To Whom It May Concern:
To Whom it May Concern is for me.
When I think about Death, it's usually as an abstract. Death is The End, the Inevitable, the Great Unknown. I don’t think about my own death often, these days. I was thinking about it today, though, while I was walking the dog.
I’ve been extremely fortunate. I’m 35, and although I have known people who have died, some of them family, they’ve been people on the periphery of my life. Some were people I knew, some I loved, but I hadn’t seen them in years, or our time together was brief. The people closest to my heart, my main arteries, are all intact.
But its only a matter of time. It is Inevitable.
There are things we can’t ask the living. There are some living who can’t talk right now, for whatever reason, but they might wake up one day with a question for me that I won’t be around to answer.
It might be nice, I imagine, for this hypothetical person to have a reference, like an FAQ page, but for questions that were never asked.
But this isn’t for them.
This space will be a work of fiction, with a lot of reality inside. What’s true and what’s not, which conversations actually happened, which I only wish had happened, and which are completely made up and feature fictitious people, is for me to know. If you're curious, you can ask me what is what. I’ll either lie to you or tell you the truth, and then you’ll be right back where you started.
But maybe you’ll wish we had had that conversation. Maybe you wish somebody felt that way about you. Maybe you’ll feel seen. And I’ll be happy for you, if you get anything positive out of my words.
But it is not for you.
All names have been changed to protect the innocent. At times, the pronoun ‘I’ will be used to refer to me, the author, but ‘I’ might be speaking as another character who may be a real or fictional person or animal. Sometimes, I might write about, say, a dog, but the dog isn’t always a dog. Sometimes dog means gun. But sometimes it does mean dog. Take it how you want it.
A Happiest Moment
There’s a moment in time I go back to often, because it is definitely one of if not THE happiest moment in my life.
I’d just woken up and you were sleeping next to me. We were facing each other and I was practically holding my breath, afraid even that would wake you. You brought your hand up and grabbed the tip of my nose. Your hands were so small. You were so small. I realized I was a giant, and you were a tiny, magical creature. It was my job to protect you, to help you grow your wings.
I like to read about physics. I don’t understand a lot of it, honestly, but I can read the same book by the same astrophysicist a dozen times and always come away with a new idea, a changed perspective. Essays on the arrow of time are like my Agnostic's Parables, I guess. One of these ideas that gives me comfort, (even if I’ve totally slaughtered the concept in my understanding,) is that all points of time, ALL of them, exist simultaneously and infinitely. In my understanding, that means somewhere, right now and forever, you’re sleeping in the tiniest footie pajamas with your fingers wrapped around my nose and I love you so, so much.
I dream a lot and it’s not unusual for random people to stroll onto the set of my Dreamworks and say “hey.” It is unusual when the same estranged cousin comes barging in every night for two weeks, though. I thought I’d use this space to explore that a little.
I worry about their safety, of course. They get themselves into some pretty unhealthy situations, but I wasn’t losing sleep over them. It’s in sleep that my mind finds my cousin, though.
I wish them better days.
To Whom It May Concern:
We have not talked in a very long time, longer than I ever imagined not talking to you. I still wonder how you’re doing sometimes, but I’ve decided not to pry. If you wanted to let me know, you would. I hope you’re well, though.
I can’t even remember why we stopped talking. I know the headspace I was in at the time, so it makes sense, but I can’t remember the single incidence, the last time we spoke.
I didn’t know what was happening to me at the time, but now that I have some distance from then, I’ve lightened up on myself for a lot of the mistakes I made. I had some dark sadness packed away, and suddenly so many lights went out.
I think that’s why I kept writing, once I started. I had all these pieces of shattered illusions of who I was, who everyone else was in relation to me, and seeing my whole life through several new lenses. I was trying to make something out of the pieces of everything that came before. It was weird, and I'm still tweaking it, but I think something's coming together.
I’m doing really, really well. I’m still learning. Most days I feel like I’ve mastered it, living in the moment. I don’t take things for granted like I used to. I appreciate things for how they are, imperfect perfection.
