14 July 2008

Things I will say to my daughter in 15 years

This is another old one. Maybe three years or so I wrote this for some now defunct literary magazine in Chicago.

Look sweetie, I wasn’t always like this. I know. I know you’re embarrassed of me now but I used to be a pretty cool guy. I used to have big plans and believe it or not YOU kinda sorta changed things. I used to make things. I used to make things with my hands for no real reason other than I felt I had to make things with my hands. Actually the first bed you slept in was made by me. I was even going to sell the things I made. I thought people might want them at one point I guess. I thought people might see them and open their eyes a little more and tug on the arm of their wife and say ‘honey, you GOTTA see this. THIS is amazing. Have you EVER seen anything like THIS?’ and that would of course lead to them throwing money in my lap for them. Then I could embrace my eccentricities. Then I could phone it in. Stop working for anyone else and just make things, out back in the new workspace I’d have built with the money I made. With a sign on the door so everyone knew not to disturb me when they heard loud music and machinery coming from inside. And I’d crack the door if someone knocked, my hair all messed up and full of wood shavings and paint and ask what was so damn important. I’d be able to sleep in until noon everyday and when I failed to meet my friends out for coffee they’d just ‘understand’ because I was an artist, man. I was just a loose, brilliant mind and my mood shifts and unusual way of speaking was all just part of who I was. They understood, and everyone else would too because they had SEEN these things I had made. And what had THEY ever done? Nothing like what I was doing RIGHT NOW.

Did you know I even used to keep every single letter I wrote? Thousands of them. Books and hard drives full of nothing but letters. Believe it or not but back in the day I used to write EVERYTHING. I had tons of ideas. SO many ideas I couldn’t even get to HALF of them if I tried. SO many ideas it was almost frustrating because while I was working on one I’d have three more waiting and if they had to wait too long I’d lose them because I was just FULL of ideas. I even had a notebook full of YOU, though that seemed like a long time ago. Like my hair, those notebooks are getting thinner and thinner.

And I know you hate to be seen in public with me. I know how much you hated us both going to that Tom Waits concert but I listened to him long before you did. I used to go to those things way more often than you have either. I used to mingle and I used to have all night conversations with poets and musicians. We used to sit up until the morning drinking warm beer and trading war stories and love stories. We used to flick cigarette butts into the yard and talk about god as the neighbors were getting up to go work. You would faint at the things we talked about back then. FAINT.

And I don’t regret the things I’ve done, and I don’t regret the things that have changed. I don’t regret you, even. Do I wish I could have done things differently though? Well sure. I would be a liar if I said otherwise. I wish I would have left a bigger mark that’s for sure. But I’m not sorry about it. Wish I would have maybe told that girl that I loved her when I had the chance. That might have changed things, but it’s too late now. I still love your mother but, well, you’ll understand someday the difference between love and LOVE. Wish I would have blown more money on trips. I’ve never been to Asia. I had the chance but I needed to float this loan for the house. Seems kind of silly now. Wish I would have shot that film I had written. It seemed too damn expensive at the time though, and I had to work. Wish I would have spent more time on the important things to me and less time on the things others thought I should consider important. I guess that’s regret though.

I hate to tell you this but I actually find most of the things about you rather pedestrian. You seem really shallow. I know you’re young and trying to fit in but I don’t excuse that. I know you’re not that smart either. Did you know I was put in a school for gifted children when I was young? I read Oscar Wilde and played the piano during school and we were allowed to because we were special, because they already had faith in us and our intellects. Because we weren’t so hung up on trying to dress cool or seem important. Is that what you think? That you’re somehow important? You’re not really. You’re AVERAGE. You’re an AVERAGE girl at a public school with boring friends and dull passions and no personality. Look I don’t know why you’re starting to cry. You’re going to have to face these realities. You still have POTENTIAL. Maybe. Maybe you don’t.

I guess it’s my fault. I wasn’t really prepared for you in case you didn’t notice. I guess I should have seen it coming but I didn’t. What can I say? I guess I don’t LOVE you. Not in the way that we talked about earlier. I love you as far as it goes, but it’s more like the way I love your mother or I love the dog. Please stop. You’re getting hysterical. I’m not going to LEAVE you. I don’t think I have it in me anymore. I THOUGHT about it. Around your second birthday. Sweet Jesus were you obnoxious at that age. I literally stayed up nights, staring blankly at the TV set but thinking about throwing a suitcase in my car and taking off in the middle of the night. But I had nowhere else to go, honestly. You start to lose your friends after a while. You start to lose touch with everyone. And that girl I really loved is probably married or dead.

Well, listen, you need to get ready for school and you’re probably going to need some time to wash up now. So I’m going to go back downstairs. It’s just, the paper didn’t come this morning so I didn’t know what to do with myself. Have a good day sugar and I’ll see when you get home. Hug?

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