[No subject. Sent: 6/5/15 1:15 AM]
I know I said I wouldn’t email you anymore after you left but fuck it. The weirdest fucking thing happened to me today and I have to tell someone. I didn’t think anyone else would believe me but you.
When I came home today there was some guy sitting on the steps and I thought, hey, he looks like Herbert the Hobo. (I know you never liked it when I call him that but whatever.) This guy had Herbert’s scraggly beard, his clothes were basically rags, and, frankly, he looked absolutely terrified like Herbert used to. He was crouched on the stoop, like holding himself, and just looking at everything with absolute terror. The people walking down the street, the buildings. Every time a car passed he would have a mini-spasm. Everyone was sort of keeping their distance as they passed him, but I had to get close to get into the building. I was going to pass by without looking but he reminded me of Herbert the Hobo and that reminded me of you and so I turned to look at him and he was of course looking up at me. And so we looked at each other for a minute. And his eyes weren’t bloodshot or stoned out or anything — they were blue with even a little grey, but clear, aware of what was going on, and just filled with terror.
And so, somehow, after a pretty good amount of deliberating in my kitchen, I found myself bringing him down some of my dinner. Which isn’t the weirdest fucking thing. I mean it’s pretty weird for me but it’s not necessarily weird for other non-assholes out there in the world. The weirdest fucking thing is what happened when I stayed to talk with him.
I tried to leave after I put the plate down but he grabbed my arm and looked up at me:
“I beg of you, stay with me a moment.”
He didn’t say anything else but just kept staring at me, locked onto my wrist with his mouth gaping and his eyes wide. I figured I’d wait til he was done with the plate and then I could take it back up. He thankfully didn’t smell very bad.
We sat for a while not talking. We just sat on the stoop. It was that time of night when there are no hard shadows, magic hour they call it on set. A soft glow from the last of the daylight over the last few people making their way home. There were businessmen in suits and jogging shoes, walking with long, quick strides. There were people listening to podcasts while they let their dogs out. WNCY was spilling out from someone’s window. After a while I turned to him.
“Do the cars bother you?”
He looked at me, his mouth full of my dinner, a bewildered expression on his face.
“The cars?” I asked again, motioning toward them. They were parked up and down the street, only a few spots left. He looked at them, his eyes still wide, and nodded slowly. He swallowed his bite and turned towards me.
“I knew someone who lived here, once,” he said to me.
He nodded and we both turned to look at my apartment building. It is an old building but a good building. They need to fix the bricks, and there’s a crack in the cement railing, but it’s fine. It was a good setting for most of our good memories (and most of our bad ones).
“When?” I asked him.
“It must have been long ago.” He spoke quietly, turning back, looking at everything again with that look of horror.
It was starting to get chilly. I was hunched up, my arms wrapped around my knees, my chin resting on my arms. “Who?” I asked him.
He filled his fork with another bite. “A woman I knew, someone special to me.”
His voice was funny. It was not a hobo’s voice. He spoke very clearly, distinctly, and had a refined manner about him when he did. Like some college professor, only dressed in rags.
“What happened to her?” I asked him. He just shook his head, scooping up more of the food from the plate. And then, suddenly, I couldn’t help it, I found the words coming out of me:
“She left you.”
I was horrified after I said it, thinking how could I say something like that, but he wasn’t. He just turned to me, swallowing.
“No, I left,” he said. “In my twenty-fifth year I went to the woods so that I could live alone. I believed that I must be alone to live deliberately, to live consciously. I wished to find the pure light of life, the brightness hidden within nature, and to bathe myself with it. I wanted to wash the dirt of civilization from my soul, to let the light of my soul find that of Nature’s, so that she could make it shine purely — so that, at my death, I would not discover that I had not lived.”
I waited for him to keep going but he didn’t. He was thinking, turning the words over in his head, but then he just nodded at them contently.
“And did you?” I asked.