I’d rather be cast aside than hold anyone back. And if someone can’t come with me on my journey, (hell, I know I go to some dumb places,) maybe we’ll meet somewhere down the road.
But, if we don’t, just know that, in my way, I love you and wish you all the best.
But, if we do meet up, Dude, I have so much to tell you!
I Know You're Scared
I'm sorry if I scared you; I know I don't usually tell jokes. I think that you thought I wasn't me, that I was somebody else impersonating me. I really was me. I was just feeling more like myself than I usually do, and that came off as weird. I miss the old you. I hope you get better, but I'm afraid you won't. And I don't want to scare you.
I'm talking to you, because you might be the only one who can understand. Do you, too, feel like some radical shift (not necessarily cataclysmic) is still on the horizon?
Before The Covid hit, I felt like it was time to hunker down, to stock the bunker, so to speak. Now I feel the opposite. Now I feel like we're about to come charging out of our safe holds. Feelings are weird though, aren't they? Maybe mine spring from all the craziness of the past few years. It might be part of the O God What Next complex we've all developed.
Whatever it is or isn't, I'm limbering up, and not through any conscious preparedness of my own. I started working again, and the high-paced environment is very much about flow, trusting distractions to bring you back to your objective better off than before the detour. I'm adjusting my regimen, spending more time in the game while maintaining my sense of self/void.
I had to visit the void again, to remind my self of what it forgot, and now I can play without forgetting again. I think.
I feel like I'm almost ready, but I don't know what I'm waiting for and I'll never find it if I'm looking. I'm curious and excited. I guess we just keep floating.
To Whom It May Concern:
I’m going to put this here because I have nowhere else to put it. These aren’t the kind of thoughts I can speak out loud. They wreak of grandiosity.
My loved ones would worry.
I can say part of it, but past a certain point, I have a hard time believing it myself.
In 2015, I moved halfway across the US. As soon as we got settled in, I wanted to turn around and run home. I felt like something was coming. I didn’t have a premonition; I just knew I wanted to be somewhere safe. Fortified. I wanted my family close. I even packed boxes. We didn’t move, and I’m glad that we didn’t. My gut was right; Covid stopped the whole world five years later, a month after we moved out of our musty, crowded apartment building and into a home of our own. We got to a safe place just in time. Because I had no idea what shape this “big thing” was going to take, I almost ran away from this opportunity to isolate, to bring in my sobrinos from California, to help them finish school.
Sometimes, your gut will lead you astray.
Covid Year was the worst. I loved having the kids, and was grateful for our position when the shitstorm hit, but there was also this weird sense of relief, that the “thing” had finally shown its face, and we were going to survive.
Fuck you, Covid.
Soon after the school year ended and my sister’s family reunited, I started having a new feeling.
Something was coming.
This would be no storm, though, no single cataclysmic event. I had no urge to run and hide. This time, I felt like I needed to limber up. I had to get ready for Go Time.
I wasn’t scared. It was almost like a “pumped,” feeling, like the seconds right before a fight. I talked about this feeling with my mom and sisters. Shit happens, such is life, and when some big things occurred, I would wonder “Is this it?” Every time, there was a little voice saying “Wait for it…. wait for it…. wait til you can see the whites of its eyes!”
A new sense of urgency struck in the summer of 2022, as we planned a long road trip to see Auntie M and fam on the East Coast, with a stop in Philly to see my youngest sister’s family. The last few days leading up to the trip were agony. I felt like I was going to die, like the suspense was literally killing me. Again, one of those things you can’t really talk about without scaring anybody in earshot. The plan was to spend the Fourth in our nation’s first capitol, watch some fireworks with the family, and continue south for our vacation.
That is not how this went down.
The walk to the park felt like a dream. This line of cousins and uncles and aunts and sisters, walking between skyscrapers, hand in hand, gawking at ice cream shops and balloon hawkers, and that little voice in my head just kept whispering, “Steady, now. Steady.” We passed a gun checkpoint. It was super lax. A shooting spree had (of course) crossed my mind before. I’d already accepted it as a possibility, with or without the barricades.
