March 24/April 19

I’ve emailed them giving notice and hopefully that’ll all go smoothly. I’m sorry for not checking in with you guys first…I just had to get out of there, and everything you could have told me to make me stay I pretty much know already, so— Hey, let my mom down easy, okay? Tell her I suck at doing right by me, so she shouldn’t feel bad if I suck at doing right by her too. She’s definitely going to be hurt… having this whole route all mapped out for her son, “middle management, here we come”, and instead it’s like, no, hit the brakes, put the car back in the garage! Well—have fun thinking about all this and figuring out all the ways I could/should have stayed; the point is, I’m leaving, and just so you know where I’m headed, there’s a high-powered consultant here, ____, who’s always really liked talking with me; he asked me as soon as he heard what was happening to please crash at his place and take it easy through the spring. They’ll give me all the space I need, he promises, and he and I are on the exact same wavelength, so I’m just going to go for it and stay with him.

Hey. Thanks for both of your letters. I didn’t write back because I was sitting on this draft until I’d officially left the company; I was scared my mom would write to Jim and make everything harder. But it’s over now, I’m out. They were so sad to see me go—the head of HR even wrote me th… hm, I feel like I shouldn’t be telling you this, I’m sure this is hard enough on you guys already. The CFO managed to slip me a $5,000 severance cheque along with a note that moved me to tears, so you can tell my mom I don’t need that money I texted you about after all.

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May 5

I’m heading out tomorrow, and since the place I grew up is only six miles from the consultant’s house, I think I want to stop by and look around again, reminisce about those good old times when all I did was dream and be happy… I want to come in by exactly the route my mom drove out with me after Dad died and she left that dear cozy place to go immure herself in the Big City. Adieu, Will — I’ll keep you posted on my roamings.

May 9

I went into this visit home like a pilgrim, devout, contemplative… and a lot of big, unexpected feelings hit me there. When my taxi reached the big linden tree about fifteen minutes from Main Street, I had the driver stop and let me out so I could keep going on foot and savor every memory as vividly as possible. And then, there I was, standing under the linden, the exact tree I always walked out to as a kid, that was as far as I was allowed to go from home. What a change! I was so innocent back then…so eager to head out into the unknown world, so sure I’d find all this sustenance and delight out there for my heart, to satisfy the cravings in my soul…and now here I am coming back from that wide world — oh, Will, with so many failed hopes and ruined plans! — I looked out at those hills I used to always dream of climbing. I could sit here for hours and float myself over them, send my soul wandering through the forests and valleys sitting right in front of me, all dappled and beautiful; and then when time was up, it was like pulling teeth to drag me home from that dear place! — I walked farther into town, waving hello to all the little old houses I recognized, feeling grumpy at the new ones and all the other construction going up. But then I turned a corner onto Main Street, and — I was back. I won’t get into details, Will — it would be just as boring on paper as it was powerful in person. I’d decided to stay in a hotel off the green, right by our old house. On my way over, I saw that my old school building, the place I spent so much of my childhood penned up in, had been converted into condos! I remembered all the restlessness, the crying, the brain-dulling/soul-crushing I went through in there… — Every step I took, there was something affecting. It was like a personal Stations of the Cross, moment after moment of religious remembrance and sacred soul-filling emotion… Here’s one more, out of a thousand. I went walking down the river towards this one particular park (this was also a path I used to take all the time) to the spot where we used to get together as kids and skip stones. And I had such a vivid flashback of how I used to stand there and watch the water and send all these strange fantasies chasing after it and try to imagine all the amazing places it was flowing off to, and pretty soon I’d come up against the limits of my imagination, but it just kept going, on and on, until I lost myself completely staring into the invisible distance. — See, Will, that’s how limited and happy people were in ancient times! that’s how childlike their feelings and their poetry were! When Odysseus talks about the measureless sea and the endless earth, it’s so true, human, deep, close, and mystical. Sure, I can say it’s round, and good for me, A+, but what good does that do me? You only need a few handfuls of earth to be happy on, and even less to rest beneath.

I’m at the consultant’s summer house now. It’s nice, he’s really easy to live with — just an honest, straightforward guy. The weirdest people keep coming over whom I can’t really wrap my head around. They don’t…seem like con men? but they don’t exactly feel like honest people, either. Sometimes they do come off honest, but even then I don’t quite trust them. The other thing that bugs me is that he has a tendency to go on and on about things he’s only vaguely heard or read about, and (even worse) to just parrot back whatever angle people have tried to spin for him.

