Letter 5

Dear _____,

Listening in on these phone calls to review contracts, I think Maybe I should have been a lawyer. They are fixated on language, the intent behind words. Meanwhile my work has predominantly focused on the meaning in numbers. But recently, the question I ponder from a media planning perspective is how to find people.

Still, in the off-hours I can be preoccupied with language. I have been wondering about “the bagel place.” Do you want anything from the bagel place? I never call it a shop.

The most charming aspect of my office is a tiny bit of graffiti visible from one of the windows. At first I thought it was inscribed in chalk, but the words remain on a brick chimney opposite the
building. Perfectly legible but too far to capture with my phone’s camera. I enclose my latest attempt.


Saturday we dressed for a wedding. I worked myself up into anger over a blood stain on my shirt collar. This has always been me: spilling, staining, ripping, losing. It soured my mood, just before we hailed a cab in the humid gray afternoon. At the restaurant, a gaggle of perfect gays—tailored pants, pocket squares, fans, and the right amount of chest hair peeking through the unbuttoned collar—compounded my self-loathing.

The blood reminded me of the beginning of The Goldfinch.
Whenever you see flies or insects in a still life—a wilted petal, a black spot on the apple—the painter is giving you a secret message. He’s telling you that living things don’t last—it’s all temporary. Death in life. That’s where they’re called natures mortes. Maybe you don’t see it at first with all the beauty and bloom, the little speck of rot. But if you look closer—there it is.
I spoke to my aunt that day. She said, “If they told me, ‘We’ve done all we could do’ then my heart would be broken.” Matter of fact.

We saw a rainbow after the storm. In Greenwich Village, in Jersey City, in the hospital in New Brunswick. Of course we prayed it was a sign.

On Sunday they hugged and my aunt said, “We have to pray to our mothers.” My mother said, “Pour some of that holy water on him. It worked for Lauren.” On the car ride to dinner in Whippany, my parents, my cousin, and I all agreed it couldn’t hurt.

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