He turned to me and he was smiling, even if in a melancholy way. “I went to live in the woods to be alone and I saw many things there. In the fall I saw every leaf, every life, release its existence as beautifully as it had received it. In winter I saw foxes wandering near the frozen pond, their heads bowed low in hunt, as if laboring some great anxiety. In the spring I saw the ice on the pond become honeycombed, so that I could set my heel in it as I walked along. Nature washed my soul in her purity, yes, and I found peace there but still ached for want of happiness.”
“And so you came back?”
“Yes.” As he spoke, the smile disappeared. “I went to the woods to live slowly, to live at the tempo of Nature rather than the railway men. And I returned to discover that, while I had kept to the rhythm of the seasons, the world had found the step of a different drummer. I do not know where I am but I know I am not meant to be here. My lover does not live in this house. My lover does not live in this time. I returned from my solitude because I wished to know the presence of those I love. Instead I have found that I am more alone than I knew.”
Another car came down the street with its lights on bright, the thump of bass leaking out. He flinched less this time but stared at it, his eyes squinted, watching it as it rolled through the stop sign.
“Do you have somewhere to stay tonight?” I asked him.
He turned to look at me. Somehow, it looked as if he pitied me.
“Come on,” I said, picking up the plate and standing. I stuck out my hand. “Ralph,” I said.
He looked up at me and smiled widely. “Hank,” he said, taking my hand, and stood too.
We had a drink together, scotch and water. We didn’t say much. I put a sheet on the couch for him and asked him if he needed anything else. He asked me what year it was. I told him and he nodded. I asked him what year he thought it was. He told me and I nodded.
He believes this, I know that, but I also know that doesn’t really mean anything. But for some reason I thought to myself that you would too, you would believe it. I don’t know why. Maybe because you always believe ridiculous things like that. I know I told myself I’d leave you alone but I kept thinking, here’s a story she would like. So sorry, but I just had to tell someone. Alright. Goodnight.
[No subject. Sent: 6/8/15 11:42 pm]
I know. I shouldn’t have written you the first time and now I’m doing it again. But whatever. Deal.
He’s been with me for four days now. He showed up on a Thursday and now it’s Monday. I’m supposed to start another shoot tomorrow but I’m going to have to call out of it. I mean, Jesus, what a bizarre three days it’s been.
Can you imagine watching a movie with someone who’s never seen a movie before? Not just never seen a movie before, but can you imagine watching a movie with someone who has missed the last one hundred and fifty years? Who wasn’t aware that something like movies did or could exist? We tried the news at first but it was just too much, too overwhelming. He had way too many questions and I honestly don’t even think he could make sense of what was going on. He asked me what had happened to the rest of the newscaster’s body. It was a close-up on her so he couldn’t see anything below her shoulders and he thought, I don’t know, that that part had disappeared.
So I found some older films, silent films. Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton. Do you remember that weekend we had, where we rented those Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers musicals and just binged watched them for a whole weekend? You couldn’t believe I’d agreed to watch musicals and I couldn’t believe I actually liked them. My goal was to catch Hank up to Fred and Ginger. It took about two and a half days. Two and a half days where we sat on the couch and watched old movies. D. W. Griffith movies, Intolerance and Birth of a Nation. Those brought up a few questions.
Me: “Um, they called it the Civil War.”
Hank (nodding solemnly): “When?”
Me: “Um, I think the 1860s, so you would have just missed it.”
Hank: “And for how long?”
Me: “I think like four or five years.” (We hadn’t gone over the internet yet so I didn’t want to look anything up. We were trying to take it slow.)
Hank: “And did many die?”
Me: “Yes. I don’t know how many but a lot. It was brothers fighting brothers. It was very bad.”
Hank: “And why?”
Me: “Slavery. I think a few other things, taxes, but it was really about slavery.”
Hank: “Of course.” He hung his head down, slowly shaking it.
Me: “But . . . they ended it. Slavery. The president, his name was Lincoln, he abolished it during the war. And after the North won it was abolished for everyone.”
He looked up at me suddenly and there were tears in his eyes, but he was smiling. “They ended it? It’s over?”
