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Farewell To The World

Burke Branson’s “Dear John” letter to society.

By Daniel SullivanPublished about a month ago 9 min read
Farewell To The World
Photo by Ricardo Resende on Unsplash

January 1, 2024

Dear World:

I am addressing you as “World” in this letter because I do not know what else to call you.

I imagine there would have been other suitable names. “Planet,” for example, may have been acceptable. Yet that word for me conjures images of outer space and the solar system. In this missive, I am not so much concerned with outer space, except as a place to which I might (if I were lucky) resettle now that I am finished with you. Yes, let’s be clear then, this is a break-up letter. I am saying my final farewells to you, The World.

Why, you might ask, is it time to say goodbye? Well, it’s not necessarily an easy story to tell.

My name is Burke Branson. I have lived with you for forty-five years, and the bottom line is that I am tired of the whole mess. Things just haven’t worked out. I am unemployed and bankrupt. I live in a YMCA that has curfews. I am not gay, but everyone thinks that I am because I do not date women.

I don’t date women because I did date a woman once and she gave me chlamydia. Her name was Susan Renault. I believe she was of French heritage. I met her at a drag bar called the Kit Kat Club in Chicago, IL. She was drinking a Cosmopolitan and I was drinking Coca Cola. I may as well mention that I do not drink alcohol, as I like to maintain control. Nevertheless, on this particular night, Susan Renault must have slipped something in my drink, because I did lose control. I felt woozy and aroused. She looked at me with hungry eyes during a drag number involving Whitney Houston’s song, “I Have Nothing.” Then she kissed me on the lips and we went to her nearby hotel room

When I woke up, she was gone. So was my wallet. The hotel bill had been slipped under the door, so I feared it would become my obligation to pay it (and so it did). A few day’s later I went to my doctor for a checkup and found that I had chlamydia. The news was devastating.

At the time, I was an associate with a reputable accounting firm working in the area of tax. My job was to help people with lots of money keep their money and avoid paying taxes. I really had no problem with this — until I got chlamydia. Then, everything changed.

To have chlamydia was like getting kicked in the balls on a soccer field in front of the whole student body and all their parents. I fell off my pedestal. I was no longer among the elite. I could not think of myself as having clean hands. I was like the syphilitic masses. I had chlamydia. I was now one of those types of people: a carrier of venereal disease.

I’d learned of such people in high school, during sexual education. There were these promiscuous people running about the world with sores on their special parts exchanging fluids and diseases and putting everyone at risk. Most of them drank alcohol heavily or used drugs. They were disreputable sorts. Ultimately, their teeth fell out or they lost their hair, and then they died. They had nothing to offer the world other than venereal disease. And now I was one of them.

I began to fear that people at work would learn of my chlamydia and I became very bashful. I would shut my office door as soon as I arrived. Soon, I stopped responding to emails, because I developed the fear that I might somehow transmit my chlamydia through the computer network. I stopped taking client calls — in fact, I stopped doing any work at all. I would sit in my office and think about how to best contain my chlamydia. Ultimately, I decided to wear an empty trashcan on my head and to wear a lawn and leaf bag up to my waist. I’d assemble this outfit in my office (with the door shut) every morning, and I would then proceed to sit there for nine hours in silence, waiting for my colleagues to go home, before deconstructing the outfit and going home myself.

After about a week, it came to someone’s attention that I was not doing any work. My direct supervisor, Liam Harrison, a sixty-year-old man in very good shape, opened my office door without knocking — and he saw me in my outfit. Now I must have compassion for Liam; he did not know I was just trying to protect him from chlamydia. But on seeing me he became incredibly irate and immediately fired me.

That’s how I ended up in the YMCA. Here in the YMCA, I grew less concerned about transmitting chlamydia, as I am fairly certain that most if not all of the other residents already have chlamydia — and many other such things. In fact, I began to develop a certain comfort with my chlamydia and my anger towards Susan Renault faded. This had been my destiny. I grew up in a lower-middle class family and had aspired to move up in the world as an attorney. My father had worked for UPS and my mother worked at a Laundromat. I was not proud of them at all; in fact, they embarrassed me daily, because they had no class. For myself, I wore a jacket and tie (albeit purchased from a thrift store) to public school and I always aspired to achieve better things. And I did. I received a full scholarship to Harvard University and made it into Yale’s law school. I stopped speaking to my parents. I divorced myself entirely from my past. And then I got chlamydia.

You might consider chlamydia a small thing. It is, after all, one of the world’s least heinous venereal diseases. I am, to be honest, not entirely sure what it does. But if you are among those to whom an infection with chlamydia is of little import, than you are one of the syphilitic masses. What do I mean by that? Not that you have syphilis (though you might), but rather than you are comfortable being diseased. You are comfortable being somewhat mediocre. You have given up the higher aspirations. You have decided to be merely human in a merely human world.

