Dear Suzanne,

 

I never really liked you that much. The reason I randomly called you and asked you out was that my best friend at the time Philip said that I should try to get out there. I would have actually preferred to go on a date with Kim because she had big tits.

 

 

Dear Michelle,

 

Sorry I screamed that you were a slut when you told me to calm down after I threw a book across the room in reading class. You were right, I did need to calm down, but I was freaking out because Mrs. M didn’t understand that I didn’t want my father “helping” me either, but that he was an overbearing prick obsessed with my education because he had been ignored by his parents and turned to school as an escape.

 

 

Dear Nancy,

 

Sorry I hit on you in a crude and I’m sure offensive manner that night at your party. Don’t know if you heard, but I wound up in the hospital that night.

 

 

Dear Dr. Abadi,

 

It’s really fucked up that you used to get mad and complain that I drooled too much when you worked on my teeth. As an adult I realize that HAVING YOUR HAND IN MY MOUTH might have had something to do with that. By making such a big deal of my cavities you were inadvertently the cause of me getting hit by my father for the first time in public. Oh, and my new dentist said that you’re a shit dentist. He had to re-do a lot of the work you did so maybe instead of concentrating on how much I drooled you should have read a dental journal or something. Hope you’ve gotten sued since then, you fucking prick.

 

 

Dear Mrs. Greenstein,

 

I know everybody in school hated you but I loved you. You brought me Twinkies and other snacks when you tutored me after school. I had just moved from NYC and no-one was nice to me then, so your kindness meant a lot to me. Also, I heard many kids say they hated you because you ate pretzels during class and they felt like that was taunting them because they couldn’t eat during class, but I knew about your health condition, I knew why you did that. Sorry I didn’t explain this to the other students. I just wasn’t there yet, you know?

 

 

Dear Kelly,

 

I’d only known you a short time when you were diagnosed with MS. You couldn’t understand why I didn’t run for the hills, but I explained that I wasn’t that shallow. I spent 14 hours on a Greyhound bus to come see you. I bought groceries, I cooked and cleaned for you, gave you massages and soothed you during your panic attacks. I treated you better than I’ve ever treated any other human being. You paid me back by going totally cold and rejecting me after about a week. Did you love me so much you hurt me so I’d run away and not have to take care of you anymore? If so, thanks I guess, but really, shouldn’t that have been my choice?

 

 

Dear Babysitter,

 

Sorry I didn’t hug you that time you asked for one. I don’t know if you just wanted a hug or if that was the start of a long, elaborate plan to molest me, but either would have been okay because you were really hot.

 

 

Dear Liz Chang,

 

Sorry we walked all the way to Closter to see a movie and then couldn’t see it because I only had enough money to pay for me. You might not believe this, but I thought if I paid for you I’d look like some old-fashioned loser so I purposely didn’t bring any more money.

 

 

Dear Yling (the other babysitter),

 

I hope you rot in hell, you ungrateful slut. My parents paid for you to fly to America, paid for your schooling, everything. And you slept with my dad and fucked up our family as thanks. I hope you know my dad has women issues and would sleep with anyone. You weren’t even cute.

 

 

Dear Lisa,

 

I have two memories of you. One is of you giving me crabs. The other is of us playing basketball at my house. I was standing at half-court and asked what you’d do if I got the ball in from there. You said your body would be mine for the night and goddamn if I didn’t sink that shot. I felt like such a winner and loved when you asked me suck or fuck as I started to claim my prize. I guess these two memories balance each other out.

 

 

Dear Csaba,

 

Sorry I let Terrence Bates convince me I should fight you. He was also responsible for my only other high school fight, with John Larson. If it’s any consolation, you were much tougher than me and would have kicked my ass if Mr. Timmy the woodshop teacher hadn’t jumped in. That’s why I blindsided you like that, I knew I had no chance.

 

 

Dear Cousin Thomas,

 

I promise to never tell anyone we showed each other our penises as kids. I know you’re a big deal in the Coast Guard and that they probably frown on such behavior.

 

 

Dear Amanda,

 

Sorry for smacking you across the face that time at my birthday party. I had been drinking long before anyone got there and drunkenly remembered how you blackmailed me into letting you come even though we were broken up. And well, you know the rest. If I could do it all over again, I would marry you this time. I’ve never met a woman who I’ve been even half as attracted to as I was to you.

 

 

Dear Jennifer,

Why’d you sleep with me and then tell Amanda? I slept with Christine too and yeah she was kind of fat and ugly, but at least she knew how to keep her mouth shut!