“Yeah, well, they ended it. It hasn’t exactly gone perfectly, there have been some issues, but they’ve ended it. Black people — I mean African—um . . . Negroes are free now. We call them black people now, you should know that, but they’re free now.”
“Then the brothers’ died so the Negro may live,” Hank said, still smiling. He wiped the tears from his eyes, shaking his head in disbelief.
“Right,” I said. “But the black people. We call them black people now.”
Two and a half days later we’d made it to the 50s. Fred and Ginger spinning before us, the feathers drifting off of Ginger’s dress. We sat before them in silence. I was exhausted. Hank seemed dumbfounded. His attention hadn’t lagged, which is more than I can say for myself.
“Do you want to take a break?” I asked
“Perhaps,” he said, “we could go outside.”
“Is it dangerous?”
“No,” I said. “Not particularly. Not more so than ever.”
“I find that difficult to believe.”
Maybe we’d watched too many war movies. I tried to keep things light but there’s only so much you can do. Gold Diggers of ‘33 is fun and all, but only if you’re already aware the Great Depression was like a thing. Otherwise it can all seem a little absurd.
“Where would you like to go?” I asked.
“Have you allowed Nature into this strange paradise?” he asked.
So we took the 7 into Central Park.
There was a moment, when we were on the train speeding beneath the river, where he leaned over and asked me, “How many men died so this would be possible?”
I laughed but he didn’t smile. He stared at me unblinking and then looked around the train. “Tell me, please.”
I tried to think if I knew. I knew about the immigrants that had died building the railroads, but I didn’t know if that was the case for the subway. I was sure it hadn’t been pleasant. I was sure the number wasn’t zero. “I, I don’t know.”
“A number you do not know,” he said and nodded.
When we got out of the station, the panic attack started. It was my fault, I’d gotten us out at the wrong exit. Like an idiot, I had us walk up directly into Times Square.
I’m just going to list some of the things we saw: those huge trucks, the really mammoth and insanely dirty ones that look like they’re falling apart. Taxis, a million or so taxis. A million or so people. Tourists stopping and gawking and pointing and just swarming around us. And all of the fucking lights. All of the fucking signs just cranked up as bright as they can go, covering every inch of everything, just screaming down at us. I mean there were other things I wondered if he even understood — streetlights and sidewalks and cellphones and bike messengers — but I figured he’d seen some of that on whatever bizarre journey had gotten him to my doorstep. But I mean, I can’t even handle Times Square and I’m used to it. Nobody can.
I dragged him North, out of it, as quickly as I could. He hung on me for blocks and I held him tight, worried he would try to run, terrified, like some kid into the street. We crossed 59th, stomping through the piles of horseshit, and hurried into the park.
We walked until we found somewhere wooded, somewhere you couldn’t see the buildings through the trees or hear the traffic. We sat on a rock in the shade, surrounded by brush, and slowly he caught his breath.
“What have you done to it? What have you done?” He was still out of breath but he wouldn’t rest. “Why, it has been destroyed! When I left, I left a world that had just begun the race away from the honest and self-reliant work of true living, and toward the greed of novelty, the tragedy of upheaval. Now I have returned to a world I cannot comprehend. The images I find are so stripped of the compass of Nature that I cannot even begin to direct my mind in making sense of them! Rude machinations and shimmering distractions fill my senses. You have taken the crudeness of man and stamped it across what was once delicate, beautiful. Where once feet worked with nature to form a pathway, now man smears ugly stone to ease his step. Where once, trees were our canopy, a shade of rustling leaves, now searing geometric glass threatens to topple down onto us. Why, even this, your alleged sanctuary, is but some infantile imitation of the beauty of true Nature. Your soul longs for it but your body is inconvenienced by it and so this monstrosity is the result. What strange Manhattan you have brought me to!”
He was sucking in deep breaths of air, hunched over awkwardly on the rock we were sitting on, his mouth gaping, staring around him in horror. It was different than when I had first found him. Then, it had been a true lack of comprehension, as if he was in a dream he couldn’t make sense of. Now, there was anger.