I write this missive at my desk in my tiny room in the YMCA, so I really am in no place to judge the syphilitic masses — for I sit here as one of you due to the actions of Susan Renault.

I had accumulated resources in savings and investments, so shortly after my termination, I hired a private detective to track down Ms. Renault so that I could seek an appropriate justice.

The detective’s name was Jack Jackson. He was five years my junior, wore rumpled casual clothes, and smelled of cheap whiskey. But he was very good at his job and my firm had used him on several occasions to investigate high-ranking officials at the Internal Revenue Service so that they might be persuaded to rewrite certain regulations in a manner that might benefit our wealthier clients.

On one occasion that I recall distinctly (as it was my project), Jack filmed an IRS official’s tryst in a hotel room. The official was dressed as Goldilocks. Wagner was playing on a turntable. The official, a stocky man in his early fifties, was then intimately marauded by “the three bears.” These were, in fact, men in bear costumes which had open flaps, so that their genitalia was exposed for use. I have since learned that the official was among those fetishists called “furries,” who prefer intercourse with persons dressed as animals. He was also married to the daughter of his director at the IRS and had three innocent children. Needless to say, the regulation was revised to our liking. (I supposed this anecdote speaks volumes as to the flexibility of my high-minded conscience at the time, as I was perfectly comfortable engaging in blackmail and perfectly horrified by contracting chlamydia from Susan Renault.)

This all goes to show that Jack Jackson was a stellar PI. Indeed, he found Susan Renault. She turned out to be a resident of Baltimore, and she lived in a row house with her ailing mother. Her nights were spent working as a waitress at a diner and her days were spent taking her mother by public transport to various medical appointments. She was also a recovering heroin addict who regularly relapsed, and she had a boyfriend named Toad Rogers, a freelance auto mechanic who rarely worked and beat her severely once or twice a month when he had snorted too much crystal meth. Ms. Renault was three months behind on the mortgage for her row house and fifteen thousand dollars in credit card debt.

In the row house was a cheap safe where she kept a revolver. Every night, at 1 am, she would open the safe, remove the revolver, and hold it in her mouth for exactly one minute. Then she would return the revolver to the safe, close it, and go to bed.

After hearing this report, my attitude towards Susan Renault and chlamydia changed.

Although my income had ceased with my termination, I was, at the time, living in a penthouse apartment and had sufficient wealth to continue doing so for several years. Yet I had earned this wealth by helping not a few wealthy gentlemen (and ladies) avoid paying taxes — the very type of taxes that might have funded social programs that could have helped people like Susan Renault.

In fact, I came to see that, through my work, I had not been rising above the syphilitic masses at all. No, indeed: I had been creating them. I had been a whore to the very rich as part of a great process that actually produces the deprivation that leads the greater portion of humanity to fester.

I thought myself to be so special to have ascended beyond the conditions of my upbringing, only to discover that in so doing I had actually become one of those servants of the very rich who makes conditions worse for people like my parents, and Susan Renault. I decided that when she robbed me, when she gave me chlamydia — that was true justice. I deserved it. I was, as I have stated, a whore, and whores are among those for whom chlamydia is the cost of doing business.

My next step was to relieve myself of my accumulated wealth and property, all of which I donated to a small charity for homosexuals with venereal diseases. I thought this appropriate, since everyone thought I was gay anyway.

The charity named its conference room for me. So in the Gertrude Heinz Men’s Health Clinic staff meetings are now held in the Branson Room. I am proud of this. It is my last gift to the world, as I now plan my final departure.

As I draw this missive to a close, please do understand that I’ve no plans to do harm to myself. I have no revolver to stick in my mouth like poor Susan Renault, and nor would I ever purchase a firearm for such a purpose. I will not be leaping from any bridge or tall building, or overdosing on pills. My farewell to the world is metaphoric — and yet will have certain practical implications.

I have decided to withdraw from worldly affairs. I will no longer practice my profession, or any profession. I will not make any income. I will not have any friends or associates.

What I will do, henceforth, is remain silent, and I will sit here in this tiny YMCA room beside this missive until someone throws me out. I imagine I will end up in some sort of state psychiatric facility for catatonia, but this will be no bother for me. If I am lucky, they will put me in a quiet, padded cell, where I may silently reflect on my departure from the world and its affairs.

As such, this missive shall be my final communication. Farewell world, farewell.

Yours Truly,

Burke Branson

CONTENT WARNINGShort StorySatireHumor

About the Creator

Daniel Sullivan

I am a writer, live storyteller, actor, advocate, civil rights enforcer, and nonprofit director, among other roles. Presently, my focus lies in translating my rich life experiences into the realms of fiction and creative nonfiction.

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