…to an elusive vandal

I came home one day to find the traces of your passing. You left behind tiny round black droplets of evidence beside your vandalism. As if deliberate destruction was not enough, you littered too.

It was my home you treaded on. The havoc you wreaked was discouraging, it soured my enthusiasm and left a bitter tang of injustice. Trying to rationalise that it was beyond your comprehension quelled my displeasure only just. It did not change that I was left with a mess to clean up, with damage to repair.

And each day I came home the devastation grew and my excitement wilted. I chased off some of your accomplices, made sure they would not be back again, but you were more elusive. High and low I looked, kept a watchful eye every chance I could but you circumvented my search grids and continued to gnaw at my sanity.

Whether it is a virtue or a vice it is not my position to say, but I am fastidiously diligent. I admit it got a little bit out of hand; it became a bit of a witch-hunt.

In my defense I was protecting my patch, defending the innocent. My tomato plants had done absolutely nothing to you. The gluttonous rate at which you devoured my seedlings was infuriatingly remarkable.

Your appetite however, was your undoing. You grew to such a size that you could no longer hide and when we did finally meet face to antennae I hope your tiny green eyes were as shocked as mine. For a hesitatingly lengthy second I deliberated squishing you, but a worthy adversary deserves respect. I picked you up with two fingers and quickly raced you over to my neighbour’s tomatoes. Whether you eventually morphed into a moth I will never know.

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…to Mrs. Coleman

I am not certain what your intentions were, whether there was a plan at all. I can only assume that the decision to make me read to the class was one based on an attempt to shame me. Me, not Lyntin, despite the fact he had been the one to take my book, and all I was guilty of was reading. A teacher punishing a student for reading, seems counterproductive to me.

I will afford you the benefit of context, but it will do little to explain, much less excuse, your actions.

It’s lunchtime and I am buried in a book, Tommo and Hawk by Bryce Courtenay to be precise. I am eleven years old. I concede that it is a bit beyond my age group, but just weeks before you were praising the fact my reading level was sixteen. Lyntin takes the book and runs into the boys’ toilets. I follow him to his dismay and attempt to wrestle my book back. I ask a teacher for help. She berates me for going into the boys’ lavatories, then sees the title of the book and runs off to find you. So much for the authorities being on my side.

Recess is over and two teachers are whispering to each other in front of me. My friends shoot me questioning looks, the classroom is quiet. I keep an eye on my book in your hands. I want it back.

You look at me, then the class, you make a little speech I do not remember the words of, and suddenly I am at the front of the room and my book is put back into my hands and I am asked to read.

You had creased the spine at a particular chapter, a specific page. Through your small square spectacles you tried to read my reaction at your request.

I hesitated a second, I knew which part you are asking me to read. Despite all of the violence, the child abduction and brutality, the torture and war and rape you asked me to read one of the rare moments of tenderness in the story, the part where Hawk loses his virginity. A small glimmer of human intimacy in over 600 pages of strife and survival, you pick that chapter. Who knows what you were thinking.

I looked at you and the small, well concealed victorious grin you held back and my shoulders squared and I cleared my throat.

You didn’t expect me to start reading did you? You weren’t counting on it is my best guess. The moment my high pitched unwavering voice started telling a roomful of your pre-pubescent charges (who between you and me had the combined reading level of an illiterate high school dropout) about silken thighs in the moonlight that you shut this little exercise down and sent me back to my desk.

Did you think you were teaching me a lesson? Which one? Seriously, I am asking.

I learnt that superiors are hardly infallible. Next time think it through first.

…to an almost

Your abuse began on the platform, where you yelled and swore in our faces. Your speech was so slurred from the bourbon you held in one hand and the beer in the other that I still do not know what you said.

The dog you dragged along with you looked at us in apologetic resignation and then made a beeline for the tracks as the train approached. His attempted suicide gave us a head start and we moved four carriages away. You followed, shoving Zeta over as you passed. Clearly you were looking to start something.

You are not the first unhinged person I have met on the underground, and I am certain I will meet a few more, but thus far you certainly take the prize. In every category including intoxication, belligerence and stench.

A fetid forcefield of excrement accompanied you and settled in the carriage, a noxious and nebulous insult to the nostrils, so pungent and suffocating that it was more akin to the fetor of decay. You left the heavy taste of putrefaction in the air.

The itch to retch was overwhelming. I could feel my esophagus convulse and though your malodour was bad enough from a distance, you decided to get closer.

