Note to Self: Part 5

Jan 30th, 2011

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Ok, we’re back. In this installment: Mak, inspired by NB, is able to finish his article. And then he and Andrea have it out over a beer…or three…


Out of the BoX: M.A. Kohl On Love and Life at (almost) Thirty

Love Letters
Part II

Today there are no signatures. I sign all my e-mails “M”, and it seems to be good enough. I have corresponded for months with editors who never asked what M.A. stands for. I have corresponded for months with people whose voices I have never heard. I do not know if they have a quick East Coast way of catching your sentences before you say them, or if they’re Midwesterners who listen until you’re well past done, and you’re waiting and waiting for them to say something.

I do not know these things because all the lines and words and sentences come out the same in my inbox, with no spaces or pauses or interrupted syllables, no heavy smoker’s timbre, no just-out-of-grad-school deliberateness. I cannot hear or feel. I know only what passes through the spell check.

Now it’s all in the imagining, and in the censorship. The ability to be anyone we chose to be, very carefully, and to be with anyone we can conjecture. In fact, it doesn’t matter who the letter is from, just who we think it could be from, and what we think they think of us.

In cyberspace, there is nothing as personal as, for example, finding someone’s hair on your jacket when you come home from meeting with him or her over lunch. You cannot smell anyone’s cologne hastily dashed on; you cannot feel their foot accidentally knock yours under the table. It is hospital sterile in here.

And at the same time, it is violently intimate.

In cyberspace, there is nothing as mundane, as subtle, as finding someone else’s hair on your jacket. The conversation is somehow more open, more daring, more immediately personal, even with people you know in real life. Sometimes I wonder what happens to people online, what chemical changes are taking place as the modem chokes to life. We type in things we would never say. We confide and advise and allude and become a sort of ghost accomplice, a sudden Times New Roman best friend.

When we meet again, in person, we do not speak of the e-mail. We must start over. No-fair cyber, we’d say, if we wanted to talk about it.

But we don’t. In fact, in person, there is often very little to talk about.

We seem to be living in a post-human time, one degree away from life. Seeking some self-knowledge by machinated expressions, by echo – - like Narcissus, by reflection.

This, too, is a pool we can fall into as we look, but the drowning feels much better than we’d imagined.


From: Michael A. Kohl []
Date: Thursday, January 11, 2001 2:39 PM
To: Zoe Jones []
Subject: RE: Second Part of Love Letters Essay


Here’s part 2. I’m glad They Who Matter at ThinX and beyond liked the last piece. Thanks for telling me.

- M


From: Hands_Solo []
Date: Thursday, January 11, 2001 6:45 PM
To: Webmaster []
Subject: RE: Hi

NB –

Hi. You know, you should never post your e-mail in a chat room. Even if you are a webmaster and you know how to play around with addresses and filters and links etc…it’s just asking for trouble. SC asked if that was your e-mail and I lied, said it was your sister who was going to get me a job. Do you even have a sister? lol…..Does she have a good job for me? hehehehe…Anyway, thanx….very trusting of you!

Someone here now…Have a good nite.

- HS


Andrea came over after work. Her work, that is. I had to get offline really fast when she knocked… :

“I’m really glad you’re here, Anj…Thanks for coming out. Want a drink? I think there’s a cup somewhere around here.”

“God, Mak! This place looks like that basement in your favorite movie. If I was the owner of this house….”

“Thank you, Clarice. I’ve been waiting for you to come by. You’ve been on my brain, so to speak.”

“That was good, Mak. You’ve been practicing. Any real victims under that pizza box?”

“Nope. Only victim is me. Still. Boohoo.”

“I’m glad you’re still able to laugh, at least. Glad you’re finally aware of it.”

“Awareness….. Is my current job. My occupation. My passion. One possible by-product of getting pissed on. Is brutal awareness….. You want a beer?”

“You are not the best advertisement for beer right now.”

“C’mon, Anj. I hate to…drink alone.”

“But you do it so well. It’s really entertaining.”

“Very. Cold.”

“Me or the beer?”

“Both. Actually. Very.”

“Bite me.”


“Michael….Get away. MMMMM….. That is cold! Yummy.”

“You ought to take me up on more of my offers.”


“Sorry. Me behave one day.”

“Hey… Mak? Where’s your leather recliner? The one you used to live on with that bitch Natalie? Where’s the TV? And that gorgeous hand-woven Peruvian rug? The one I couldn’t believe you bought yourself?”

“It’s Chilean. I have very good taste in… inanimate objects, by the way. They’re all somewhere. Underneath. I’m having my own…Pompeii. I don’t know. Thanks for the inventory, though. Forgot. About that shit.”

“God, Michael. What the hell is going on? What’s this new drama of yours?”

“It’s still the old drama, thank you very much.”

