March 1998

I miss.

I miss that cramped little diner in Montpelier with the green bench seats and the mustached waiter who was perfectly willing to surprise me with an omelet, and the grungy but cute teenagers hanging around the windowed area in the front.

Do you remember the mugs? Plain mugs, with coffee that needed considerable assistance from cream and sugar, and they had the sugar in one of those tall glass jars, and do you remember that I remarked that I thought it was a salt shaker? You thought it was so funny; obviously they're not going to put salt in a sugar shaker!

Do you remember those little cream packets they have everywhere, two to a cup? The big, thick menus with stains and smears that won't come off with antiseptic wipes?

How many people have been through that diner, on Main Street, not too far from the used bookstore where I bought you that Fitzgerald? How many people stopped in front of that local newspaper office, just for a moment? How many people were disappointed that the local newspaper had sold out, only to think a moment later that is a good thing?

Coffee, sugar, cream.

Somewhere, I will recognize that place again. That town in Vermont, chilly, this space for rent, first floor, curtains, across from the church, walk to the diner.

I will recognize that place and understand contentment, and a moment later it will be gone as if it had never been, for I am convinced that contentment is one of those experiences that cannot be remembered, that exists only in the moment, and cannot be reproduced in a book, or a story, or a thousand moving pictures. As if the tip of an extrasensory wave had passed through the mind and then moved on, its presence coinciding non-collinearly with the experience.

Three nights ago I realized I had never seen a redwood in person and I very nearly left to go find one, so strong was the impulse. Overpowering, and not transient, it still lurks in my desire-organs, fighting for time with a dozen, a hundred, maybe a thousand other demons and haunts.

This letter is beginning to look a little long, you may not have made it this far, and if you have you may have skipped places. I don't mind, really. Not much. Well, all right. It would be really a great thing if you hung on every word. But I don't have the talent to pull that off, though that might be mostly a matter of practice, which I'm racking up right now, aren't I?

Laura writes me letters, some of which are long. I should reply more often - I promised to reply more often! - But the urge only comes when I'm terribly, terribly busy.

Even taking the time to write this today, at three o'clock or so, seems a viscous crime, except that I've made such good progress recently, and there's so much that I have to wait a day or two for, that if I can't have an hour to write to a friend I'll just walk the fuck out today.

Right now.

I'll deal. They'll deal.

But back to Laura and letters. The quality of what she writes (to me) varies wildly. Oddly, her best moments actually seem to be in instant computer messages, like ICQ.

Isn't that bizarre?

Your bane. Her glory. Perhaps it is the limitation on length, that small white space that deserves just a small filling, which gives her the edge, that pushes her talent up out of her like a bad lunch.

That's probably not a good simile. Or even a pretty picture. But the words! The words! Beautiful combinations, Alex. Sometimes it seems as if the words were put together carefully by a master of surrealism, by a person so profoundly "in touch" with unreality that she can place not dissimilar and not unfamiliar words and ideas together in contexts that unravel themselves in perfect synchronization.

Laura wants me to reply, to write her long loving rambling letters about anything, and here I go writing this letter and others like it to you; you who don't ask for it, you who get too many letters to read, you who I know for a fact find long, long letters a burden - partly a drain on your so valuable time and mostly because you just won't, can't, don't want to spend so much time on any reply.

You might have nothing to say, or too much, or just not to the sender. How can you reply to a letter? How does anyone? So don't reply. Don't think of it. I wouldn't have you replying. It would justify this jumbled wordy mess; bring it from unrelated nonsenses into the realm of reply-able things, which it isn't.

With a week I couldn't bring it around to half-decency, I'd have to destroy it and start over, and we know how futile that is, don't we?

Best to simply let it, as it were, become.


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