I do not take well to being threatened. If you were expecting me to back down you picked the wrong commuter. You toed the line, figuratively and literally; sizing me up but so inebriated the only thing that kept you standing was the support bar on the train.

I gave you fair warning to get out of my face. I tried not to breathe in the smell of your gangrenous liver that bubbled up with every menacing word you misarticulated. Had you touched me you would have ended up on the floor sooner than you had planned.

The other passengers intervened.

…to an old Sard

Let me begin by saying that this is an apology, though at first it really will not seem like one.

My whole life I have been told to respect my elders. Teachers and caregivers push the implication that age necessarily begets wisdom, but I have always found this a difficult pill to swallow.

Though I understand the rationale and I concede that experience affords perspective, I reject the notion that I should respect someone solely based on the fact they have had more birthdays than I have; age should not hold more weight than the content of discourse.

It is not the case that I am actively disrespectful, rather, for me, age simply does not factor into the decision to treat you with deference or not. I use the general “you” here of course. If I disagree with your argument, I have no qualms at saying so, irrespective of the number of times you have orbited the sun.

“Elders” tend to dislike my position on the matter; authority figures in particular. My mother has had many prickly conversations with me on the subject.

It could have been such a gratifying evening. Your home, the food, the wine, the heat, it mixed into a heady cocktail of age old summers I have to look forward to, an amalgamation of the fleeting vigour of juvenescence and the sensation of being a part of something perennial.

You recounted stories from your life, from a myriad of professions you had undertaken, and you spoke of struggle and hardships like cool water on parched lips. You spoke of now, of the impending social and ecological crises you still felt it was your duty to avert. At age 84 you talked of legacy and future.

My awe and veneration at our conversation was blemished by the mortification I felt at being associated with him, the one I am apologising for. He seems up to the times at first impression, forward thinking and charismatic, a glint of idealistic enthusiastic youth. Only at very first impression. The wool had already been removed from my eyes, but you were to be his next unsuspecting casualty. For this I am truly sorry.

With every word he uttered he revealed his industrialised bigotry, the short sightedness of his point of view, and the uninformed timbre of his opinions.

I sunk deeper into my chair and tried to be fascinated by the drizzle of honey left on my dessert plate. I did not think even he could fit so many isms in his discourse.

You had the grace to let him speak.

Some people are impervious to wisdom, no matter how much time they have spent on this earth.

…to the boy in August

05

I do not remember much of the context anymore, that’s true. I was little. We both were. In my mind, it makes your action that much more incomprehensible. I do not understand it now and I certainly did not then. I was seven. At most, you were eight.

It was August, sticky stifling August. We sat in a row on a poorly shaded bench waiting for the trapeze. The excited chattering blended with the cicadas in my ears. I stayed quiet, instead studying the geometrical weave of the net, the white puffs of chalk were the closest things to cloud up there in the blue. I was entranced by the knowledge that soon I would be up there, high and flying.

Your jostling cut through my thoughts as it dominoed down the line. Your voice was raspy, your tone inflated. I looked at you and you stared back. The sand felt sweaty in my sandals.

“Do you dare me to spit on her?”

Your question must have been rhetorical because you did not wait for a response from your friends.

The cicadas seemed louder, or maybe it was the rush in my ears. Airless August grew hotter but you laughed. With a hesitant fingertip I removed your spit from my shoulder and wiped it in the dirt. I did not say anything. I had not yet quite learnt how to speak.

If I could re-enter that moment I would ask you why, though I am fairly certain you would not have an answer. Perhaps the question might have brought you enough pause to rethink your amusement. I’m fairly certain I don’t believe that.

I did not say anything, and a part of me is content with that. Instead I climbed, up into the blue.

…to the girl with the mocha

I posit you this. In what universe does cappuccino sound like mocha?

Seriously. I’m not indulging in the rhetorical, I want an answer. I have been wracking my brain trying to figure out by what process exactly you hijacked my caffeine the other morning.

Let me paint you a picture, maybe jog your memory a little.

It was still quiet at the coffee stand, no earlier than eight thirty or so. Pretty much the only sounds were my stomach growls and the squeaked rumble of the steam spout on the coffee machine.

The barista turned to us and asked “Chocolate sprinkles on the staff size cappuccino?” Loud, clear, articulate. He didn’t even mumble, nor did he have an accent.