“That’s been playing for a long time.”

“But it’s better than Cats! Don’t you want to see it… again and again?”

“I can’t believe the actors haven’t quit.”

“Ooooohhhh. Good one, Captain Estrogen.”

“Did you just call me Captain Estrogen?”

“Never mind.”

“You’re a worrying individual.”

“Not so much. I’m just letting the chaos… play itself out.”

“Is that so?”

“It be so.”

“Well you’ve done an excellent job with the chaos.”

“You’re being mean to me. I can tell.”

“You’re being mean to you.”

“Oprah? Is that you?”

“So…When does it start reorganizing itself? The chaos…”

“You see. Right there. I think you’re making fun of me.”

“Can you answer the question, Mak?”

“OK…Why don’t you? You’re the great biologist…When does chaos usually reorganize?”

“Around the time the function of the organism is…ohhhh…I see where you’re going with this… Is that what this is all about? Self-Organization? Shedding the old, useless structure?”

“Maybe…But I’m not talking about it …with you. I can’t think so I just read. In the meantime.”

“Are you shitting me, Mak? What are you reading?”

“I’m scaring you, am I, Clarice?”

“You are, though. Does this pay well? Whatever this is that you’re doing with yourself these days?”

“Maybe I have a research grant, like you do.”

“From a Mental Institute?”

“You really are something else… when you have a beer in you, you know that, Anj?”

“Really…Are you still writing, Mak? Or just finding out what you’re for?”

“Well, Andrea Dorothy, I’m actually writing A LOT. I just made special correspondent at Empire.”


“… I’m just thinking that if I can write myself past March 21st I’ll be alright…I don’t care about titles….“

“You should…You don’t need to be so against success. That’s pretty impressive, actually. I like Empire. They don’t care that you’re not in New York?”

“That’s why I’m a correspondent, which is more or less a freelance position… and not the ….Writer at Large. Which is a staff position. Natalie… and I… were moving… to New York. I was going to start at the end of April. At Empire. With a permanent job…A really good job….”

“You never told me that…”

“I never told anyone that. Except Natalie…It wasn’t really. Public knowledge.”

“I’m the public? Why don’t you ever tell me anything? You see…This is what I’m talking about. It’s a very funny idea you have about friendship. Why don’t you trust me?”

“It’s not a big deal, Anj. I trust you. I just didn’t think this was… share-worthy…”

“A little thing like moving away isn’t share-worthy?”

“Anyway…It’s irrelevant now…Ken Bogan’s a good old friend…You remember me talking about him, right? We were together. In college…He’s the articles editor…He arranged for this. Instead….”

“Why aren’t you moving to New York and taking the better goddamn job? What does Dr. Natalie have to do with anything?”

“Well, for one thing, she is currently living. In the apartment we rented…Got herself a job in Mt. Sinai….”

“I hear there may be a few more apartments in New York. Limited time only.”

“I can’t take any more changes. Right now.”

“That’s a cop out. A real cop out. This is all really lazy and loser-ish if you ask me.”

“Which I didn’t.”

“Why not just make a clean break? Are you so married to this stupid Bay?”

“Hey. Hey. It’s the only thing I’ve ever really loved. This Bay.”

“That’s such bullshit. You only moved here a little over a year ago from Georgetown. Strangely, right after you started dating Natalie…How did that work, with her living in Silver Spring? Did you notice that all the women you fall in love with are from Silver Spring?”

“Rachel was a girl. Not a woman. And you used to live in Baltimore, when it was relevant…”

“You didn’t love me, though, really. It doesn’t count.”

“Jesus, Andrea. I don’t really want to talk about it. Any of it. But I love you now. In a certain way.”

“Yeah, whatever. The point is…you were doing fine without the Bay for a long time.”

“It’s a big part of my childhood.”

“Because you went fishing sometimes with your dad? You’ve never written about it. I think you’re full of crap.”

“Why do you think. That you know me so well. Huh?”

“Someone should. What’s the real reason you’re not going to New York? Stop drinking. You’re ending your sentences in funny places.”

“And see Natalie? On the street on the way to work? The apartment. Is a few blocks away from the office…It was so…fucking…perfect….”

“It’s a big city, Michael. I’m really sorry, though…Wow. That does suck.”

“Big cities. Have a way of closing in on you when you have an ex. Looking at the tops of the same buildings as you are. You know?”

“I guess. It’s just a waste, is all…It’s like you’re letting her win…What do you care if you run into her? Just look better than her is all. You should start working out again. You’ve gotten too skinny. But your hair is nice this way.”

“Are you trying to get rid of me or something? She did win.”

“No…No. Of course not…It’s just that I think you have your priorities screwed up…”

“Choosing to unearth myself… over my career, you mean? Choosing bucolic Maryland over an exciting, ripped-up-inside New York life? I should seethe richly? You think? Take up drinking buckets again?”