 

 

Dear Uncle Arthur,

I know you’re dead now and it’s bad to speak ill of the dead and all, but man, I can’t believe you stole my boombox after my mother, your own sister, let you stay at our house. Even your crime buddy thought that was scummy and mailed us some of the stuff back (which I guess he stole from you), but I never did get that boombox back.

 

 

Dear Mets,

As a boy I went to one of your games and not one of you would give me an autograph. As the day wore on I asked photographers, batboys, concession stand workers, etc. for their signatures too but got nothing. What’s wrong with you assholes? Don’t you realize that crap can be really important to impressionable young boys? I wasn’t mocking you, I really wanted you to sign my stupid program.

 

 

Dear Eddie Malone,

God, I miss you. You’re the funniest person I’ve ever met. You had no inhibitions whatsoever when I knew you and I’ve aspired to that ever since. I didn’t and still don’t care that you did cocaine and Heather broke up with you. Truthfully, she was kind of weird anyway.

 

 

Dear Elissa,

Thanks for visiting me in the mental institution and bringing me a Bart Simpson doll. Susan told me that you cheated on me many times and it’s a little fucked up that you told me not to make art because that was “your thing,” but that was nice of you to visit. Besides, not to be a prick, but I’m actually a real artist now, and well, you’re probably not.

 

 

Dear Kazoo,

You were the best miniature schnauzer in the world. When they told me that you got hit by a car and that my dad and a police officer suffocated you in a trashbag, part of me died too. I used to love putting on your little red and black sweater and taking you for walks after a big snowstorm. You and I were the whole world during those moments.

 

 

Dear Grandpa Schwartz,

I doubt I ever told you I loved you unless my parents told me to say it to you which probably would have sounded forced and robotic, but I want you to know I keep a picture of you taped to the inside of my bathroom cabinet. It seems like nobody in the family (especially your wife) gave you much respect because you worked most of your life in a men’s clothing shop. But you know what? Fuck them. Fuck anyone who says a single bad word about you. You were kind. Maybe they don’t respect that, but I do.

 

 

Dear Other Dog (I forget your name),

They told me you jumped out of the window of our Chevy Citation one day. If that’s true, way to go. If I was an animal who could survive anywhere, believe me, I would have been right behind you.

 

 

Dear Grandpa Gaffney,

Thanks for reading to me in a rocking chair for all those hours. I don’t remember them, but mom swears that’s what we used to do. I like to think you’d be proud of me even though I can’t support myself.

 

 

Dear Aunt Barbara,

I was flattered at the time but it’s kind of fucked up that you taunted your husband by saying what a good kisser I was when all we ever did was peck. I think you might have boundary issues.

 

 

Dear Allen Ginsberg,

You’re by far the most overrated poet of all time and when I saw you at Manhattanville College you really sucked ass. That smoke-dope, eat-rope, smoke-dope stuff was embarrassing. I’ll never understand why the world doesn’t care that you were a pedophile. If you were alive and tried that shit now I would kill you in your sleep.

 

 

Dear Birthday Clown,

I know you were just doing your job but it mortified me when you pulled out that scarf and “my” underwear was on it. I wanted to scream that that was NOT my underwear but the silence had already overtaken me by then.

 

 

Dear Kibbutznik,

That was fucked up when you asked if I was a mute, if I understood English. Why did you ask that? Because I wasn’t jumping fast enough as you barked orders? You may live on a kibbutz but you sure don’t understand the ideology behind one, you sad prick. I have a degree in Literature with a minor in Creative Writing, thank you very much.

 

 

Dear Coach Clancy,

I can’t believe you told me to beat up anyone that got too close to me. Not very responsible adult behavior there, pal. And I think being a goalie actually ruined me. The pressure to defend and then the burning self-recrimination after I let a ball go by me, especially one I knew I should have saved, that feeling still haunts me over 20 years later.

 

 

Dear Kevin,

You always acted like this big tough guy but then you had your friend fight me instead of doing the dirty work yourself. Pretty pussy, you know? And why did you do it? Because Ed’s sister told you I read your diary. How do you think she knew I read it, you idiot? She read it too! I guess she was suspect anyway though, she said I raped her. I’ve never raped anybody.

 

 

Dear Moira,

I was totally humiliated when after the night my mom tried to commit suicide you asked if I was okay in school the next day. You knew about it because your mom was a volunteer EMT. Isn’t that some kind of breech of confidentiality? I know you asked because you cared, but I wish you didn’t.

 

 

Dear Social Worker,

I don’t know how I wound up with you trying to diagnose my autism and not a psychologist or psychiatrist but you know, you were a real bitch. You were almost immediately hostile, questioning why I even felt the need for a diagnosis and you totally judged me for not being employed which is obviously very unprofessional. I may be nothing in your world, but you’re even less in mine. Where are you published? What galleries have you shown your artwork in?