“We have helped people too,” I said. “In science, medicine, we’ve made advances that have saved lives.”
“Perhaps, but at what cost? What worth does a life have if it is this divorced from the true nature of existence?”
“As much worth as any life has ever had.”
He turned to me. “What worth did a life have during the Great Wars? What worth during the . . . the eradication, the—”
“Yes. Have you saved more lives than you have spent? Tell me, what is the tally? How many have survived the hand of death, the course of Nature? Has death too been fixed?”
I shook my head.
“No,” he said. “So then a life’s method still defines its value. And yet I still find a world that refuses to comprehend this.” He sighed and shook his head. “And yet I should be neither surprised nor disappointed. I left civilization because of this, because I wished to live a life separate from the speed of industry, separate from the capitulations of self-reliance that came with supposed advance. But I knew I was alone in this desire. I have no right to be surprised at the world I find, yet I cannot help but mourn for the loss.”
He looked around him, shaking his head, his mouth twisted into a bitter shape.
“And so then why did you return?” I asked.
He smiled, but it was painful, mournful. “Because I yielded to the ask of the body. Because I believed myself to be in love. And, fool that I am, after so many years I decided to listen to this voice rather than that of my soul.”
“Who was she?”
“That is what I asked myself while I sat by my pond. Who was she? What had become of her? What was she doing these so many years? And so one day I told myself I would go and find out. And I stumbled upon this — a world destroyed.”
I looked at him. “Do you still want to find out?”
Abruptly, he turned to me, his eyes wide. He nodded.
And so we went to the public library.
I’m too tired to tell you the rest tonight, I’m sorry, I’ll write to you tomorrow. I know. I’m going to keep writing to you. It’s best we both just accepted it.
[No subject. Sent: 6/10/15 12:49 am]
If you were going to try to find me a hundred and fifty years from now how would you do it? I think about this a lot while we’re trying to find her. I think about how I would try to find you. It’s hard enough to find the person you’re looking for on the internet now — to find any real, valuable information about them now — imagine spreading that over a century and a half. How many more people with your name, from your city, with your background would there be to search through? How much more information would be lost? Everything, everything that was really you. Maybe your name would remain, maybe a few details, but not you. None of the soul. And, if we’re being honest, it’d probably be just the bad news, just the horror headlines.
We couldn’t find her. We searched all day, yesterday and today, but we couldn’t find anything. The library had to kick us out and we had nothing. I think we were both exhausted — Hank because of the world that surrounded him, me because I’d been thinking of you all day.
“What do you want to do now? Should we go home?” I asked him yesterday when we were done.
“No. Show me more of this strange world.”
I was surprised by his reaction but I agreed to. I think we both thought it would be a crime not to, even if we were too exhausted to want to.
I took him down to the Village. We took a taxi this time, out of laziness more than anything. We went to Washington Square Park. I usually love the Square at that time of night but it was strange seeing it with Hank. I couldn’t help but wonder what made sense to him, what didn’t. He didn’t ask much, just took it in. I watched him watch the world and I cringed with embarrassment.
There was so much to be embarrassed about. I mean, for one, there’s just how addicted to sex we are. But fine, we can write that off as just sort of the fashion of the time maybe — people have always been addicted to sex after all. But then, there is just the pomposity with which we hold ourselves, the arrogance we have about who we think we are — so important, so monumental! We applaud ourselves endlessly for our technological achievements but these things meant nothing to Hank. I couldn’t even describe them to him. All he had to do was ask “how” once and I was at a loss for words. See, I’d say, those things people are holding allow them to speak to other people across the globe instantaneously. How? See, those planes flying overhead allow us to cross the span of the country in a matter of hours. How? Even the things I wore, the things I used, I couldn’t explain them. He asked me what my credit card was made of and I told him plastic. He asked me what that was and I said I had no idea.
We see history as if it were a pyramid that we stand at the peak of. Stand next to a man from another time and you will cringe too. Even our self-flagellation reeks of pomposity, as if we’re attempting to show how great we are by being aware of how horrible we are.
