Date: November 9, 2006
Re-state the prompt: Write a letter to the ten-year-old child you had been.
I know that sometimes people write letters to the dead as a form of catharsis or something, to get out all those feelings and things left unsaid. Personally, I don’t see how it can be very satisfying - they’re dead. They’ll never hear what you have to say to them. So I’m not sure why I’m writing to you now. You will never know the things I am about to tell you - as soon as you do, you won’t be you anymore. (You’ll be me.)
I wanted to say that I miss you and I grieve for you.
You don’t worry about anything. You're small, but you feel gigantic (but somehow also completely unaware of yourself). Life is still too new to be wearying - you haven’t given any thought to the future, except in some abstract, bright place in which you are a “writer” and have a big, happy family, just like your family now. You love your parents and are confident that both of them love you, and each other. You don’t even think to question that.
You ride your bike to Bramhall's with Molly and the other kids from the neighborhood. Bramhall's - that old general store that sells things like fresh corn on the cob and lobsters and ice cream and candy. Skittles for 20 cents. It smells like heaven. You’re there all the time, during the summer.
Me, I never go there.
You and Molly have a band; you sing in the garage with her keyboard and drag your little brother and your neighbor Rita in for "concerts."
You go to sleepovers with lots of giggly girls from school, telling ghost stories and playing Truth or Dare, and talking about boys, putting on impromptu shows.
You go over Jenna's house and play with little people (Playmobiles). Jenna's family has chickens. You take turns begging her Dad to push you both on the tire swing, because he makes you go so high.
Me, I don't know Jenna.
You play soccer every weekend, and you really loved it. You’re pretty good, too. Not the best, but up there. At home, you climb the trees in your yard, and you dare yourself to jump from the highest branches.
I never go outside, really. I'm a lump.
None of your sisters have moved out yet. Neither has Dad. The name Janet means nothing to you - just one of the ladies at Dad's office, a family friend - someone who asks Katie to baby-sit her kids now and then - someone who gives you a gingerbread house at Christmas. You suspect nothing whatsoever.
Things are whole and you are confident. You don’t think about getting older. You don’t worry about anything.
I have to tell you:
Every little thing hangs over my head and has so much weight. Things that should be easy. I have one paper due Tuesday and another paper due Wednesday. These things shouldn't make me feel hopeless and exhausted, but they do.
I was lying on my bed the other night, looking at my room, which looks different from the one you know, for about an hour. And I said out loud to myself, "What am I going to do?" And then I guess I liked hearing myself, so I repeated it a couple of times.
Because really, I don't know what I'm going to do after I graduate. Life will just never, ever slow down. There will never be that plateau where I don't have to worry - where I can kick back and just dream. Every day, it's the task in front of you, and the next, and the next, and I don't have a right to complain because my life is much, much easier than many people's, I know. But I just don't see it ever stopping, and it's not going anywhere. It's fucking Sisyphus, pushing a rock up a hill, forever. Until it ends. And then there’s nothing.
I don't know if you can really even understand this.
Drudgery. You know nothing of drudgery.
Fourth graders don't have real work. You’re good at everything you do. Math - easy. Writing - easy and natural as hell. You are in the middle of writing a book and it’s coming so easy. It will be about 30 pages, typed, single-spaced. It’s not the greatest thing ever, but I’m impressed at you for doing it. You’ll title it, "The Shepherd." It'll be all about this orphan-boy hero with a magical flute who tamed a dragon and had to work for an evil tyrant king and then led a revolution, but ended up saving the world and bringing peace to everyone by playing his magical flute (but getting tragically killed himself - pierced by an arrow, the last note from his flute breaking off into silence).
Because you believe in those kinds of things. Idealism. Hope. God. Heaven. Wholeness.
The truth is, everything is fragments. At least, that's what I see.
I miss you. I really do. You live. You dream. You love your friends, without even really thinking about it. The world is an amazing thing to be experienced and discovered.
This letter is a regret sent out into the void, because you’re not here to receive it. You are gone, buried with Christmas ornaments and swing-sets and grass-stained jeans. Maybe you exist somewhere that is nowhere, a timeless essence, maybe only in my memory. Either way, you'll never hear what I'm saying to you now. But that's as it should be. As I said, if you knew these things, you wouldn't be you.