Dear Shannon Hummel

dear shannon hummel:

I remember something about peas, and a flashlight beneath your dress.

I’m starting to believe the universe isn’t quite as chaotic as I’ve always known it to be. Here was my old view of life in this universe: You wake up in the morning, or you don’t. If you do, maybe something good happens to you. But probably something bad happens.

Here is my view of life in this universe now: You need something. You close your eyes and whisper, or write your dreams in a diary, whatever method you use to pray. Please let [x] happen, you say. Then either: [x] happens but you die the next day, or: [x] doesn’t happen and everything is ruined but you find a quarter on the ground.

My view of the universe is that it sometimes seems perfectly balanced between light and dark. I don’t know what to believe anymore. I used to think we were alone in the universe, but now I’m suspicious. Someone may be out to get us.

Here’s a more specific example, one which is related to my life. I’m traveling across the country. My entire life is packed into a truck of questionable safety. I can’t get the sideview mirrors to bend in a direction that would actually be beneficial. The brakes kind of work. On a 1000-mile journey, 1,000,000 things could go wrong. Please let me arrive at my destination safely. Please just let us get there in one piece. Please just this one thing, and I don’t care if other bad things happen. You always pray for what you are worried about. And if you get what you pray for, what horrible news is already blinking on your answering machine in the dark house, before you even unlock the front door?

I saw a few of your dance performances, years ago in Virginia. I was moved to write a POEM, which thankfully I only remember the title of. I very nearly attacked you in the studio one time, so eager to compliment you. Something about your performances changed me. Do you want to know something? I like movies okay, but they leave me vaguely dissatisfied. Books always have bad sections, or shouldn’t have been written in the third person. The art form that inspires me the most, the only art form that consistently inspires me, is the one I do the worst: dance.

Girls laze on a couch, throwing candy at each other’s heads.

Shannon: are you like me? If you are, you read a really amazing poem, and then you read a really awful short story, and you wonder why the story-writer bothered. But it’s this need to create. I bet you never even questioned your own impulses. It was just who you are. Like how in a way, my whole life leads up to each sentence I write.

Can you picture me writing any of this 10 years ago? No way. First of all, you don’t know me, so your best guess at how I wrote 10 years ago is laughable at best.

10 years ago I only wrote about things that happened to me on weekends. Like: This weekend Jer was so angry at Matt that he pissed on him. (True story).

5 years ago I was doing this anti-grammatical ee cummings make up words thing. So this would have been strictly unreadable. Again, sadly true.

I don’t even know why I’m thinking of you right now. I’m sitting alone in a hospital cafeteria. Someone I love is in a room 6 floors above me, trying to sleep. They just got out of surgery. But we made it here safely, and I find myself wishing for a time-travel machine, so I could change the terms of my wish.

I’m sort of dragging my feet here, Shannon, but my point is the universe is out to get us, I’m pretty sure of it, but writing and dance and art are a kind of prayer. We make sense of our lives by expressing our understanding of them in ways that really only makes sense to us, and by some miracle we are connected to the souls of other people.

I’ll describe something for you, because hospital cafeterias make me dizzy, and I can’t stay down here forever.

The street I live on is a canopy of shade trees in Spring. The house is small and cute and white and yellow. Rosalie is sitting on the porch swing. Inside, the closets are filled with boxes unpacked. The cat is sleeping in sunlight on the hardwood floor. There is a blinking red light on the answering machine. I am out in the backyard, by the climbing rosebush. I am planting verbena.