Open Letter to the Moth

8 July 2001

(Happy birthday, Scott! (Scott Heath, of course. You know which of you is having a birthday.) I had it so set in my head that you were born on July 8 that it didn't even occur to me, even after we talked about it, to wish you a happy birthday on July 7. So happy birthday. You're old. And this letter, as you will know, is not to you.)

Dear Moth,

It's July, which means that I'm waiting to see if I hear from you around our birthdays. We've sent e-mail for the last four years now, for as long as we've not been friends. I think I started it, the first time, when we thought we might end up being friends after all. You sent me a list, do you remember? You said you only wanted to hear about Mark if 1) we were engaged, 2) we were married, 3) we broke up, or 4) he was dead. Otherwise, I was allowed to write to you but was not to mention Mark. You numbered the points. In that order, as I recall.

The e-mails you've sent me have all wished me a happy birthday. They've been a bit varied in the rest of their sentiments. At least twice you've told me that you don't hate me. You know what? When you don't hate people, you don't usually have to volunteer that information unsolicited. It makes it somewhat less believable, to tell you the truth. I don't hate you. Never have. But sometimes you made it awfully hard to remember why I liked you in the first place.

Here's why. At a time in my life when I was hitting another creative step, another explosion into a higher level of writing, you wanted to hang around with a writer. You wanted to hear my story ideas. You wanted to watch me take big bites out of life. You were a friend who would listen when all of my other friends in town mostly wanted to explain, or convince, or laugh at everything. But after awhile, I wanted to listen, too, and you only had one thing you wanted to say. Then you started acting like women are library books and you only have to put your name next on the line to check us out. And that was it, pretty much, except for the birthday e-mails.

Last year you dripped scorn and ellipses all over my life. "I hear you're in...grad school. I'm sure that's...working out for you. I'm sure you're meeting...lots of...interesting people." I felt like writing back in kind: "Yes, I'm doing...well, but I'm not in...grad school. I'm freelance...writing, and I finished my first...novel." This year I didn't feel like waiting for it. I didn't feel like spending July with something like that hanging over my head.

I like my life. I like a lot of people in it. I love a lot of people in it. I love what I'm doing, and I'm starting to see some success in doing it. And I'm supporting other people who are doing pretty cool things in their lives, too. I don't need scorn and ellipses, I don't need lists and ultimatums. But our birthdays are coming up, and I do need to let you know that I hope you're learning better ways to live, ways that make you happier, more creative, more interested in life. There are some of us out there living those ways. It could have been you, too. It still can. Have a happy birthday, Moth. You don't have to tell me you don't hate me this year. But it could be nice if you meant it.

With remnants of affection,

The Porch Light

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