Dear Family of Strangers Connecting:
How odd to wake each morning and think of you, immediately. Even as dreams hover. Even as the week’s worries crystallize too quickly, as I wonder what we shall say to each other, as I picture you rushing to jobs, to schools, to computers, to the day’s errands all too hurriedly. How odd that you have names and faces, and I have no need to know them. Some of you have shared that information; that is a gift of trust. For the rest, I am at ease with your mystery and fluidity; you are whatever you present yourselves to be. And the way I recreate you in my imagination.
Here is how you appear to me. You are kind and quirky, troubled and preoccupied, energetic and focused, frustrated and worn. Some of you know already what is important: your lover’s pauses, your baby’s smile, your dog’s cocked head, your autumn marketplace filled with aromas and colors. Some of you are still learning the lessons you are writing, as am I.
Opening the laptop beside me in bed, I begin to type eagerly, even before I’ve switched on Mr. Coffee, tapped my nails on my son’s bedroom door, laid out slices of Chicago bread on aluminum foil, then turkey, then muenster, to make his usual lunch.
As he wakes and showers, I fret that I will not find words shiny enough, hardy enough, clever enough to hold your attention. As the coffee brews and then I take the first steaming sips, I wonder if I will make you grin, or reflect, or offer you what you give to me, daily – a sense of family.
Dear Family of Strangers:
When the night’s hours permit, I voyage across time and miles, strolling the Promenade along an azure sea, purring through erotic escapades in Paris as fingers and lips tangle in my hair, reminding me as I swim up through the fog of waking: I am not lost, and I am not broken.
Sometimes, I sink into the well. I search for a foothold, but the climb seems steeper and more slippery than it once was. Then I remember that you are there, and you expect more of me than this defeat. I feel for a rope, a jutting rock; I press on to fill my blank screen. I close my eyes and the juice returns, the well evaporates, and words travel without a specific plan. Now there is sky. Now there is a grassy field and open air.
I know. I am brooding and sentimental. You won’t like me like this. I ask your forbearance. Tomorrow I will be brazen or silly, but I’m hollowed out in this season of torrential rain and growing darkness, cold creeping into my bones. I don’t do well in the chill. But know this: your stories warm me, your words and letters make me smile. You read my bad days and my better days, my sloppy days like today. And I read yours.
Don’t think I would reject you in your entirety, whatever that may be at a given hour. Complexity offers a rich reserve of knowledge, and pleasure. When I know you are happy, I am happy for you. Happiness is not a hurtful thing, it is a hopeful thing. When I hear you struggling, I shape my words to soothe, or to bolster, because you aren’t alone.
When you make me laugh, everything is brighter. And I am stronger.
You who understand that we own nothing, but are resplendent caretakers of everything and each other: I thank you for taking care of me. For allowing me to do the same.
You who befriend me: you know who you are, some of you with names and faces, others remaining tucked behind your pseudo-anonymity, like myself. You each do me honor, and I will pay it forward.
You who are no longer strangers: you become my echo family. I sense you. I hear you. In return, I give you the best of me when I can. This. Words are my god and my drug. Words are not my only god, but they are my only drug.
You who place your lives onto a screen vaguely aware that the world is peering over your shoulder: your vulnerability is a gift. You dare to express your humanity despite our cultural propensity for mask. If only we could all expose ourselves and say aloud: I’m lonely, I’m scared, I’m angry, I’m exhausted.
Sometimes, you nod in the quiet as you read between my lines while I tiptoe around that very refrain: I’m lonely, I’m scared, I’m angry, I’m exhausted.
Thankfully, there are moments when I can say: I’m happy, I’m surprised, I’m filled with wonder. Those moments are fewer; I dwell at the bottom of the well more often. I do not abide my own failure, but I am failing to scale these walls, failing to find the light. Sometimes, a single hand is enough to help me out, for awhile.
It is nearly winter, and we will be forced to gather. We build a virtual hearth for heat and community, welcoming strangers, sharing provisions. I bring you my words as contribution. They are my most natural currency, so I persist in unearthing them. They must be aired, polished, examined to be certain they are not counterfeit, and then used as intended – in exchange.
I’m tired and wrestling with language today, sluggish in constructing cohesive phrases. So I will simply say thank you in this seemingly infinite, intimate space. I will continue to tell my stories and ask my questions, to listen to yours, to participate. We are creating family, and I revel in the oddity of finding it here, bestowed with such generosity and affection.
Big Little Wolf
A vous qui me lisez en français:
Je vous prie de m’excuser ; je devrais écrire en français plus souvent, mais j’avoue que cela exige un effort, et parfois – puisque j’adore votre langue qui n’est pas la mienne, je préfère ne rien offrir que de maltraiter la poésie du français. Ceci étant, je vous remercie d’être là – et vous vous reconnaissez dans cette lettre – vous qui étiez des inconnus ; vous qui ne l’êtes plus ; vous qui me soutenez, sans laisser un mot.