I took him home when it was late, probably too late. The drunks were singing on the train. Leaning into me, Hank said, “Some things never change.” He fell asleep on the couch after I told him we’d try again tomorrow, that we’d find her, find out what happened.
I’m going to keep writing you, I don’t care. I don’t care if it’s the right thing to do or not, I don’t care if it isn’t healthy. I miss you. I miss you too much. I’m not going to live what’s left of my life that way.
[No subject. Sent: 6/11/15 9:32 pm]
He’s getting sick. I should have known that, I should have known that would happen. He says it’s nothing but I’m terrified. I tried to get him to go see someone but he refused. He said they wouldn’t know how to make sense of whatever they saw in him. I told him we probably cured it fifty years ago. I don’t know what else to do. He says we should just keep going to the library, keep looking for her.
He’s become obsessed. At first, honestly, I didn’t think he cared. I thought he went with me the first time because I asked him to and he was too depressed to say no. But now he doesn’t need my prodding, he’s taken over the search. He has a notebook I gave him that he’s annotating, filling in the facts that we find, trying to piece it together. It’s wide ruled, one of those cheap black ones with the tear-out pages. He hunches over it with his stubby #2 pencil and writes down everything he can.
“So she must have moved to Poughkeepsie, then,” he said.
“Somewhere between 1842 and 1852, yes,” I said.
“When I was at the pond.”
“Or after,” I said, “when you didn’t come back.”
He didn’t respond but went back to scribbling in the journal.
Slowly, we’ve found out pieces, impossibly small though. Her name on a town’s registry one year. Then, a decade or so later, on a different one. The time in between we can’t account for. Her life we can’t account for. Honestly, I think it is useless but it’s energized Hank so I’ve gone along with it. We were riding the train in to the main branch today, on what’s more or less become our version of a commute, and I saw him smile. He leaned in and whispered to me:
“That women, there, she’s reading a book by a man that was a friend of mine.”
I looked at him surprised and he smiled proudly. “A very wise man,” he said, and then nodded toward the book, “and a very fine writer. He taught me most of what I know about the craft.”
“Do you write?” I asked.
He shook his head but kept smiling. “Nothing of note.”
“We should look you up!” I said.
“I already have,” he said, laughing. “You were off getting us lunch, I couldn’t help myself. There was nothing there, nothing I could find.” He laughed again, deeply, and rested a hand on my shoulder.
I’d started to be excited for him, thinking there might be some happiness in the world we could find him yet, but now this sickness has come and with it a cloud of doom. We have to keep searching, like Hank says. We have to try to find her.
[No subject. Sent: 6/15 11:38 pm]
Yesterday I took him to the top of the Empire State Building. I’m not sure how much longer he’ll be healthy enough to do something like that and I didn’t want him to not see it. I knew he’d hate it but I still wanted him to see it.
I have to say, I still love that view. Looking downtown is like looking at the back of some enormous dinosaur, curled up at the bottom of the island. The buildings sharp and hard and triumphant against the skyline. And looking uptown a soft expanse. The park cradled by the hills of the high-rises on both sides.
“I can see how it could be considered beautiful to some people,” Hank said, which is more than I would have expected from him.
“There’s a solitude here,” I said, “I think that’s what I like about it.”
He turned to look at me.
“Just looking at all the buildings,” I said, “all the people in them, trying to imagine all those people, just trying to imagine the lives of the people in our view right now. It’s impossible. And then just scale that up, for the city as a whole, the state, the country. For a few generations, a few centuries. It’s not just that we’re insignificant, but we’re so separate. We’re so divided from each other. Looking at it from here highlights that for me, it brings home the solitude.”
He smiled and shook his head. “That’s not solitude, Ralph, that’s lonesomeness. Do not worry, though, lonesomeness is not an ailment without a cure. We will find someone for you, right after we finish looking for me.”
He tried to laugh but broke into a fit of spasmodic coughing. After he calmed down we headed down, back to the library.
