By Peter Schwartz


There’s no greater monster than the amnesia we feed into from our nightly perches.   I’ve forgotten more in forty years than you’ll remember in your whole life.   Apologies won’t help so I’ll just give you one quick piece of advice then be done.  You’re your own children and have the choice to stay young or grow up which will effectively kill them.  Be whatever you can live with then never look back.  That’s all.

Sorry, as usual, there’s more.  Numbness must be the most common state in the world, and yet, if you show people this, if you make no effort to hide your lack of feelings, I can almost guarantee you will have problems.  If 99 people out of a 100 pretend something, that 1 person who doesn’t ruins the whole charade. That person will be attacked until he or she pretends, or worse.  So go ahead, live on Mars, but make sure you make regular Earthly appearances.  And smile, but only a little bit, and never, under any circumstances, show them all of your teeth.

Don’t try to be clean in this life.  You’ll only disappoint and frustrate yourself and those around you.   I hardly know anything about happiness but if I imagine the happiest person on earth, it’s a woman with period blood smeared on her face, shooting hollow points at the police.  Or a young boy who has no idea it is not normal to eat egg noodles with margarine 5 times a week.   I tried to hide everything from you and I believe you hate me for that but I also believe that it is easier to hate a single person than the whole world, so, that is my gift to you.  Either way, happy birthday.

As you grow older, you may become shocked at how expensive everything is.  Fresh fruits and vegetables cost what meat once did.  And if you want either without pesticides or growth hormones, forget about it. Yeah, poisons are so common they don’t even call them poisons anymore.  And sorry, but this is just the beginning.  Emotionally, things can really get expensive.  If I smile at a toddler in the supermarket, more often than not his or her parents will give me a dirty look like I’m going to molest him or her right there near the canned beats.  Ridiculous, but if trust were sold by the pound it would cost somewhere in the thousands or even millions.  And the price for trying to love someone?  Well, you see what happened with us.

Okay, I just read these last two parts over again and realize they totally contradict each other which might confuse you.  I’d mention something about my intentions being good but I think we’re way beyond that.   So, I’ll use this to illustrate my last point.  Never be afraid to contradict yourself.  If you say one thing and then another, it doesn’t necessarily make you a liar because that’s just the nature of language.  It plays tricks.  It’s better to be big, to be a billion zillion things that nobody can piece together or make sense of than to be small and probably still misunderstood in the end.  That’s exactly where I went wrong with you.   I tried to shrink myself into something you could understand because I didn’t want you to feel overwhelmed like I always have, both as a child and as an adult.   I wanted your world to be something that could sit on your dresser, that you could stare at like a simple pet as you brushed your hair, or turn away from as you read a book.  It can’t be though.  Sorry, but the price of that kind of calm is dying inside.  Happiness is a giant monster that must be hunted.  There is no escaping the wilderness.



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PETER SCHWARTZ is a poet, photographer, and writer. His poetry has been featured in The Columbia Review, Diagram, and Opium magazine. His photography has appeared online at CELLA’s Round Trip, eyeshot, and Litterbox magazine. His fiction in such places as Nano Fiction, Pindeldyboz, Prism Review, and DOGZPLOT, where he is art editor. He thanks God and O.C.D. for his extensive publishing credits.

9 responses to “40”

  1. Mary Richert says:

    Happiness is indeed a giant monster. Great advice!

  2. Ha, thank you so much Mary–that’s probably my favorite line of the whole piece so that makes me happy.

  3. “If 99 people out of a 100 pretend something, that 1 person who doesn’t ruins the whole charade.”

    yes, indeed. Everything’s a cliche until the undeniable truth is squeezed out of it.

  4. D.R. Haney says:

    Norman Mailer once said that as we get older, the various parts of ourselves increasingly come together. I can only hope that he, and anyone else who ever advanced such a notion, was right.

    On that note: happy fortieth.

  5. Sean,

    That’s a great line (yours)! It makes me look out at the world and think: wow, I have a lot of work to do. You’ll help me out though, my fellow cliche-squeezer. Rah rah rah…

  6. D.R.,

    I LOVE that quote. It certainly is an interesting notion. Intuitively, that’s exactly how I feel. I’m forever just now REALLY getting it together. I’d say I feel that way more than half the time. The other times I feel spiritually tired and beaten down by this thing called the world and miss my youthful energy even though it was basically a form of autopilot compared to this this I have now.

    And thanks for the birthday wish. 40 wasn’t quite as painful as I thought.

  7. Irene Zion says:

    40 is bubkis.
    I like how you write.

    (If you would email me your street address, I could send you a very, very late Christmas card.
    I’ll understand if you choose not to.
    [email protected] )

  8. Irene Zion says:


  9. Irene, thanks. I like how you write too. You’re my Christmas card. Happy new year.

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