 

 

Dear Jeff,

I’ve demonized you badly enough not to miss you but, well, who am I kidding, I miss you. Sorry I told mom that you were the one to put the batteries in her gas tank. I have no idea what I did to deserve your silence but understand, I’ve cut off many people who probably didn’t deserve to be cut off in my life too. Peace.

 

 

Dear Lucian,

Holy shit. I had no idea I had to clean the tank. This sounds so stupid but I thought that’s what the filter was for. Sorry, you deserved better. RIP.

 

 

Dear Barry,

Thanks for being the father I never had even though you’re younger than me and it’s probably creepy to say that.

 

 

Dear Dad,

Are you dead yet?

 

 

 

 

 

Well, yippe-ki-yay. It’s December and it’s snowing in Texas. While people skid across the highway and spin into guardrails, I’m sitting in front of this blinking cursor, drinking coffee, while something with a piano in it winds its way out of speakers and into my head. It’s cold and my plans have been interrupted. Not just my weekend plans either, but all of them.

I find myself somehow acutely aware of everything around me. Instead of inspired I feel sadness. Not the depressed, debilitating kind, but the kind that is just there. It’s a part of me that is playing spectator and is unhappy with what he’s seeing. He sees what’s missing instead of what’s there. He sees the things that he can’t have instead of the things he can. He stands with his toes on the cliff’s edge, looking down at some incredible valley below instead of running into it.

He is tunnel-visioned. People see what they are looking for and right now all he knows is this uneasiness. It’s not even a conscious decision at this point, but instead something that has been around for such a long time that it’s grown comfortable, like old leather.  Memories come back like waves on a beach, each one washing in and leaving something old and forgotten on the shore. Always at this time of year. Always December.

Four years ago… I’m driving a new car, a super-cushy bank account, Christmas in five places, my family and my girlfriend’s at the time. I’m standing on stage in my own little empire, small and trivial, but mine nonetheless…

Three years ago… I’m dating a girl that I’m crazy about. There’s a concert in Shreveport. I go to Los Angeles to hang out. I’m eating dinner with the executive prouder of the Academy Awards. He couldn’t care less who I am, he’s just a friend of a friend, but it’s no less cool to me. I have huge plans. I’m anti-Christmas and she is committed to changing my mind about that. She buys me my favorite shirt and I get her a cat. It will end quickly and awkwardly in the almost immediate future.

Two years ago… I’m in St. Louis. I go on stage in ten minutes. My phone rings as I walk through the mall attached to the comedy club. I don’t have time to answer this, but I know she snuck away to call me. A few days later, an empty apartment, laying on the floor and staring at the ceiling… Everything has changed. The truck is packed. I leave for good in the morning. This could be a horrible mistake or it could be amazing. Now I’m flying to DC. My dad’s going in for surgery. My brother calls and tells me that things didn’t go so well. It’s a coma. Showtime is in an hour. Be funny now, Slade. I’m in the airport headed home. I read an email on my Blackberry that makes it a bit better, for the moment anyway. I spend Christmas day listening to piano music in the hospital lobby.

One year ago… This is a first. I’m not just disenchanted with Christmas, I’m dreading it. I’m packing my stuff again for my fifth move in twelve months. These Christmas carols are torturous. Certain people are gone forever, and other people are harder to reach. Oh, that’s why. Great. I’m back in DC now. God, this is déjà vu. I want to call my dad to say hello.  I instinctively pull out my phone and then silently slide it back into my pocket.  A year later and I still do that.  I bury my iPod in my backpack because every song reminds me of something. I send a text message. I don’t get a response.

This year… it is snowing. The DC club is closed now and I’ve decided that I never want to see that city again. Every time it comes up, I lose something else. More is gone every year. I watch as it deteriorates and fades around me. Maybe this is what it’s supposed to be like. Maybe I’m being stripped down to my emotional skeleton for a reason. I’ve given up trying to understand or make sense of other people’s actions. Find some solace in having been wrong about them. It makes you human. It pushes me to find congruency in my own life, a balance between what I say and what I do. I never want to contradict myself like that. Just click “delete” and move on…

It’s okay to feel this way this year. Just this year though. Immerse myself in it. Succumb to it. They tell you that you can’t, that you have to pick up your head and regroup and pull yourself up by your bootstraps. Who has bootstraps? I’m okay with the experience of it. Not every Christmas is blinking lights and children’s laughter and sugar cookies and sleigh rides. Sometimes you are allowed to watch it all from the street, through frosted windows, standing in the cold, wet air.

It is snowing.

It could be any of us outside that window, fogging up the glass, and if it’s you, take some comfort in the fact that you’re not the only one standing in that street this year.