My Dear, Distant Friend,
Sometimes the people who are farthest away know you best. Not because those closest to you don't care, but because distance offers a kind of safety. A glass wall that feels like a shield, letting only words through.
This is my time capsule in letter form. Shards of recollection that never quite fit into normal conversation. My gift to you, and maybe your favour to me. Hold onto it, if you can; just let it sit with your own memories. Or share it, if you like, so I can know, finally, that these tiny gems will outlive me when, decades from now, hopefully, I am gone.
My first memory is fuzzy and threadbare like a well-loved teddy. A blast of ice cold air from an open door into the night, and knees attached to thin, long legs as a golden Labrador waddles into the gold heat of the living room. We had a plush, green couch, then, and my uncle, the owner of those knees, still lived at home. We were a strange collection of a family living in a cramped house. Always rubbing elbows and shoulders.
Now we have to leap, really strain our muscles to pass through time; my memory is patchy. It has holes big enough to fit your arm.
Brasso - the smell of brasso and a fireplace with painted tiles. Art Nouveau - I know that now, but at the time the ladies that flanked the fire just looked old. Faded... and beautiful. My grandparents were beautiful too; gramps polished everything with brasso regularly, and got us to help. Little fingers could find the crevices more easily than his broad, shaky hands. The smell of brasso bleeds into everything, even the ringing of the phone; the realization that he was gone. Gran didn't cry, not in front of me. I suppose she must have in private, though.
There's no linear progression here, I'm sorry, not when it comes to him. He died young, and all I have are shards; a mix of white and yellow roses, hacking coughs, a runt puppy sleeping in a big, green slipper with its ear flopping over the side. Kindness; the kind of kindness that scratches you as it passes. The kind that intends for you to not need it for much longer because it knows its on the way out.
Lying awake nearly two decades later, wondering if I will ever be anything other than a worry and a burden to those who love me. Fearing that she will die before I can fly on my own. Wondering where I went wrong and, in the darkest moments, wondering whether it would be best to slip quietly through the cracks. Praying for luck and catastrophe in the same breath because I was too tired to live, and far too cowardly to die.
There's a reason I can't share these memories with everyone, but I know you won't judge me. But I'm sorry - for gifting you this burden. And thankful, so thankful for your listening ear. Your kindness is softer.
But it's not all gloomy.
I remember a clear summer day when the sky was blue and righteous and the wind was cool. I remember lying in a pile of friends, each of our heads on someone else's belly like puppies huddling together in a strange world. That's what we were, what I was, sometime between the first memory and the last. A collection of beating hearts with thick hair and glossy skin and life rolling out from our dirty, sharpie marked high tops like a red carpet. We had no idea that it would go threadbare, then. We didn't know any better.
Oh, it was glorious.
If you only keep one of these memories of mine, let it be that one. Let it be that one.
All blessings to you,