Dear [book] (it doesn’t seem right to name names publicly like this, I’m already unsure about airing something so personal in this way),

We’ve been together, off and on, for quite a long time now.

I like how we’ve taken things slow. I also feel like – I don’t really know how to put this best. Okay just out with it: I need to break up with you. There. I said it. I’m so sorry. I wish it wasn’t like this, but it is. I know I can’t both hurt you like this and comfort you, that’s not fair, even though I have that impulse. I feel like I owe you an explanation. We definitely had our good moments together. (Remember that time in the bath?) You have great qualities, someday you’ll find the right one and you two will be really happy together, someone who appreciates your meditative side, the way you see the large moral and existential problems of our current age in the smallest acts of everyday life, like how you see franchise buffet chains as evidence of a kind of spiritual bankruptcy. I totally never would have thought of that until you pointed it out, I just thought shitty food that’s not worth the savings, if I even thought about it at all. Or the way you always pointed out how people wrap themselves in memory in order to avoid living now, both in the form of finding solace in good times past and in the form of torturing themselves over how those time will never return. We live lives made from webs of experience and aspiration that connect past and future, crisscrossing in a tangled tense jumble in the present. I didn’t see that until you showed that to me. I appreciate this, like I appreciate your love of words, and not just fancy words but all words with a kind of weight, words you can hang something on. And I like how you would move across different kinds of words – ruminate, gelatinous, forlorn, speckle, clatter, pussy, blowjob. Some of those I’m not totally sure you actually used but they sound like your sorts of words, and you’re good at juxtaposing – that one sounds like one of yours – different sorts of words next to each other in a way that’s unexpected but not jarring. For instance you shift from pondering the mix of suffering, longing, and enjoying that go into older adults feeling nostalgic in the present about loss, to memories of fucking (your word, I think) and of not-fucking for various reasons while a young adult, and it just sorta makes sense.

You’d never say “just sorta,” you’re better at this than I am. I guess that’s one of the disconnects I felt between us. Not that you have a better vocabulary than I do. I mean, you do, but that didn’t cause a problem, your better, richer words were great. The disconnect was more that you just inhabit words differently than I do. Your words are always so… weighty. I almost said intense but that’s not quite right. They’re intense in the sense of holding a heavy weight in a stationary position for a long time, it takes lots of strength and endurance but it’s not a static strength. And there’s something clenched about it, something closed off. I’m not as strong as you are verbally, and that’s great, your strengths are impressive, but from the very beginning you felt kind of closed off. I guess I thought you would open eventually as I got to know you but that hasn’t happened so far. You also seem to be trapped in a kind of slow leak. Like, I don’t know, I don’t want to say downward spiral because it’s a cliche, but also it’s just not the right image. Let me try it this way. The sink at our house once clogged up like 99% of the way. The sink looked totally clogged. I wrote in black sharpie CALL PLUMBER, stuck the scrap of envelope on freezer door with a magnet with the number for poison control. I put it right by the handle so I’d see it first thing in the morning when I went to get out the milk for my tea with breakfast, then I went to bed. I woke up in the middle of the night with my bladder protesting that it needed an emptying. When I finished I went to wash my hands and the sink was empty! It had drained away at a pace so slow the change was imperceptible. (Is that one of your words?) It filled back up as I washed my hands. In the morning the sink was empty again.

Where was I? Oh yeah, slow leaks. You seem to be heading down the drain, one drop at a time, very slowly. It feels like floating but really you’re sinking sinking so slow no one can see it, but I can just like feel it. Among other things, it shows in the way you always and only point out what’s broken and missing in people. No one seems full of possibility to you, unless after the fact of some closure of possibility so that the potential is really just there to dramatize the loss. And this is never heated with you so much as it’s like a bitter fatalism. “Oh that? It’s fucked. It will someday wash away with the passing of time. Like everything.” I get that you’re not very happy. That’s understandable, I feel like that sometimes too, but it starts to feel a little flat sometimes (no offense!) and, I don’t know, sometimes I wonder if you’re forcing it, like as if you think painting everything gray is some kind of cool arty gesture, like it makes you realer or more honest than other books. It just all feels to judgey, and not in an exciting or funny or illuminating way. And they’re not even heated, polemical judgments. It’s like you find everything tiresome and mostly you’re just tired. I get that too. But then, I don’t know, maybe you should take a nap?

This is getting negative and that’s not what I wanted to do. I mean, there’s probably some aspect of breaking up that’s always just not very nice. I guess I’m saying that I feel like I’m talking about this in a blamey way, as a matter of flaws (and I know I’ve got more than my share), when really I think the main thing is just that we want different things. It’s like that old cliche, it’s not you, it’s me. I’m looking for more… I don’t know, more lively, more vivacious (is that the right word?) I want to be captivated, I want to feel energized, whether the energy is excitement for an idea or outrage for a fucked up event or whatever-the-word-is for what we feel when something’s beautiful. You seem to want to relax and reflect and take things slow in life, and to keep things at arm’s length. That’s okay. But we’re going in different directions and it’s just not working. Like I said you have great qualities and someday you’re going to find the right reader who appreciates all the things about you that make you exactly who you are.

I guess I should be fully honest and come clean here. I’ve been reading another book. You’d love this book. I mean, at least I think you would. It’s really smart and has a keen sense of right and wrong yet also of the ways we have to compromise to live. All of that makes me think of you. And it’s energetic, always moving, and often funny. I guess you’d probably find its vocabulary pedestrian, and maybe you’d want more fucking and more bleached skulls with empty staring sockets. I don’t know. I don’t know that I really know what you want, which is part of why this isn’t working out. Anyway I wanted you to know I’m reading another book and so far it’s going really, really well. I know we never agreed to be exclusive or to tell each other everything, but I just wanted you to know. I’m happy with this new book. I hope you and another reader can be happy this way together some time.

Take care of yourself.

Nate

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