Plus, he values my intellect and my skills more than my heart, which is the one thing I’m actually proud of, the one source of all my strength and bliss and misery. Eh, the stuff I know, anyone can know — but my heart? That’s mine.

May 25

I had something in mind I didn’t want to tell you about until I’d made it happen…but now since it’s not going anywhere I guess there’s no harm. I wanted to join the army; it’s something I’ve been seriously considering for a long time. Honestly, that’s the main reason I followed the consultant out here, because he’s a vet with a lot of connections. While we were out walking, I shared my plan with him, he shot it down, and I would’ve had to be stubborn to the point of stupid not to listen to his advice.

June 11

Look, I hear what you’re saying, but I can’t keep staying here. What am I supposed to DO here? The days just draaaag onnnn… The consultant’s being as good to me as anyone could, but this isn’t where I’m supposed to be. We just fundamentally don’t have anything in common. He’s a thoughtful person, but all his thoughts are so conventional; I get about as much out of talking to him as I would out of reading a textbook. I’m giving myself another eight days and then I’m heading back out into the Unknown. Sigh. Well, this hasn’t been a total waste of time — I have done a lot of drawing. The Consultant has good taste in art, and it‘d be even better if he weren’t so bogged down in theory and this whole academic/critical vocabulary. It drives me crazy sometimes, when I’m exploring some idea with him about nature or art, grappling with it in a really personal, passionate way, and he thinks he can totally *nail it!* by butting in with some prepackaged gobbledygook.

June 16

Damn right, I’m just a wanderer, a seeker roaming through life! What, like you’re not?

June 18

Where am I headed? Okay…but this stays between you and me. I have to stay here another two weeks, and after that I’ve been pretending to myself that I want to go hike the ______tian Trail; but that’s a lie, I just want to be nearer to Lotte, that’s all. Heh. Follow your heart, right?

July 29

No, I’m fine, everything’s fine! — Me — with her! Oh Lord, when You made me, if You’d put that blessing aside for me, my whole life would be one neverending prayer. I — I don’t mean to be ungrateful, forgive me for these tears, forgive me for these stupid wishes! — Her…with me! If I could have taken the most amazing person in the world into my arms — A chill runs down my whole body, Will, when Albert puts his arm around her slender waist…

And, can I say this? Why not, Will? She would have been happier with me than him! Oh, he’s not the man to make all that heart’s dreams come true. A real lack of sensitivity, a lack — however you want to put it: that his heart doesn’t beat sympathetically at — oh! — at a passage in a beloved book, where my heart and Lotte’s line up EXACTLY; in a hundred other cases, when our feelings come out about how someone else was acting…mmm, Will! — But he really does love her with his whole heart, and a love like that…deserves so much!

// a fucking telemarketer interrupted me. My tears have dried. I’m over it. Goodbye, dear friend!

August 4

I’m not the only one. Everyone’s hopes, everyone’s dreams end up crashing and burning. I went to visit that nice woman under the linden tree. Her oldest kid came running up to me, all “Mom, look who it is!!!”, she came over, looking totally defeated: first thing she said was: “Ah, Mister — Henry’s dead!” The baby, remember… I just stood there. “And my husband’s back from Vermont,” she said, “came back totally empty-handed, and if we hadn’t had good friends out there he would have had to beg for bus fare, he caught pneumonia on the road.” I had no words… I gave the kid a few bucks, she asked me to take a couple apples from their farm, which I did, and I walked away from that place and all its painful memories.

August 21

I’m like a yo-yo, up and down… sometimes I actually do get flashes of some kind of happy ending, for like a second! I drift off into daydreams, and… and I can’t help thinking: what if…Albert died? You’d totally! yeah, she’d totally — and then I go chasing that fantasy ’til it leads me to cliff-edges and I back away, shuddering…

When I head out now along the road I drove up that first time, when I went to pick Lotte up for the dance… it was all so different! It’s all gone, all of it! Not a trace of the world the way it was back then, not a heartbeat of my feelings from before… I feel like a ghost coming back to the burned-out rotting mansion he built in the prime of his life, decked out with everything money could buy, and left, as he died, to his beloved son, with such high hopes…