December 27, 2017

On Letters to the Void

Erica,

I got the T-Rex dream again. You know, the one where I play cloak and dagger with a giant dinosaur bent on eating me, who has somehow inexplicably evolved the problem-solving intelligence of your average MIT alumni. Set for some reason in a neighborhood I haven’t lived in for decades, where I know every building and alley. I move furtively from hiding place to hiding place, fleeing before the encroaching carnivores while they sniff my trail. The T-Rex coordinated with other, smaller dinosaurs to root me out of my hiding places. They found me again and again. I knew they were going to eat me in the end, and when I woke up from the snapping teeth, I knew I wasn’t going back to sleep again.

You’re the only other person I know who had those dreams, and it feels strangely sad to have one without you. I liked talking about them with you because they scared you more than me, and there was comfort in removing ourselves from our impossible fears by laughing at them in the light of day. You understood ridiculous fears, even when we both knew of things so much more worthy of nightmares.

We just had Christmas. I had to resist the urge to get matched sets of things for you and Jenn, like I have every year in recorded memory. So I got things for Jenn, and sometimes kept one for me, so we could share in the joy of using them, because things are better shared, aren’t they? I made us resin potion necklaces, blue mana for Jenn, red health for me. I’d have done you a green speed/stamina potion…had to stop myself from making it.

There was no caramel corn this year. In the spread of traditional holiday goodies, it was a conspicuous gap. I don’t know how to make caramel corn. You used to tell me it was easy, but it was your thing, so I never tried. I always took on the fudge, and cookies, and Jenn did the breads and cakes. …there was no shortbread either. Shortbread and cheesecake make me wish for a girl’s day, where we chat around the table over mugs of hot tea and coffee about stupid nothings and grumble and laugh and laugh and laugh.

I used the plate you made me for cookies, the one with the paw prints. I listened to a playlist of Peter Hollins and Pentatonix Christmas music, loudly singing along. There was no one to sing with me…you were one of the only ones who joined in when I got loud. Now my voice echoes in the quiet.

Your dice are arriving today. The special ones I got on Kickstarter for all of us to use in your campaign. Yours are green, and they glow in the dark. Jenn’s are ice blue and bright pink. They’re shaped like potion bottles and wizard hats, scrolls and fireballs. You thought they were clever when I showed you the Kickstarter. They were supposed to arrive last summer, and I can’t help but be bitter about it. They delivered on that campaign late…much too late.

I’m toying with the idea of running my own campaign. I got Shon, Tasha and Seth dice and manuals for Christmas, and I now have all the proper DM gear. You always wanted me to try it, because you thought I’d make a fun story. The story is the most important part of it, the setting and the world, right? Make a world and let them run in it…see where they go. Don’t railroad them, but don’t let them stagnate. I’ll try to do it like you did, though I can’t promise not to have accidental Deus ex black arrows.

You’ll be happy to know I’m submitting to two more anthologies. You’d like these stories, I think. One’s funny, silly in the best bureaucratic way. One’s deeper than I meant it to be, richer, and infinitely more painful. Every year I live I feel like I get better at conveying feelings, and yet still never good enough. I’ll share them after the New Year, if they don’t make the cut.

It’s cold outside, bleak and cloudy, wet and rawboned. I feel it in my scars, in every joint, like a new injury freshly torn by ice. I was always older than you, but now the gap grows daily, and I feel it; stretching a scarred tendon, wearing away my bones. It’s cold, I’m tired, and I ache. Surrounded by people that love me, but very, very alone.

I seek out hope, searching for things to do for other people. Giving gifts to strangers online, donating time and money. It helps briefly, but only while I’m doing it, like a hit of drugs. After, it’s so still and quiet, and I sit frozen while trying not to feel.

You know I’m not any good at staying still. I’m paddling as hard as I can, but I think I’m just spinning in place right now because paddles are meant to work in pairs…maybe bailing is a better analogy. I’m bailing as hard as I can, but the ship is still fucking sinking, and meanwhile we’re drifting toward a waterfall that I can’t do anything about, because I have a bucket when I need a paddle. And I can’t even think about trying to get a paddle to save us from the waterfall in five minutes because I’m too busy trying to keep from drowning in the next few seconds. There are no good solutions. I can’t get help because I don’t know what *would* help.

I’ve written probably twenty of these letters to you now. I file each one away, and hope that they prick the balloon and let the hurt dribble out for a bit. I don’t worry around the holes leaving me empty; there’s always more to refill it.

But seriously, can we just stop with the getting eaten by dinosaur dreams? If you could somehow arrange for dreams of cuddling with puppies instead, that would be a drop in the well of better things. In return, I promise to learn more about making caramel corn, and draw up a campaign outline soon.