“You talk like you write. You know that, don’t you? It’s especially entertaining when you’re drunk. I thought you were still drinking buckets.”

“No. I’m not. This is a rare treat you’re witnessing. Did it ever occur to you that I like the freedom of writing. For a lot of different publications? The writer position. Was pretty much exclusive for all non-fiction. It was a staff position…This correspondent position is not. I’m still free.”

“Ah…So that’s the real reason. You see?…You still can’t be nailed down to any one thing in particular…Not to mention people….”

“Maybe…Maybe I’d like to share the insights gleaned from crisis. And my quiet existence on the Bay. With a broader range of people….”

“I don’t know if you even believe yourself at this point.”

“Me neither.”

“Do you really, deep down, think that’s what this is about? More than your inability to just get it together? No offense.”

“Oh, no. How could I be possibly? Be offended? I don’t know, Andrea…I forgot what a difficult person you are. To convince of anything that doesn’t have a direct, tangible result…”

“It’s a real problem, isn’t it? So where is all this coming from? Your solitary quest? What the hell are you reading? ”

“OK…Hunh. Well…For your perusal, Madam…This is only the first pile…Here’s what I’m reading.”

“Holy shit. Look at these….”

“Yeah. I spent. A bloody fortune on Amazon.”

“Not research for an article, like the chatrooms?”


“So…What did you learn this week, little boy?”

“OK…Let’s see…My favorite: That we’re here for a reason…”

“Oh, that. Goody. OK…I suppose people’s mothers die of cancer when they’re ten years old for a reason. Right?…You know that’s what my father said, too, right? When he married her best friend afterwards…That everything happens for a reason.”

“I think it’s an easy idea to exploit.”

“Did it ever occur to you that everything happens first, and then we look for the reason afterwards?”

“Well…I don’t know. But that sounds like it might be right. Because I also read that circumstances do not change who we are. They show us who we are…Is that the same thing? As what you were saying?”

“Not exactly, no. I don’t think. Where’d you get that?”

“I don’t remember anymore…It all kind of sticks together after a while. I’m like sushi.“

“You’re like sushi? Raw and greenish?”

“Rolled and compressed.”

“Are you going to totally wig out on us, Michael?”

“Who is us?”

“Does it make you feel better at least?”

“It makes me feel. Period.”

“That’s interesting. You see. That’s actually interesting.”

“I’m glad I’m making the Andreo-meter. For worthfulness.”

“I’m a bitch, right?”


“Hmmm….Which parts?”

“Ahh…there it is. The voice…The beer voice.”

“What are you ranting about now, Michael?”

“And now the games.”

“I don’t know what you’re saying to me.”

“I’m saying that you’re being funny-ish and now I’ve had…three…four…and a half…beers. So… I am drunk….And the two of us drunk together is a bad thing.”

“I’m not drunk, Mak.”

“If you say so.”

“You have this imagination…God, Mak. You’d think…You make me sound like….”

“Like what, Andrea? A human being?”

“I’m with someone, remember?”

“Yeah. I remember. Put that over there will you? Next to the other can…Thanks… Now take your lovely auburn head home to Josh.”

“Will you be alright?”

“Stand back, woman.”

“You are totally paranoid and egotistical if you thought I was coming on to you just now….”

“I am, am I? So what was it, then? You were checking my teeth?”

“I was being supportive.”

“I see.”

“Will you? Be OK?”

“Yeah. Yes.”

“You know…You may be lucky in a way. You know what Alanis Morisette says – life has a funny way of helping you out…”

“Alanis Morisette?”

“What? I like her. She’s a great poet. I normally don’t get poetry. I get hers, though. ”

“You know…I like her, too. She’s softened lately. I like where she’s going.”

“You see, and I like her old stuff better…Hmmm…”

“Yeah. All that unbottled estrogen rage…”

“Shut up, will you?”

“Sorry, Alanis.”

“Anyway…You need to clean up. Cleanliness is next to…you know….”

“I know so many things…like that you need to go home right now…”

“You’re demented…”


“I’ll call you tomorrow….”

“Say hi to Josh for me. I’m going to California tomorrow.”


“Yeah. I’ll let you know when I’m back.”


For Andrea:

To Artemis:

What is it you hunt – -
your bow pulled back and quivering,
so tight
it might
before the arrow
rushestoitsprey ?
What can you still
that you have not
murdered with your tongue,
keeping wounded souls
your boots
for food?
What hunts you,
in your wilderness,
when the nymphs are
and your sister
holds the moon?
Can a lesser something
bruise you;
You, who holds the planets in your hair?
I sometimes think that you are not as
a spirit
as you claim to be.
For you run from something, too.
Swifter than I flee,
than I can pursue.

- MAK, January 2001

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