By now you’ve probably realized that I’m not coming. I left home as planned, but where I ended up is not where I said I’d be. I have your temporary address and I hope you haven’t gone somewhere else—I know you haven’t come back to the apartment, at any rate. I have your mobile number, but I’m not going to call it.
You used to joke that I had no sentiment to bog me down, but I hope you realize how difficult this is. In all my long years, I never lived the way we did. It never occurred to me that I could. Hashem allowed me a sliver of imagination late in life (at least I hope it’s late in my life), and I found myself bound to you, not just as a guardian. You didn’t need guarding. No one who wore as many bowties as you needed protection. No one who forced packs of teens to stop idling their car engines needed protection.
Why now, when you finally need it, am I quitting my job? It’s a fair question, though I’m almost certain you aren’t asking it. Because that’s not how it works with you. When we were holed up at the lake, it was a vacation to you. When you left the apartment the last time—when the danger was so close—you wanted to see it as a time to sort stuff out. Sometimes you don’t want what’s in your best interests. Our whole relationship is a testament to that.
You’ve become my charge, and you don’t want to be my charge. And I hurt you in ways you did and did not ask for.
Once I become more of a hindrance than a help, it’s time to go. If I’ve had any personal growth, it’s figuring that out. (Also becoming literate.) I saw how happy this blog made you. Even though it may have compromised your safety in the end. I still don’t believe Kosey or the boatman or the coffee partner read any of it, but there were a lot of people offstage, as it were.
It doesn’t matter, because the plain fact is that I compromised your safety, offline, in the real world. It’s an old pattern. Once I become more of a hindrance than a help, it’s time to go. If I’ve had any personal growth, it’s figuring that out. (Also becoming literate.) Next step: how not to be a hindrance in the first place. Though maybe that’s Hashem’s way of telling me to move on. Maybe it’s a price He exacts for moments of intimacy, moments of a real life.
So many of you say you don’t know if you’re in love, don’t know if you’ve ever been. If a creature with a heart and mind can’t figure it out, what chance did I have? All my motivation is written on my brow. If there’s love in those letters, then I suppose I loved.
Took a long walk just now. Old haunts. Places I’ve worked. I passed the spot where that theater collapsed without warning years ago. I helped clear away the detritus. Do you know that in the middle of a pile of dust I found an ornate glass lampshade, all different colors? The bucket-loader had been clawing all around it, inches away.
I walked along the Davenport escarpment, the former bank of a vast inland lake, later an Indian trail. Followed it to the reservoir and the huge doorway built into the hill where I would boost you up. A crypt-like, neoclassical structure for city workers. You loved sitting on it at night.
When I started writing here, I talked about the scores of people who start blogging and then peter out. Maybe they decide their lives aren’t interesting enough for the world at large. Or maybe their lives become too interesting and there’s suddenly no time to chronicle it.
They don’t close the door completely. They say things like, “I hope I’m able to update more often,” and they mean it, but their hope is futile, and maybe they know. Far fewer come out and say, “I choose to do things, not write about them, so goodbye forever.”
That’s sort of what Judah did with his life. But enough about him. All things come back to these dead men, wish as I might that they wouldn’t.
I know now that even in the Gobi Desert, it wouldn’t be long before some tribesman with a problem stumbled across me. Ruth, I’m stopping, but I’m not scorning the blog, or blogging, or its effects on me. I’m not stopping to spite you, or out of relief that you can’t force me anymore. I’m stopping because it’s a liability and it has become painful. I think I’ve finally earned the right to say no to pain. More mundanely, I plan to be off the grid for a time. I’ve never wanted to be in the Gobi Desert as much as I do now, but I’ll settle for something closer.
I plan to leave the laptop with Jesus. I also left him a bundle of your artwork with instructions to “gift the world,” which I thought might make you happy. (I trust you won’t mind if his gifting nets him some cash.) I’ve got a letter for him so he doesn’t worry—I told him not to come to the apartment. I dropped a note with the landlord. She’ll be annoyed, but she has last month’s rent. Of course I’ll send a final message to the website editors, to whom this will all be welcome news. They no longer have to worry about the dips in their readership when these posts go up, or the prospect of immortality in blog form.
On my walk just now, much further along, I saw blue fences around a few of Kosey’s buildings, under a sign reading Mighty Demolition. Maybe only a reno. But a reminder of unseen forces.
So maybe I’ll creep around some more, see who comes out of the woodwork, try to track down Damla—I can almost smell her sometimes—and close the door on that like I closed the door on the blog and you.
Or maybe I’ll just disappear again. You’ve heard me mention my cabin in the woods. Really, it was part cabin, part hole. I built it out of virgin forest somewhere west of Hudson’s Bay, in a spot I thought was isolated. It was a place to go and be forgotten forever. I arrived in North America hoping it would provide just that, and I was not disappointed. By today’s standards, it was about as isolated as the Gobi Desert, but people found me. People who lived and spoke as I had never known. I made the mistake of calling out. Not to anyone. Just to test my voice. Turns out I can make some resounding blasts when I want to. I kept doing it, and I felt big, not because it was loud, but because no one had told me to do it. It had no purpose beyond itself, like this land that wasn’t being fought over, this place that didn’t belong to a faith. Naïve of me, yes.
I know now that even in the Gobi Desert, it wouldn’t be long before some tribesman with a problem stumbled across me. In Antarctica, on the moon, no solitude lasts long. There’s always a minyan gathering, and that’s the truth.
I need you not to go back home. Some day you might. But not for a long time, please.
I’ll check on you now and then.