I said no. I don’t have chocolate sprinkles on my cappuccino. If I wanted chocolate with my coffee I would order a mocha. I’m not five, I don’t need to trick my palate into drinking coffee. I like coffee.

You said yes. Apparently a giant spoonful of sweet cocoa in your milk is not enough for you. You wanted sprinkles too. And sprinkles you got. Or rather I got them.

The barista, poor man, looked a little bit confused but when you stepped forward to claim the cup he dutifully powdered the milk froth and handed it to you, “and for the mocha?” Now it was my turn to be confused, why was he looking at me? Silly person I was I assumed you had ordered a cappuccino too.

You laughed. A vacant little giggle. “Oh, the mocha is mine!”

I have never wanted to hashtag bitch slap someone to that extent.

The sole reason I refused the baristas offer to make me another and quickly hurried off with my sprinkle contaminated beverage is because had I stayed I would have risked performing this little rant face to face, pouring out not just my annoyance but perhaps the cup you handed back to me over your head. Some days I should get points just for not stabbing anyone with a fork.

Do the world a favour, go to Starbucks next time. It’s your kind of place. They’ve got so many toppings and flavours you won’t even know you’re drinking coffee.

…to someone with resolve

Today is just like yesterday, and the day before. Time is a continuum and there’s no perceptible change in another sunrise, another nightfall. One more revolution around the sun complete, but the beginning and end of the loop is a cultural construct at best. Nothing wrong with that in my book.

I had the chance to get to know you this year, to form a friendship, to start a bond. I watched you navigate some inclement weather, and ride the tides in and out. I did my best to be a good man in a storm; at the very least a distracting smile.

Your smile and laughter never fades, even when tired, even when grave, there’s something about you that putters on. It’s admirable. It’s contagious. I hope it’s contagious. I’ll rub myself all over you if need be. I can hear you creasing at my words, banter always gets us through the day.

I had the chance to share in joy with you, and cake and pints and pasta sauce and chocolate-chip-honey-comb cookies with you. I do my best to memorise the highs.

So while today is just like any day, I know that tomorrow and the next day holds amazing things in store for you. You persevere and push yourself hard to do what you love. Your talent is earned. If you reap what you sow, well, plenty of sunshine is headed your way.

Happy new year.

…to my first kiss

It was the end of summer. It was underwater.

Perhaps you don’t remember. It’s okay if you don’t. It sounds so much better than it was. It wasn’t earth shattering, or particularly momentous but it was my first, so I remember. Perhaps in too great a detail.

I am a person of details. I find them to be indulgent but indispensable. For me, memories lie in the specifics that encircle sentiment: evening, birthday sleepover, swimming, early pubescent skiting, neon green bikini, cartoon boxer shorts. Details.

Agitation was the sentiment on this occasion. I remember being nervous. I pretended to be uninterested and rolled my eyes when Truth or Dare was suggested. A desperate attempt to shroud my apprehension in casual bravado. I doubt I succeeded. You stayed quiet.

It is my most profound of hopes that you don’t remember. Not that it was awful, or particularly regrettable. It was what it was: timid, soft, chlorinated, fleeting, a bit rushed actually.

Which brings me to the reason for this letter. I would like a do-over.

Everybody deserves a second chance. I feel that given the opportunity I would deliver a far more refined and memorable performance.

I realise obstacles lay between us; we live in different countries, we haven’t seen each other since the end of high school, you have a girlfriend.. but these are far from insurmountable odds. Pitted against the magic I know we are capable of achieving you would be foolish to hesitate.

…to a seat thief

01

Make no mistake, I know you saw me. Other people saw you, but their commiseration while welcome was of little comfort.

You looked me right in the eye before swiftly descending onto that seat cushion; the bedraggled bun atop your head swaying dangerously side to side in your haste. I made the mistake of politely letting people pass me to get off the train. How rookie of me.

I had been standing for seven stations and I had another eight or so to go. I concede there was no way you could have known that. Really, I do. What irks me is that you saw me patiently waiting. I was less than two feet from the space. You came in the doors, followed the procession of people getting off the train and sat yourself down while I watched in dismay.

Staring ahead and avoiding my disbelieving stare fooled no one. It made your crime more conspicuous if anything. Yellow-bellied criminal. If you are going to have the audacity to steal buttock real estate in the clear yet grainy artificial light of the Piccadilly underground, at least have the courage to acknowledge your success. Perhaps even flaunt it. Rookie.

I don’t have such misgivings; I took a picture of you.