October 23rd, 2012

Dear Stephen,

I am writing to you because you see things. Things that are there, but I can’t see. You point them out and then I see them, like that picture of the pretty lady my art teacher put on the projector. “Look closely,” she said, and so I stuck my neck out and squinted hard until my eyebrows hurt and the teacher laughed. Then she pointed to a couple of lines, and I saw the pretty lady was also an ugly lady, at the same time. The teacher called it an optical illusion. I think most of the world is like that.

You don’t know who I am, but then I don’t think anybody really does. I’m not saying that to make you feel sorry for me. I have friends. But sometimes it feels like you know me better. Especially yesterday.

Yesterday I saw your movie, the one you wrote based on your book, which I read, but that was awhile ago. All day it rained hard, and soft, and stopped, over and over again, like someone was turning the volume up and down on a radio. I was wearing my oldest pair of jeans, the ones my mom bought for my first day of high school. Now there are holes in them. But the holes are 100% natural. They just happened. I got the biggest hole when it was raining, actually. We were having play practice outside and I ran and slipped and fell and my knee ripped through the jeans and it sounded sort of like tiny thunder. Everyone laughed and that made me feel good, even though it hurt.

Before the movie started some nice man got up and talked about other movies coming soon. One was The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and I remembered the time my friend who was in the shadowcast (I know you know what that means) invited me. She told me to dress up. So I saved from my job at the store and bought a dress. I went in the bathroom and locked the door and shaved my legs and arms and my mom kept knocking on the door and saying, “what are you doing in there?” I told her I was showering. Then there was whispering. Then my dad said, “Hey buddy? What you’re doing is totally normal, OK? But you need to speed it up.” So I finished as fast as I could, and there were little rivers of blood all over my legs and arms, so I dried off and wrapped the towel around my waist and put my dad’s bathrobe over it and walked really fast to my room. Then I went to my friend’s house and changed. When I was done, she said, “You look like Princess Di.” I didn’t know I was supposed to dress like one of the characters in the movie.

Anyway, your movie was really good. I felt like it was happening to me. I guess that’s what movies are supposed to do. But it was different than a lot of other movies I’ve seen. It made me want to go back and do things again. And it made me want to go on and do new things. Mostly it made me happy and sad and I’m still trying to figure out how that could be.

I guess this letter doesn’t flow, something my English teacher used to say a lot. It seems like I always start telling one story, and before I finish, start telling another. But the other is better, because I’m telling it now. Isn’t it? What do you think?

Love always,


The Week Before Halloween

I turn off all the lights until “it’s as dark as Noah’s ark when it’s dark.” That’s the second line of a poem written by a neighbor girl. Today she gave me a private reading of it in exchange for giving her a ride.

I light a candle – for whom, I’m still deciding – when the phone rings. It’s Lee. The candle lights for Lee.

We met in film school, back when I was a culture vulture. Well, not really a vulture, more like Snoopy pretending to be a vulture, using the art of others as braces for my artistic posture.

From the shelf I pick up a forgotten necklace, untangle it, lay it around my neck. I describe it to Lee: “it’s plastic beads and metal hoops and it was probably suffocating in some girl’s cleavage only days ago.”

We bitch about The Perks of Being a Wallflower being called this generation’s Breakfast Club. “Don’t they know it’s set in the ‘90’s?” Lee asks, and I answer probably not, but incidentally, I just finished reading Molly Ringwald’s first novel, When It Happens To You, and when did it happen to us? Somehow we started as that and became this. God is like a thief in the night – no – a nocturnal interior decorator who sneaks in and gradually switches a couch, a lamp, a painting, until you are home away from home.

Not so long ago – not even on a good day, which made me think I was a good person – would I think my life taking place in a church-bought duplex, to love our neighbors in a diverse area. Actually, it’s diverse now that we moved in?

I hear Lee mention his roommate, the roommate he’s mentioned for 2 years, but this time I’m not content with an honorable mention. I ask if he’s more than a roommate.

There is a pause. With my lips, I surround one of the metal necklace hoops, forming an expression like the Coppertone girl.

“Yes.” Lee says. “He’s my partner.”

He apologizes, “I know your beliefs – ” and I smile, “No, you don’t – ”  and soon we’re Victorian houses being opened, furniture undraped, dust floating like thoughts, secrets gasping for breath.

We talk for another 20 minutes, say goodbye for another 15, talk for another 5, and then actually say goodbye.

It’s quiet. The orange streetlight fills the room and it glows like the center of a jack-o-lantern. I smile and wonder what I’ll be this year.