dear moth's powder,
i suppose you did not believe me when i said you were - and are - beautiful, though i suppose i said it after it was far too late for you to care. so maybe i could explain exactly how feeling captured me upon my first encounter with you. maybe. i'm sure astonishment would be the closest word to describe it. it wasn't so much that i thought you the most beautiful thing in the world - i did - and it wasn't that i thought our conversation was so wonderful - it was - that did it for me.
it was this: that first time we talked i mentioned ever so briefly the name of an obscure book i'd been meaning to read but never had the opportunity to purchase and your having taken that information and lodged it in some somewhere far away in the recesses of your mind, only letting that knowledge flourish once again when - we were arguing, at that diner, that night, after having spent so much time together that day and evening and the argument, of course, was not an argument at all but our closeness warming to each other - you allowed that knowledge to come back to the surface when i said to you you never listen or pay attention to me! i already told you that!
did i know that you would go home that very evening, go online and purchase that very obscure book i merely mentioned scantly? and then your scribbled handwriting in the front flap -
to prove that i both listen and pay attention to you ...
it was that that did it. that attention given to things that i did not even attend to as acutely as you scared the shit outta me. what was i supposed to make of someone who could detect in me the traces and remnants of hurt and pain that i did not even realize i enunciated? i did not know that i had spoken to you so freely, after all. of course, now that i think about it, i said nothing different than i'd normally say or do when spending time with someone who piqued my interested. it was that you had an inclined ear toward those things. you not only heard the surface but into and around. it was in the pauses and breaths i took that, i think, let hear into the silence that was pulsating with meaning. but, of course, you heard the contours, heard the melody.
you see, that obscure book was recommended to me by someone who had taken notice of me when i was still in high school and he a senior in college and my mother - she was a secretary at the university; yes, the same university from up the street with the choir director who visited our church a few days ago - invited him to our house to eat on several occasions because he was far from home - Tyler, TX - and he said her southern accent (which wasn't too southern at all; it was more Upper Marlboro or Cincinnati or Trenton than southern) reminded him of everything he missed from home. that and the fried chicken she gave him a piece of when he smelled it wafting from the microwave as she heated it up when on break at work that day. he told her of how much he missed home and my mother was always inviting someone from the school down to the house even though we didn't have much she certainly would share that which we had. so i was used to seeing all sorts of folks. until i saw him. he was not what i was expecting. sorta short, sorta fat, sorta nerdy. and, well, i was into skinny boys who loved Jesus so that we could pray together after we laid in the bed together (i've told you about Derrick, haven't i?).
he came to our house more than once and i was taken by his ability to tell me what to do: can i have some pop; can i have a napkin; may i borrow a fork he'd ask all the time in the most polite way possible so much so that i knew i had to comply to that insistence and painful but loving request. painful, of course, because he did not want to ask for anything, he felt it a slight and imposition. he was the embodiment of sweet. anyway, somewhere in the middle of the year of his visiting our home, probably in december now that i think about it, he went back to Tyler for the holidays and i was expecting him that sunday because he always came to our house every sunday after church but not that sunday. momma, is he coming over and no, he's not.
so i sat in my bedroom, held my teddy bear and began to cry. i still do not know why. i'd only watched him from the corner of my eye when he visited. i'd give him the things he'd ask for and retreat to my part of the table, not talking much, though he'd try and coax me into conversation often. i resisted him for reasons i still do not comprehend because he was nothing if not nice to me. so there i was, in the bedroom, fourteen or fifteen or sixteen years old sobbing quite quietly because i did not want my mother or father to hear me. took the teddy bear, put it up to my mouth because i was becoming louder and louder with sighs and tears and grief. the phone rang but it never rang for me so i didn't give it much attention but simply took the opportunity to breathe a bit and let out a sob and release the mournful air i had withheld in my chest. my mother knocked on the door and told me to pick up the phone and it was him on the other line,
i know you miss me just kidding but no i'm not i'm playin so i wanted to call and say hello but no i'm just playing i just wanted to wish you a happy holiday because i know i've been bothering you by stealing your mother each week and now you have to deal with me taking some of your food and my bad but i just wanted to thank you because you're a cool dude and you should know that and one day...well.
i did not, of course, know what to make of that run-on sentence but his voice washed over and under and through me like the spirit so i just rejoiced and was happy in the fact that i did not need to speak because my voice would have cracked anyway. i was sobbing, remember.
that day began a new phase of our, i guess we could call it, friendship. and that same day, he told me how he had been reading that obscure book but how it was too much for me because i was still - a sophomore! yes, i must have been fifteen - too young to get it. he told me he would buy it for me when i was older but of course, he graduated, forgot about me and all, though i never forgot about him. so yes, i mentioned the obscure book to you but it had literally been years since i first pondered buying it but you were the first person to hear, register the meaning and buy it for me. that put closure to my relationship with that guy who was too old for me but not really. but it also made me know that you would be attentive to me in ways that would both delight and annoy me. isn't it the case that we want someone to fawn over us until they do and then we think there something wrong with that person to give so much attention to us in the first place? well.
at that moment you were more beautiful to me than beauty itself, than the concept of the beautiful. and, shit, it scared me. it was the book. it was the scribbling inside. it was that you knew how to make me overjoyed. but if that was joy then surely lurking around the corner was disappointment. or so i convinced myself. astonishment is like that. you are confronted with something awe-inspiring and inducing. you are taken up in and assumed by that confrontation, dwelling therein, listening to its heavenly musics, abiding and loving and existing in some other temporality, some other such zone of time where time is not but what is given is and as something constantly being taken away. of course, what was being taken away in that infinitesimal encounter and confrontation was the idea that loneliness and brokenheartedness are perpetual and unending. meeting you? i knew that shit was a farce and that happiness existed. right in front of me. smiling. always. but, of course, that's only one side of astonishment's encounter. you cant stay there forever, can you? who knows? i'm pretty sure none of us stays there long enough to find out if you can actually stay there so then we're released to the other side and we run run run run run far far far far far away from that which prompted such feeling in the first place. (and don't judge me for having manyin the first place phrases here; they are all originary in some such sense, or, they are all rooted in the same tradition of fear.)
well. by the time i figured out i wanted that experience again, you were gone and would no longer respond to me. and thus, the ongoing silence you have enacted, part of our choreo-spondence and speaking, our dance of call and no-response. do you know, though, that i still look at that obscure book - i placed it on my shelf under the flatscreen television - daily? do you know that i often pick it up off the shelf, thumb through it so as to act as if there is nothing written on the front flap such that every time i open the front flap i feign surprise? or, not feign really, because i am and always am surprised by your knowledge of who i was (and am? who knows?) demonstrated by your scribbled writing. but is there something i could do, some argument that isn't an argument that we could have, some way to spend a day and night and eternity together just so i could utter those words again just so you could respond just as sweetly because that sweetness was sweeter than enough? one could, of course, only hope but that edge was broken a long time ago.