Sunday Pages: A Letter For My Infant Son, To Be Read In Thirty Years
A missive from Sean Beaudoin
|Greg Olear||Oct 11|| 32||5|
One wonders: Is soullessness a comorbidity?
The list of infected Republicans now includes: Donald John Trump and Melania Trump; Hope Hicks, Kellyanne Conway, and Stephen Miller; Kayleigh McEnany and two members of her staff; debate prepper Chris Christie; campaign manager Bill Stepien; Senators Mike Lee, Thom Tillis, and Fourth of July Traitor Ron Johnson; White House security office head Crede Bailey; USMC General Gary Thomas and USCG Admiral Charles Ray; and RNC chair Ronna Romney McDaniel. This is in addition to the innocents: White House reporters, White House staff members, various people rich and poor who attended Trump rallies in the last two weeks, and classmates of Amy Covid Barrett’s children. The Attorney General, Bill Barr, may also be positive. We haven’t heard boo from Jared or Ivanka. There is rampant speculation that Lindsey Graham, the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has the virus but has declined testing, because a positive result would torpedo Barrett’s nomination hearing. The Vice President announced that he tested negative, but his pallor seemed unhealthy to me at the debate, even before the fly nestled in his well-Aqua-Net’d hair. Yesterday he was in The Villages, the retirement community in Florida, on his Superspreader USA tour, because Republican men think Republican women think Pence is Brad Pitt. No, really:
Jesse Kelly @JesseKellyDCFWIW, the Trump campaign might wanna feature Pence a little more if they’re worried about suburban moms. I’m picking up a lot of chatter about how....popular he is with them.
Every morning I wake up and check the Twitter machine, to see if anyone else is sick, or if anybody has yet died. It’s hard to focus on anything else. I have trouble losing myself to a movie or a TV show, and reading is impossible. This is not a healthy way to live. But, as I type this, the top trending topic involves Dennis Rodman tearing open a shoebox, so perhaps we’re in for a much-needed slow news day.
This week, I’m turning “Sunday Pages” over to my friend and Weeklings co-editor Sean Beaudoin, who is hip and clever and smart and knowledgeable and funny, and whose short story was featured on these pages way back when. This is a short letter by an imaginary novelist to said novelist’s imaginary son, who is named, for some reason, Brexit.
Please enjoy the long weekend, this missive, and Sean’s words of epistolary wisdom.
Amidst all this, my wife has given birth to a boy so beautiful even his midnight wail suffuses me with love. And so, being somewhat prescient, I have decided that during the inevitable Swine-99 outbreak of 2050 he will have, like me, become a young and struggling writer. So I have decided to write this missive, with pen on actual paper, sealed in an envelope upon which is scrawled OPEN ON YOUR THIRTIETH BIRTHDAY. Hopefully my words will still be relevant, carry some meaning, trigger a flash of recognition. Or even just be mildly diverting in a time that is almost certain to be so much worse than now.
October 11, 2020
Well, madness abounds. Of course, as always, there is beauty within the madness, or possibly formed because of it. There is no lasting art that did not arise from some sort of deprivation, whether great or small, from pandemic to simple ennui. The Sorrows Of Young Werther didn’t write itself, you know? On the other hand, maybe I’m really talking about the bushes in front of our porch that have barely survived over the last ten years due to lack of light but have somehow bloomed this month, flowering for the first time ever! I know you want to become a novelist, which for any of us is an agonizing decision, and I’ve often thought about what kind of advice I might give. Then along comes a virus which has gripped the world, and made it apparent, or even more apparent, that I know almost nothing at all.
I suppose I would say that it is in this time that those who would artfully record their honest and emotive perceptions are needed more than ever. There are refrigerator trucks full of bodies parked outside funeral homes in the Bronx, idling with dread and diesel fumes even as I type this, and that fact alone can bring one nearly to tears, but afterwards, should also prompt reflection (and perhaps a lengthy verse poem). What do we really want in this life, in this world? To be wealthy and famous? To have the respect of our peers? To go to bed every night knowing we accomplished at least one genuinely exceptional thing? Or maybe we welcome the chaos and nihilism. Perhaps our secret desire is to abandon the false shade of community and connection, wanting only to be left to our devices, hermetic, surrounded by electronics, swathed in fear and loneliness and the Tyranny Of Small Technologies.
Sad, I know. Perhaps this is not information you care to know about your father, but I will share it anyway. I am prone to pessimism and despair. I do not see a rosy future. I drink heavily and low into the mist late at night, naked in the back yard, strangling the neck of a bottle of near-empty Gentleman Jack, fearful of the lessons our leaders have taught us so well: there are no solutions, nothing can be fixed, we are, as unthinking and regressive beasts, doomed to doom ourselves.
And then I stand over your crib! I kiss your hands and feet. I smell your sweet sweet-potato breath, dear Brexit, and my depression fades. The world is beautiful after all. We will find a way through this because we must. For you and all the infants like you. And so I wake refreshed, prepare scalding coffee and bacon and eggs and toast with real creamery butter and I know we will all be okay
Listen, it has been a century since we have been swept with something so virulent as this, and I often find myself thinking back to 1918 and the Spanish Flu and those who endured it, the rudimentary medicine and unrefrigerated food, the terror of not knowing if it would ever end, or if it did, might still come back every Spring until there was no one left to sweat themselves away on a dirty blanket with no medicine or even a mild understanding of what afflicted them.
We are lucky, after all.
Okay, so here’s my advice: just like saxophone or ballroom dance, it’s important to practice feeling. Work hard on honing your ability to touch, to finely tune your tactile senses. Be vulnerable. Be aware. Experience fully. And then write it down. See everything around you. Embody true perception. Be a camera. Record it all. Let the flash recoil, take a photo in words, let us know what you truly know. It’s possible that’s all there is. To leave something behind for others to consider. To learn from or not learn from as is their whim.