Some advance warning: I’m going to stop this story and start over because it’s the only way I can figure out how to tell it.
So it’s 1980, morning in America, and I’m riding in a car with my grandfather. We are on the way home from the golf course. It’s sunny and we’re in Wisconsin and the car is, I believe, a 1974 Gran Torino. Anyway I’m sure it’s a Ford, because my grandfather bought all his cars from Barney at the Ford Garage, which was just up the road from his house in the small Wisconsin town where he lived.
As we reach the crest of the hill, we see a police car stopped by the side of the highway. He has caught a speeder. Another car—a Ford, no doubt—sits in front of the squad car. The officer of the law is walking toward the driver.
I know what my grandfather is going to say. In fact, I’m about to blurt it out. But I don’t.
Today’s Comment of the Week comes from Wonderful Reader G.Z.K., who writes:
Love misrepresented advice. This is brilliant. Your style of writing is immensely appealing. If I wasn’t such a sore loser I would adore this, but unfortunately I’m just jealous and I’m forced to hate you.
I was in my twenties and working yet another dead end job. You know how it is. Overworked. Overtired. Undervalued.
I simply could not believe that this was all there was to life. And then what? Death. Oblivion. So it was this and then that. Wow.
Or was there a Heaven to look forward to? Who knew? And what good was Heaven if we couldn’t count on it?
I decided it was time to demand a little more from the Deity.
I had not prayed since childhood. But that day, during my lunch break, I formulated what seemed like a reasonable request:
God, You have given me many trials and tribulations. I can make it through these. But I need to know that You exist. I just need to know.
I was surprised by the immediate response. Words resounded through my body like thunder.
YOU DON’T GET TO KNOW.
As an independent author, I have to deal with a lot of unexpected tasks. Like designing a book cover. Or marketing. And of course, maintaining this blog, which arose as a way for me to connect with my readers. (Which has been awesome. Thank you, readers!)
One of the quirks of hosting a blog are the thousands and thousands of spam comments that come in as comments. WordPress filters out 99.9 percent of those before they ever reach me [statistic unofficial]. But a few get through. And once in a while, one tricks me and I approve it. It’s a minor nuisance and I feel cheated. More spam follows, attacking the same post, as if I’ve swung open the gates and let in the giant wooden horse. What was I thinking? How did I miss this!
So that was my world for several months. And then came something I never expected. Continue reading
My roommate arrived before I did; I met his stuff before I met him.
Meeting his stuff first was fine with me, because the truth was that I was a little afraid of him. Wilfred Carter Boiteaux III. From New Orleans. Or maybe of New Orleans? I had not known anyone with a name like that before.
A month earlier we had spoken on the phone. I had expected Thurston Howell but he didn’t sound quite like that. He sounded like a decent guy who would make a good roommate. If anything he sounded as anxious and nervous as me.
And now, as I gazed at his stuff, I saw nothing to concern me. Nothing violent or bizarre; no gaudy signs of wealth. A suitcase, unopened, stood in his closet. A small black-and-white television sat on the corner of the desk, next to the folder of orientation materials we’d received in the mail. On the top of the folder was the yellow sheet with the room assignments, just like the one I had, only in the blank for roommate, his sheet would have my name instead of his own.
Jacke Wilson from Cadbridge, Wisconsin. Just how disappointed had he been to see that?
Well, what could I do about it now? Maybe I’d grow on him.
Then I looked up and noticed something else: his bookshelf. It was completely full.
Wonderful Reader Corra22s, commenting on Object #12 – Tickets to the Premiere, writes:
As a current twenty-year-old soon-to-be studying abroad in Bologna (a whole year early!), I really enjoyed your reflections and your hilariously illuminating recount of class relations.
I was wondering if you could give me any advice or suggestions for doors I should try to find. As you said, there are so many! (I’m still TWENTY.) It’d be fun to have a place to look forward to finding, a challenge of sorts.
TWENTY! She’s TWENTY! (You’ll understand the importance of this if you read the story.)
Okay, Corra22s, the first thing to say is that you are indeed a very lucky person, because studying abroad in Bologna is one of the very best things a person could ever hope to do. And the second thing to say is that advice from old people like me to young people like you is pretty much always annoying because it always boils down to the same basic thing:
From the Internet’s best magpie Maria Popova comes the tale of Charlotte Brontë turning down her suitor’s proposal of marriage. As Popova mentions, it’s hard to top this as an example of “it’s not you it’s me.” I’m not sure what my favorite part is, so I bolded a few.
My dear Sir
Before answering your letter, I might have spent a long time in consideration of its subject; but as from the first moment of its reception and perusal I determined on which course to pursue, it seemed to me that delay was wholly unnecessary.
You are aware that I have many reasons to feel gratified to your family, that I have peculiar reasons for affection towards one at least of your sisters, and also that I highly esteem yourself. Do not therefore accuse me of wrong motives when I say that my answer to your proposal must be a decided negative. In forming this decision — I trust I have listened to the dictates of conscience more than to those [of] inclination; I have no personal repugnance to the idea of a union with you — but I feel convinced that mine is not the sort of disposition calculated to form the happiness of a man like you. It has always been my habit to study the character of those amongst whom I chance to be thrown, and I think I know yours and can imagine what description of woman would suit you for a wife. Her character should not be too marked, ardent and original — her temper should be mild, her piety undoubted, her spirits even and cheerful, and her “personal attractions” sufficient to please your eye and gratify your just pride. As for me, you do not know me, I am not this serious, grave, cool-headed individual you suppose — you would think me romantic and [eccentric — you would] say I was satirical and [severe]. [However, I scorn] deceit and I will never for the sake of attaining the distinction of matrimony and escaping the stigma of an old maid take a worthy man whom I am conscious I cannot render happy.
Farewell—! I shall always be glad to hear from you as a friend –
How awesome is this? Makes me want to read Jane Eyre all over again. (Along with the book this came from, Hell Hath No Fury: Women’s Letters from the End of the Affair by Anna Holmes.)
And let’s all watch this again. Forty-four seconds with the great Orson Welles, if for no other reason than to recall how awesome his voice was:
Image Credit: Wikipedia Commons