These days, it's always a possibility.
We found a spot at the edge of things and settled in for the show. We were sitting on a patch of grass beside a fountain that marked the corner of the park. I checked to make sure every child had an adult, that every little hand had a big one to hold. I sat down with my youngest on my lap, and tried to smile as the fireworks began. I heard it because I was listening for it—a far off scream distinct from all the whoops and aahs of the spectators. I stood up, put my girl on her feet, and kicked off my shoes. My sister yelled through the noise, “Why are they running?”
And then we were running. I took a head count, matched every big to their little. We had each other. I ducked between two rows of port-a-potties, thinking they would offer some cover, until I realized the narrow space was filling with people. It was becoming a trap. My husband’s voice yelled, “Get out of there.”
I did, and dragged my poor kid over a barricade that had fallen down. She was crying, and she was scared, and she hurt her ankle but we couldn’t stop and I didn’t have time to explain.
And that little voice in my head was whispering: “Pay attention.”
We jogged for a block, maybe two, before we slowed down. We were overhearing conversations among the people who’d fled in the same direction. There was no gunman, they said. The crowd just spooked.
I think that was the night my sister and I got stoned and talked about the universe until dawn. We both felt something coming, and we both felt different ways about it. I was worried about her because she was in a big city made of old, narrow roads and piles of housing. I felt about Philly the way I felt about the narrow space between the port-a-potties: it could quickly become a trap.
That night, I dreamt I died. My heart was racing, and whenever I felt close to floating away, a voice said, “It’s ok, it’s alright.” I’d relax, and listen to the beat of my cardiac arrest in a detached but interested way, until I felt myself slipping again. I would panic.
Lather, rinse, repeat.
But I didn’t die. Our family on the coast caught Covid, so we spent the entire vacation in Philadelphia and made so many good memories that the fourth of July was all but forgotten.
I can still sense the Big Thing coming, with a warning: “This is going to hurt.”
Whenever I think of the fourth in Philly, I hear: “Pay Attention.”
Enough about my feelings. Let’s pretend to be doctors. Let us diagnose.
Symptoms: Intense and frequent Déjà vu. Possible auditory hallucinations. Mild delusions of grandeur—of having some prophetic insight or destiny that will soon be fulfilled, heart palpitations accompanied by intense dread—the feeling of dying. More auditory hallucinations. Fixation on coincidences. Vivid, frequent dreams of being waylaid, held up, stuck, delayed.
Preexisting conditions: Anxiety, Depression, Asthma, Astigmatism
Notes: I don’t seem particularly distressed, and the symptoms cause little disruption to daily life. However, my upcoming travel plans have erratic, impulsive overtones—my refusal to purchase return travel plans until after I land in California, for one. My reluctance to take anything with me that I plan on bringing home, for another. Even clothes. I’m going to pack my bag with things for other people, pictures, clothing, keepsakes, to distribute. I will buy some tank tops and leggings when I land. I do seem unsettled by the recent revelation that my sister—who is flying to California from Philly—has made identical travel plans. Unsettled is the appropriate word.
I think I am insane, and should lay off the weed.
I’m going to go through the garage now, looking for things to return to my California sister and sobrinos. I’m nervous in a non-anxious way. I was going through pictures, sorting them into envelopes labeled with family names—keeping some for myself because, even though this has the feel of some wild, one-way, kamikaze mission, I am coming home—and I heard the voice again. I was looking through all these pictures from my “photographer” phase. I captured so many memories that weren’t mine. I hadn’t gone through these in years. I saw so many pictures of people I didn’t know well. These were family gatherings, birthday parties, weddings, that I was present for even though I didn’t belong. I hid behind a camera. It gave me something to do beside talk to strangers. I would distribute them out afterwards, but so many copies were left in my albums. I went and got some more envelopes. I need to return these memories.
And the voice said: “This is why you kept them.”
When my cousin died--the cousin from my dreams--the voice said: "Here we go."
I don't feel crazy, but there's some strong evidence contradicting my "feelings."
Now I'm packing to go crazy.
Cheers. See you on the other side.