Letter to Harper from the Edge of Sixty

by Robert Okaji

Dear Stephanie: Some distances, some lives, can’t be quantified.
Knowing that two thousand miles separates us offers slim hope
for a quick cup of java at a local cafe, but the gape-mawed dragons
lurking below those map edges are at least discernable, and their fires
have no doubt been doused by the confused oceans corkscrewing over
the rim; I detect steam, but no smoke. The ruler measures in inches,
never minutes, and certainly not in emotion. Saying I miss you is easy
and true, but how do those words evoke the rocks under the surface?
I turn sixty in six days, and what I wouldn’t give to crumple some
of those ancient, wasted hours and toss them into the burn pile, to watch
them rise, transformed into winged smiles and realized dreams of what
never happened to both of us. We could hold hands and observe the odd
little phoenixes fluttering into the past, where they’d patch damages,
circumvent losses and scour clean those close corners in the lost rooms
where memories go to die. I miss you is shorthand for the atmosphere
is too transparent to conceal my longing, and naps are a poor substitute
for the real thing. How do we hide what is evident even to those who
don’t know us? I admit improprieties and failures, and facing, open-mouthed,
what I desire most, hope to mitigate misbehaving parts and even some
misunderstandings. I am both the man I thought I was and one whose scars
remind me of someone I might have become, if only. The magic eight ball
spins out signs point to yes, no matter the question, so I’ve mastered the art
of cautious phrasing and willful optimism. Two nights ago we lost
ourselves in a dream in Nowhere, Texas, which seems apt and is hardly
a metaphor if past experience indicates anything. Even GPS couldn’t help
us, but frankly I don’t want guidance. Being lost with you beats the hell
out of any other reality, and might offer us more time together, and I’m
already teetering on the losing side of that equation. I love being your
old man, and want nothing more than to be just that, at noon, on that
rickety bench in Nowhere’s square, guitar in hand, crooning “Wild Thing”
and swigging cognac while ignoring the perplexed onlookers awaiting their
court dates. I’m contemplating these colliding strands of time and cartography,
wishing for a past that never was to ease the burden of this present. And
there’s the future, which bends to no one’s whim and seems fraught
with scaled fire-breathers and sharp-toothed crags. But we knew that
going in, and stepped forward because there is no other direction. More
brave than stupid, ya think? You are my true north, my everywhen, my
night smile and contented belly. Let’s keep sculpting our day, a piece
at a time, chipped here, rounded there. It’s taking shape, Babe. Love, Bob.

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