To Whom It May Concern, I Love You
I died on Wednesday.
It wasn’t snowing and I skipped breakfast. Thursday morning I ate eggs and toast and baked beans and thought of London. The weather had changed. Winter ended overnight. I went outside. Sprinklers were on. Kids were playing without hats or coats.
“You seem different today mister.”
“I don’t know. Just different.”
“Yeah. I’m Bobby mister. ”
“I know your parents.”
“Yeah. What’s your name?”
I didn’t answer. Bobby lost interest, smiled, and left. I went back inside to not think.
It took three days to give my things away. There was a lot and most of it was valuable. I put everything on the lawn and posted a sign on a piece of cardboard: FREE. I lied in the grass and smiled, closed my eyes, but didn’t sleep. The neighbors were hesitant at first, but by mid-afternoon they trickled over.
” Hey neighbor. Everything okay?”
” Just fine.”
” Is this some sort of joke? ”
” Nope. Help yourself.”
By late Sunday only trinkets remained. They were cleared away by a sanitation worker with an enormous birthmark on his face. A young woman brought me a pound cake and plastic fork.
“I moved into the apartment complex a few streets over. Do you know the one I mean? It’s by the grocery store.”
“Yes, I know which one you mean.”
“I’m just scraping by. Thanks so much for giving all this stuff away. Are you moving?”
” No plans yet. Thanks for the cake. The fork was thoughtful.”
” I have all your flatware.”
She handed me the cake and left. I peeled back the cellophane she’d wrapped it in and ate it with my hands like a candy bar.
Inside I sat on the carpet and traced my fingers around all the indentations left behind. Someone had vacuumed before taking my vacuum. This made me believe people were capable of great things.
The house I sold for cash to three of my neighbors.
One of them was a lawyer. She drew up the papers. They were all very happy with the price. I was impressed with how much cash they got together. It was half of what the house was worth, but it was a lump sum in my hands.
” Are you leaving town?”
” I think so.”
I sold my car for the price of a train ticket to the teenage daughter of a piano tuner. It was a standard and she was a natural. She drove me to the station. She shook my hand as though it were the first time she had shaken a hand. There were tears in her eyes.
” This is nicer than my dad’s car!”
” I think so. I hope you enjoy it.”
” Are you kidding? I love it!”
On the train there were only three other people in my particular car and half of us were asleep.
I sat down across from an elderly woman who was reading a magazine upside down.
“It strengthens the eyes,” she told me.
I tried it myself. My eyes strained and I became hungry. I proceeded to the club car. It was unlocked, but closed for the next few hours. I sat down and watched the land go by and listened to the steady clopping sound of the tracks. I fell asleep. I don’t know for how long.
While I slept a tall man and his short wife came to the club car. We all stared out the window and waited. The couple fell asleep on each other. They were still out when dining services resumed. I got a club soda and walked back to my seat. the elderly lady had moved on to upside-down books and was using a magnifying glass. She looked up and smiled at me without removing the magnifying glass.
I got off in Denver and walked towards the mountains.
The wind was fast, but not unpleasant and the views were spectacular. I walked from the morning until well past sundown. I found a gulch to sleep in. I didn’t know where I was.
I was taken in by a personal trainer in Boulder who found me in the gulch when she was out walking her dog. She set up a bed for me on a couch in her den. The dog licked my feet as I drifted off to sleep. When I woke up she was going through my things. she blushed and I preempted her apology.
“Don’t worry about it.”
“You got a lot of cash in here.”
“I sold my house.”
“It’s not safe to walk around like that.”
“I didn’t take any.”
“You want my bed? I can sleep on the couch.”
Her bed is more comfortable than the couch, but I miss the attention of her dog. My eyelids feel chubby. I sleep.
I wake sometime in the night and walk to the bathroom. I fill the tub with cold water. I dunk my head and torso into it. The dog pads in. I can tell because my legs are out of the water and he licks my feet. I ease myself back out of the water and look at him. He smiles. He barks. He nods his head up and down. I nod back.
“OK fella. Let’s go.”
I grip him under my arm and dive headfirst into the tub.
We surface just outside of Tromso, Norway.
It’s Wednesday and the dog is dead. We eat kippers and eggs and salty buttered toast. The dog drinks from a puddle collecting at the spout of a rain gutter. The Gulf Stream warms the water. We watch ships pass through the elevated bridge.
I have no concept of time. It is always light. A Somalian Student named Botan offers to put us up for the night. We are welcome to stay as long as we like. He eats lots of fruit and drinks tea. He says we are both very peculiar. He says it with good cheer. He makes a bed for us on the floor out of one of the mattresses from his own bed.
In the morning Botan has gone to class, but left us a plateful of fruit. We walk into town after breakfast for coffee. We book passage to Stockholm. The dog is ready to leave, but I will miss Botan.
The ferry is making us both violently ill. The dog is not sure what to do. We vomit over the side of the railing in unison. He barks between bouts of it. I can’t tell if he’s angry or confused. It freezes in streaks to the side of the ferry almost instantly. This takes away both the smell and it’s appearance. It’s as if we were both miming the entire ordeal. It stops and we return inside.
Everyone else seems to be asleep. I wish this dog played poker. I think he misses his owner.
“I won’t be long in Sweden.”
He rests his head on my leg and clasps my hand with his jaw. I shake. He understands. We’re almost there.
This is Stockholm. There are sculptures everywhere. The dog is not pleased. I have to promise him we’ll go home today and even then he tries to pee on as many of them as he can.
“Is that your dog sir?”
“I’m sure he doesn’t mean anything by it.”
We are directed to the edge of town, but given a delicious cup of coffee for our troubles. We walk for hours until we arrive at Orhem. We walk off a short pier and are over our heads in it again.
We surface. I pull myself into a standing position and take careful steps out of the bathtub.
The dog waits, rests his head on the corner of the tub and stairs up at me, happy. I lift him out and he barks in thanks. The personal trainer knocks on the door and asks if everything is alright.
“Be right out!”
“No rush. Just making sure you’re okay. You’ve been in there a while. Dog in there with you?”
“Sure is. Jumped in my bath.”
“Oh Jebus! Sorry about that.”
“No problem. We’ll both be out in a minute.” I look down and ask quiet enough for only the dog to hear, “So that’s you then? Jebus?” He barks. Sweet Jebus.
When we come out of the bathroom I’m in fresh clothes and have given Jebus a good drying with all the towels available to me in the bathroom at the time. The personal trainer doesn’t mind and tells me it would be a good idea if I deposited my monies. I can’t disagree.