A Story About 10,000 Love Letters

The gym is a funny place in that some of the regulars get a snapshot of who they think you are based upon the brief snippets of information they secure through parts and pieces of conversation you exchange.

Some six hours earlier a guy asked me if I could build a house because one of those fragments led him to believe that I once was a general contractor as opposed to a former project manager.

When I said my degree was in journalism he asked me why I haven’t made a living as a writer and I told him that at times I have.

He asked me how and I said I used to write romance novels and he started laughing.

“You, a guy like you could never write romance novels. You are too much of the kind of guy who wants the world to see him as a tough guy.”

I shook my head, told him I am not a tough guy at all. Said that I am a regular Joe and that if I wanted to tell him a story about 10,000 love letters I could do it.

He shook his head and said do it.

“If I was going to indulge you I might start with the Marlowe poem about the Passionate Shepherd to his love or suggest you listen to one of these songs.”

He told me he wasn’t familiar with any of them and I said too bad and walked away.

“Josh, you’re kidding, aren’t you?”

“No.”

You Don’t Know Me

I didn’t expect him to follow me to the treadmill to ask more questions and to try to figure out whether I was pulling his leg.

“You can’t leave me hanging like that.”

“Hanging like what?”

“What is your story? Who are you?”

“I already told you. I am a regular Joe that has lived a little bit.”

“No, I am curious about what that means.”

“It means what it means. I am an open book to those who deserve it and a two dimensional creature to the rest. I am a ‘take a second look’ and think kind of man. I alternate between silly and intense without effort or recognition that it is happening. That is what and who I am.”

“Dude, I can’t decide if that means there is depth to you or just fed me bullshit.”

“Probably bullshit.”

He stared at me for a moment and then told me he still didn’t believe I could write a 10,00o letter love story. I shook my head and said it was a 10,000 love letter and not 10,000 letters.

“Back in my day stories had word counts, so you say 10,000 letters and I start trying to convert that to words. Doesn’t sound like much to me.”

“Have you written love letters?”

I shook my head again and said I might have. “Hell, maybe one or two are still floating around.”

“What do you mean one or two?”

“I am just thinking out loud. You never know who holds onto what.”

We went back and forth and he tried to pry open the gates to the inner sanctum.

“I appreciate the company on the treadmill because you make me forget that I am hungry and ready for dinner, but I don’t have more to say. You don’t know me so you don’t know I am not the guy who is going to tell you more just because you push. I am not bothered by that nor do I need to prove that I have done anything I said.

I am blunt, grouchy and have a sharp edge.”

The Changes Keep Coming

Sometimes when I see my reflection I wonder who that guy is and when he became me.

I wonder if the changes seem as stark and dramatic for others or if it is softer because they see me, at least the physical part. The other side isn’t shared often or easily.

The older I get the more reserved I become in some ways and the more tolerant/intolerant of different things. I expect this makes me like every other human being, no better and nor worse.

Some of these changes are more noticeable because dad’s death woke me up in some ways, but some were coming long before.

I’ll celebrate New Year’s Eve on my own this year and I am good with that, but I am sure that I’ll think about past years.

I am sure I’ll think about the 17 or 18 consecutive New Year’s celebrations with the gang and how fragmented we have become.

For the longest while it seemed like we were as tight as could be and then life happened and who we were became who we used to be.

I am good with that too because it’s a natural thing but at the same time there are moments where I feel the loss of that community and wonder if it is just me.

Might be, might not be, I am a contradiction.

Lots of times I prefer to be in the crowd with those who have been around forever and lots of time I am happy with my own company or just a person or two.

****

Soon enough I’ll be back in LA for a brief moment and will take time to visit my father.

I can’t decide whether I can’t wait or dread going. Can’t decide if it matters how I feel because I won’t really know until I get there, but the anticipation makes it clear it will mean something.

The days of hospice and the funeral were a blur and it took some distance to remember some parts. I wonder if going back will bring along other memories.

I didn’t tell the guy at the gym any of this stuff. Didn’t mention anything about dad and that is ok too.

Dad wouldn’t care if this guy ever knew a thing about him nor me. If I asked he’d say it depended on what is important to me and it is not important that this guy know much of anything.

****

Just before I left the gym the guy asked me again if I would share something I had written.

“Sometimes I ache.”

“What does that mean?”

“It depends on the context, now doesn’t it.”

“What is the context?”

“That is for you to determine. I have to go, it is Indian food tonight and I am hungry. I ache. :)”

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