I hope you are having a nice time at camp. Greetings from New York City. Don’t ever move here, Jack. In fact, don’t ever leave camp.
The other night I was walking down the street and, I kid you not, fireworks went off on that same block. It could have been gunshots; it was that loud and explosive. But it was fireworks. They were small, exploding around thirty feet up. Ian and I just stood there, watching them. We didn’t even react. It wasn’t even a big deal. It was just fireworks, going off in front of us, at 2 AM. That’s how jaded New York will make you. Something that should have been momentous barely gets your attention for ten seconds.
Of course, it might have been the MDMA we were on. Maybe the fireworks weren’t even real. Maybe I was too out of it because of the drugs to appreciate them if they were. Or maybe I just don’t give a fuck about things anymore. Not like I used to.
Remember that woman who was going to be your aunt? She’s not going to do that anymore. We’re not getting married. Here’s something about life, Jack, that they won’t tell you at camp and you won’t find on whatever romantic comedies your parents are showing you: sometimes people just break up. There’s no reason. The guy doesn’t, through some odd series of events, ends up sleeping with someone else and break the woman’s heart. The woman doesn’t go through some monumental shift in her life where she gets her groove back and decides the guy isn’t good enough for her. Sometimes people just wake up and say “I don’t want you anymore. Leave.”
That reminds me; I got laid off this week. Unceremoniously. Surprisingly. Like millions of other Americans. Only I thought it would never happen to me. But it did.
Which brings us full circle to me wondering why I’m so jaded all of a sudden at 2 AM, with fireworks exploding all around me. Minutes later I turn to ask Ian but Ian is asking two big black guys if they want to buy some Xanax off of him and he gets in their car. It turns out they are cops, who say they aren’t cops so they can do a deal with him, then pull over and take his phone so they can try and work their way up to his supplier. Good luck to them; Ian is disorganized as fuck but is lucky enough to be let free having just lost his phone. Or, alternatively, they weren’t police officers and they were just two guys who stole his phone under the pretense of being authority figures. Either way, Ian ends up a bit shaken, but not surprised.
So there I am, wandering the streets of the East Village late at night alone, which is something I do a lot. The hours of 2 AM to 5 AM are the only times when you can walk around Manhattan and feel like you have some space to breathe and look around and try and appreciate this place. Every other hour, everyone is too busy trying to get somewhere and do something and it’s all very important.
But now I don’t have anything important. I walked by a great deal for roses today: two dozen for $10. First off, I know instinctively that whatever roses they are selling will be dead by nightfall. At this point though I am in the habit of immediately forgiving New York for all these petty cons they perpetuate and just go straight to the misery of how I don’t have someone important to give the flowers to anymore, and how I don’t really have the disposable income to pay for them even if I did. So I was shaken away from jaded and into depressed, which I guess is something, right?
Jack—you will be fine in the long run. Just because I’m writing to you from the bottom of a well doesn’t mean I’ve given up believing in some bucket falling down and me clinging to it for dear life hoping, as we all do, that this new external factor in my life (relationship, job, hobby) will be the thing that lifts me out of my well of despair, that makes me happy, finally happy! so that I live a happily-ever-after. It’s possible, I suppose.
But you Jack, you’re good looking, affable, and your parents have money. It’s not going to take you long to catch up with me and feel the disheartenment of your twenties. Just under the surface of things people are not good and helpful; they steal your phones and con you with dead flowers and, worst of all, take your heart and throw it away. They are just trying to be happy, and they are just acting confused. These things happen just under the surface and none of us can ever skate on the surface forever.
Someday soon you will be sitting on your parent’s couch. They travel a lot so you’ll have a party. And people will be doing all sorts of party stuff, like drinking games and having sex in your mother, my sister’s bed (poor thing). But you will sit there, with your friend passing you some drug (because you are good looking, affable, and have money so you will be doing drugs) and you will think, “Shit. This is what I want? This is the American dream?” And you will think about the time when you were at camp and how innocent and awesome it was and you will long for that time.
So don’t leave camp, Jack. Stay like you are, with new friends and fun games, and skate on the surface of life as long as you can. Because once the ice breaks, the water beneath will consume you.
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—Photo of barbecue in nature, group of children preparing sausages on fire courtesy of Shutterstock