A week or two ago, Hoke, while on the phone with Kristen, you asked her if she’d read the letter I wrote about Grammar’s birth.
“He doesn’t share anything with me,” she said so that I could hear it.
“You should read it!” you said. “It’s really beautiful.”
She looked at me like, “What the freaking hell?!” and with my mind’s eyes I looked at you like, “What the freaking hell?!” And yet, knowing full well that I am not sharing these letters with my own wife, you saw fit to have yours read aloud my most vulnerable effort in the car. <quote-01>I do not need to look back over our first two-hundred pages to see if either of you have plumbed so deeply and so personally for so many pages<quote-01>.
Now I get that it’s foolish to assume that a husband doesn’t tell his wife everything. As much as I’d be furious with either of you for sharing some unsavory portion of these letters with one of the guys, I wouldn’t think twice if you shared the same details <quote-02>with your wives<quote-02>. Even so, I always imagine the information coming secondhand, <quote-03>softened as a result<quote-03>. Is this delusional? Even the buffer of you—for whom the words were intended—reading them aloud seems like so much less a breach of etiquette. It’s one thing to sheepishly admit that Pat is, like, maybe, like, lacking a little in the bulge; but it’s another thing entirely to share <quote-04>full-color renderings from the HD projector<quote-04>.
There’s no question, then, that I was literally handed over, but was I figuratively handed over as well? I wonder. Do we not tell each other these things in confidence? If the things themselves don’t demand a certain level of confidence, are they any good? Even Freud, a famously flawed and ineffective therapist, gave his patients nicknames—“Rat Man,” “Wolf Man”—when sharing their stories with the world.
Yeah. I mean.
In your recent comments, Wuck, you seemed convinced by one of Hoke’s explanations for passing over the letter, that “awe is something you can’t keep to yourself too easily.” Fair enough. But I admit that I remain curious about other possible motivations. I’ll tell you for one, Hoke, that Rachel’s professional interest—“the subject lands in her domain,” you wrote—makes the act feel most invasive, the most like betrayal: <quote-05>friend rendered specimen<quote-05>. It would be another thing entirely if she were my biggest fan, if you were like, “Wait until you see what Murph pulled off this time!” Or if she counted herself a Murph skeptic, and you thought this would be the thing to sway her.
Whatever the case, I don’t doubt your good intentions. Probably I’m being a bit too sensitive; maybe the ill effects of moving all that stuff from my brain to the page lingers still. Maybe.
For now I’ll content myself with the memory of what you, Hoke, sent to all of us on our group text message thread a few months ago: feeding Abram his first Flamin’ Hot Cheeto and, instead of having a glass of milk at the ready, filming it for all of us, coolly documenting him—made crazy by the heat—struggling through the front door in his futile search for “something cool outside,” as if the heavens would open up to soothe this brand new agony. “Let me see your fingers,” you say as he wails and whimpers, rubbing his horror-mouth on the sleeve of his rocket-ship pajama top. “Did you eat some Flamin’ Hot?” you ask, like you don’t know. Your own son you did this to, for now your only begotten flesh and blood. If this doesn’t comfort me, nothing will. You love that kid more than anything, and the impulse to share what would certainly be awesome—or awful, depending on your “professional interest”—far outweighed your concern for his immediate well-being. <quote-06>In such company, how can I remain upset?<quote-06>
Now I can’t help but remember another anecdote, one of my favorites, actually.
You’re never around for Thanksgiving anymore, so the setting must be Christmas, maybe just before or maybe just after. <quote-07>I’m sitting at the head of the dining-room table, where Conch usually sits, and you are sitting just to my left, our fully decked out Monterey Pine certainly in your view<quote-07>. We’re discussing something intently enough, probably over dessert considering the relative sparseness of the table, and for a moment you’re distracted by a gnat buzzing around your plate. When it lands on the tablecloth between you and me, you unthinkingly squish it with your thumb, not a beat skipped, subject right on into predicate. I, however, am shocked, somewhere on the spectrum past disappointment and outrage but not quite to disgust. I stop you mid-thought, drawing your attention to this bit of matter now smushed into my mother’s linen tablecloth. I suggest to you that it was a living thing not entirely unlike us, a thing just going about its meager existence, thinking whatever thoughts a gnat gets to think, throbbing with whatever excitement is allotted to a gnat, a perfectly harmless but worthwhile fellow creature snuffed out without thought and for no good reason. You kind of shrug. For a second I’m speechless. Then, to help rationalize this minute tragedy, to help pave your way toward cosmic forgiveness and my own, I—ever the pragmatist—beseech you to eat the dead gnat. Honor its sacrifice like the Lakota honored the fallen buffalo, I say. You do it without argument, and we immediately resume our conversation.
<quote-08>Think what you will about this little story, Hoke, but it’s all the proof I’ll ever need of your love for me<quote-08>.
Remembering it now, <quote-09>I almost feel better<quote-09>.
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