Letter to ___, in increments

Dear ___, I have not written in years. What made me think of it today, of you? When we came home this evening, small bodies of gnats and moths were outlined against the door. We fumbled for the keys, and in that small beat of time I felt almost embarrassed to see how many had battered themselves against that rectangle of shimmering white. In the garden, the ferns push up, insistent through a skin of plastic and a thin layer of mulch. The August sky is waning. Another year is almost gone.

Dear ___, I started this letter last night in hopes that I would finish it. I looked for a stamp and wanted to use my good pen; I filled it with ink the color of burnt wheat from a half-filled bottle on the shelf. There was a young woman in my classroom whose right thigh was bandaged. She had no crutches, but walked with a limp. She said she was in a motorcycle accident yesterday. A driver speeding up to merge didn’t see her, not even her hair dyed bottle green. Her anger and self-pity still crackled freshly like a halo around her. She pulled a chair from the next row and put up her leg.

Dear ___, when you were my age did you worry about dying? Did you worry about leaving anyone behind? When she called last week, my daughter told me that in her college there is a new one-credit class called “Adulting.” They teach students things about “real life” like how to do their laundry (separate the whites), fill out checks for deposit, how frequently they should change their sheets, how to tell when the milk has gone bad. She couldn’t believe it, she said. Sheets. Milk. Laundry.

Dear ___, do you know how table legs jut out and bump against your knees depending on how the chairs are positioned around it? I tried to change the way the seats were arranged, tried to move them like a compass or a clock hand pushed very slightly out of orbit. In less than two days they were back again where they were originally. I know someone who was given a different office space; she moved everything and laid the objects out exactly the way they were, on her new desk. Do you remember the little purse you gave me when I was a child? the one shaped like a girl’s face under the broad brim of a straw hat? When we were out and I was bored, I’d suck on the little cluster of green rubber grapes adorning the ribbon. I still remember the way they tasted, the way something needless claims obsessive attention.

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