[No subject. Sent: 6/19 2:42 am]
We’ve gotten so that he can’t leave the apartment now. We’ve been searching on my laptop from home. I logged into your school account, the University apparently hasn’t disconnected it yet, so we could access more databases. Sorry. Your name popped up on the greeting screen and Hank asked who you were.
“Just a friend.”
She married, we think. The records are abysmal. No one spells anyone’s name right. Dates are often approximations. But we think we found when she married, around 1855. After Hank was gone. Not that he says it mattered.
“I asked for her hand,” he told me, late tonight, “but they wouldn’t have me.”
He was spread out on the couch, the afghan blanket your mom gave you draped over him. He’s leaving the couch less and less now. I feel like I can see him withering away before me and I’ll have these moments, like these mini panic attacks where I think oh my god what the fuck am I doing. This man is dying here, he’s dying in front of me and I’m just letting him. I mean what the fuck. But he refuses to go see anyone or to let me bring any doctor in. He’s resigned to it, I know, and I don’t know how to stop it.
“Her father, he did not care for me,” he told me. “He thought me a dreamer, someone useless. I taught at the school but that was not enough for him. And she fought for me, some, yes, but not enough. Finally her father chased me out.”
Watching him die, I can’t help but think of you, which makes me so fucking angry. You don’t have any place here, not alongside this man. He has lived and if he has chosen to die, he has at least waited for the convenience of some disease to expedite the process. But still I think of you. What is it about me that makes people around me want to die?
“I was going to write a book for her,” he told me. “About my time at the pond, about my time of honest living. Thinking of her when I was there, the words started to form in my head. I think it would have been a fine book, honest and strong. But I waited. Always too long I waited. And I ended up here with you.” He laughed and with that started coughing. It took a while to pass. “But we are searching for her now and we will find her. I haven’t forgotten her yet. And you will help me, Ralph, as you always have. I cannot tell you what that means to me.”
He fell asleep shortly after that.
My god how I miss you. Once he’s gone, once I see this through, I’m done here. I know that now.
[No subject. Sent: 6/23 3:15 am]
I think his mind is starting to go. He’s ruined the afghan, I’m sorry. He’s sleeping more and more now and I can’t get him to eat anything. There are long bouts where he’s unconscious, and then he’ll wake up in pain. I’ve been giving him painkillers I bought from Tommy, mashing them into applesauce, diluting it in his drink, but it’ll only go so far.
I’ve been looking through his journal. It’s about his time in the woods, but it’s written like it’s a letter to her. Long descriptions of his walks along the pond in the fall, of his house and how he built it, of his vegetable garden. There’s a beautiful section where he details the battle of two armies of ants as if the ants were Ancient Greek heroes. But at the end of each chapter he comes back to her. He says he hopes she enjoyed her life, that she was happy with her husband, with her family if she had one. He asks her questions about Poughkeepsie.
Sometimes when he starts to wake up I’ll read him sections of it. He’ll smile and mumble corrections, things to add or change. He’s tried to dictate a few times but I can’t make out what he’s saying and he doesn’t really have the energy for it. Instead, he’ll sit and listen as I read his words to him.
But there are still moments of lucidity. Tonight, I came in expecting him to be asleep, and he was upright in the couch, bright eyed. I asked if he needed anything and he asked me to sit down.
“The woman that left you,” he asked me, “who was she?”
I looked away and tried to smile but I shook my head.
“Please,” he said. “What do you not know about me? I would like to know something about you. I would like to be a better friend. Who was she?”
I sighed but I told him. I told him how we met, when you were just a Production Assistant and I was your boss. A low-level horror movie, long nights shooting in the woods. His eyes lit-up at the mention of a film set, just like everyone’s.
I told him about falling in love with you. About late nights in the bars in Greenpoint by the studios. About weekends like stolen days, like dropping into another world where for forty-eight hours or so we’d wander up and down Bedford Ave. You’d buy a dress from Wythe Vintage and I’d buy used records. I was perfectly happy, I didn’t want a thing to change, but you were bored, you were building towards something, you needed a change. You were depressed. You’d been distracted by the film work but it was wearing thin. I’d find you on the couch, wrapped in a blanket, the TV on but your eyes glazed over. I’d hear you in the shower crying. I got you to go back to school but it didn’t change anything. A less effective distraction than 16 hours a day on a film set.
