Next installment on le novel.
Minimal narrative scared the agents. Does it scare you, reader? Feedback, pls!!
My conversation with my “best friend” (but that is very loaded and very…doubtful sometimes) Andrea this morning went something like this:
“Are you coming out with us tonight?”
“Where are you going?”
“Does it matter? Josh and I are going out and we want you to come.”
“We’re sorry. M.A. Kohl’s third wheel service is temporarily out of business. Please call again real soon.”
“Really, Mak, I want you to come.”
“I’m sure Josh will share your sentiment wholeheartedly when he gets down your shirt the minute I leave to go to the bathroom. That’s what he’ll be saying. Andrea, I am sooo glad you’ve brought your friend Mak along….”
“So that’s it? Now that you’re single again, you can’t go out with couples anymore? It’s been months…You haven’t been out of that stinking house in months…I don’t know how those people let you rent it….”
“Three. Three months. Exactly. But I do go out from time to time. The house…I opened a window yesterday.”
“Was that hard for you?”
“The air was a bit of a shock, yeah.”
“So it’s goodbye, people who care about me? Hello, other bitter, broken up people…Is that it?”
“So what do you do? Cry to each other? Sleep with people whose names you don’t know as long as they’re also pathetic?”
“Hey, don’t knock it till you tried it.”
“I have. Tried it. It sucked.”
“Maybe you didn’t do it right.”
“If I wasn’t dating Josh anymore and you were still engaged, I’d still want to hang out with you.”
“Mak. You love theoretical.”
“Not this week.”
“God, Mak…. Tell me why I bother.”
“Hey…You know what I found just now, Anj?”
“Almost. A letter I wrote Rachel after Freshman Year. I kept a copy of it in my journal. How pathetic is that? Do you remember me telling you about that time when I was in Montana with my parents? God…That was more than ten years ago. Freaked me out a bit when I realized that…”
“Didn’t you break up with her that summer?”
“Nice recall. No. I broke up with her in the fall. After that summer.”
“And how was the letter? Gooey?”
“That’s pretty quick. Gooey to gone…all in a few weeks…”
“Yeah, well…There’s lots of things like that…Things that only take a few minutes…”
“Oh, very nice, Mak. So you model your relationship style on the male orgasm? Is that it?”
“Not on purpose.”
“What ever happened to her?”
“Oh…I don’t know. Last I heard, she was a massage therapist out in Seattle. I think she’s married. I don’t remember who told me that.”
“Uh huh…Are you coming tonight or not, Mak?”
“Listen, have a great time. Tell Josh I say Hi. I actually think he’s a cool guy.”
“Well then, I will definitely continue dating him now…. “
“God, Mak. I just feel… helpless around you. You know I hate feeling helpless…Will you be OK?”
“I’ll be fine. I’ll be working.”
“Working. You’ll be back in those chat rooms, probably.”
“You’re really sure of yourself aren’t you?”
“I’m really sure of yourself.”
”This time, it’s only research for my column.”
“Burying yourself in work, huh? Millions would believe you.”
“…I’m doing some pieces on written communication, love letters, actually. For ThinX.”
“Love letters! Hunh. Is that why you were going through your old junk, reading Rachel’s letters?”
“Actually, no. I was looking for something else when I found it. This was one of those non-coincidence coincidences that spiritual people like to talk about.”
“Did you find anything…else?”
“You mean something I wrote to you? Or that you wrote to me?”
“I guess that’s what I mean. Among other things.”
“I still have a collage you made me somewhere. That one where I owed you a dollar but you wouldn’t take it and instead returned it to me, cut up to spell “the dollar” and sprayed mercilessly full of Eternity, in the middle of pictures of Grace and Harry and Arnold Becker.”
“That was a brilliant moment for me.”
“Yes, it was. But no, I didn’t find anything of interest before. Just ticket stubs from a movie, and that letter.”
“Silence of the Lambs. I saw it four times in the theater.”
“That’s a fact I could have done without knowing about you, my sick little friend.”
“…Anyway…I’m thinking that I want to maybe tackle love letters more globally – like how they’ve changed with e-mail. I’m going back into the rooms to get material is all.”
“Look…Have fun tonight. OK?”
“Thanks for calling, by the way, Andrea Dorothy. You’ve given me something to think about. Ever since I opened that window, I’ve been waiting for…something…“
Out of the BoX: M.A. Kohl On Love and Life at (almost) Thirty
Back in the day, we used to keep postcards and letters in shoeboxes. The girls would write on stationery, cool yellow sheets about the size of a paperback. Sometimes cute white dots would frame the page, matching in a profound way the very round, bubbly handwriting of the girls whose notes you copied.
The boys scribbled and drew cartoons right in the middle of sentences. They were Vonnegut-style letters, before any of us had ever read Vonnegut, disjointed and scrawled and somehow fitting together into a personality, if not a coherent series of thoughts.
We sent these to each other during the summer, when one of us was away at camp, the other bored to death at home. We equaled roughly the sum of the letters we received, how many people missed us enough to write us doodle-y notes about nothing.
And we kept them. In shoeboxes that some of us are just now collecting from our mothers, who are unexpectedly sick of playing hostess to our childhoods. We sometimes read these letters now and we are shocked, not at how far away it all seems, but at how close, how similar.
We are sweetly familiar to ourselves, and it dawns on us that perhaps we always have been.
I’LL BE SUBMITTING MORE TEXT HERE, ZOE….ROUGHLY 250 WORDS.
And now, the letters somehow mean something more than the friend or lover ever did; the admirer who saw fit to imagine us once is today the same as the ink. Incubating in those shoeboxes are echoes of us, chaotic scraps of becoming something.
From: Michael A. Kohl [firstname.lastname@example.org]
Date: Sunday, January 7, 2001 10:15 AM
To: Zoe Jones [email@example.com]
Subject: RE: Love Letters Essay
Here’s what I have for part one, just to give you an idea. The rest of it – and part two – will be in shortly. Sorry for the delay – - I’m on top of it now.
Sorry to hear about all the problems at ThinX. If it makes you feel any better, I think you guys have made it much less obvious than other content sites that you’re going through cutbacks. It still looks great.
BTW, please automatically add the following line to the bottom of all of my work for you (and to my Bio, right after the sentence ending “freelance writer living near the Chesapeake Bay.”):
M.A. Kohl is a special correspondent for Empire Magazine.
(Ken Bogan, the articles editor at Empire, just let me know yesterday re: this new development…)
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