, if it could talk, might start begging me to stop. And, like, mea culpa. Were I to ever start writing this email, it would grow so long only because the more time you spent reading it, then the more I could maybe trick you into pulling yourself back up out of that cool, dark, deep, comfortable place, which has always been, you’ve said, my strength.