I told him how it got so that when you got sad I got angry. The two of us on the bed, you curled up in a ball crying, me looking at my phone. You crying outside of the Levee and me storming away. I told him how we still tried. You’d wake in the middle of the night — short of breath, terrified. I’d hold you, giving you kisses on your neck, behind your ear, until you fell asleep again. You went to see a counselor who you hated. I looked online for a new one. But we were lying more to each other. You made up friends to go see so you could be alone. I said I was still shooting when I was out at the bars.
And then, one day I found you gone. A duffle bag and some of your clothes were missing. You’d taken my copy of Leaves of Grass. And I didn’t try to find you. I don’t think I even called your cell phone once. I kept meaning to, putting it off until the weekend, but then in the sun and the light buzz of afternoon drinks I couldn’t bring myself to ruin it, to reach out to you, to find out what had happened. A month went by before I emailed. Let me know what you’d like me to do with your stuff. Your mom wrote back the next day to say she’d found you a week ago, wrists cut open, the water in the bath turned cold. You were gone, she said. You were gone.
And then, of course, I’ve missed you ever since.
[No subject. Sent: 6/26 11:02 pm]
Sorry I know it’s been a few days. He died yesterday. There’s been so much to do since then. They came to take the body and I showed them the clothes he’d shown up in, said he just appeared at the stoop one day and I gave him food and a place to sleep. I thought they’d ask about the painkillers in his bloodstream but they said for these kinds of people he was surprisingly clean. They didn’t care. They thought I cared so they pretended to but when they realized he wasn’t a blood relation, they dropped that. I signed a mound of paperwork and then they took him away from me. His clothes, his body, it was suddenly gone. I’d hidden his journal, though, and I’ve been reading it ever since.
It’s beautiful. I wish I could show it to you. You would love it, I know you would. He must have loved her, that’s clear. But more than that, he must have loved something in life. For a man that acted so bitter, so angry, there is a clear love of life that rings out in his words. He loved the peace of nature, absolutely, but more than that. He loved the act of living, in his own way.
I’m going to try to finish it for him. I can’t expect to write like he does, but I’m going to finish the research, the story of the woman he loved. And then, I’m going to take it somewhere and see if I can’t get it published. It must be possible. It’s too good, it’s one for the ages. I don’t know what I’ll tell them, maybe that I made it all up, but that doesn’t seem right. Maybe I’ll just tell them the truth. A man showed up at my house and said he used to know someone that lived there. I decided to help him find out who it was. We’ll see, we’ll figure it out when we get there. All I know is I have to see this through.
Marcus Emanuel lives and writes in Chicago. He received his Masters of English from DePaul University and his Bachelors in Film and Television from New York University. He has previously been published in The Rag Literary Magazine, Loud Zoo, and others.
5 Questions with Marcus Emanuel:
TD: Tell us a little about this story? Where did the idea come from?
ME: I’ve always been fascinated by Thoreau, both by what an interesting thinker he was and what a curmudgeon. A few years ago, I noticed I sort of carried my imaginary version of him around with me. If I saw something especially modern, or if I tried to imagine our world from a historical perspective, I would work through it by having an imaginary conversation with this Thoreau. What would he make of all of it? How would he react? I decided to try to squeeze him into a story, see whose doorstep he would land on, and this is what I ended up with.
TD: Who is your greatest writing influence?
ME: Equal part Dostoyevsky and David Foster Wallace.
TD: What is your favorite place to write and why?
ME: In the South Garden of the Art Institute of Chicago on my lunch break. Because the honey locust trees are just the right blend of light and shade.
TD: Do you hand write your work or go directly to the keyboard?
ME: Directly to the keyboard. Either on the laptop or the phone.
TD: What book would you want on a desert island?
ME: Robinson Crusoe