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To number our days

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Dear Hawk,

I'm writing because I was wondering: did you see West Side Story while it was in town? It just opened up here last month, and I'm thinking I might save up to treat Francie for her birthday. It's not exactly my cup of tea play-wise, but the reviews have all been great and you can't argue with that music, with which I'm well familiar because she's been playing it non-stop for the past month. Not sure how much longer that record's going to hold up. I've been teasing her that it makes her so weepy, she really needs to lay off because that can't be good for the baby. (Yes, another one.) (It really isn't such a bad set-up for them to have Uncle Tim around.) In any case, if one has to go about messing with Shakespeare, this seems the better option than Romanoff and Juliet.

How's life back in Washington? Any man would consider me off my rocker if I actually said it aloud, but life in New York has been feeling pretty quiet to me. The busy-ness creates isolation of the individual. New York makes it so tempting to ignore people. You have to ignore a lot just to be able to survive. Whereas Washington is the opposite; ignore someone as your own peril. Back here in New York, if you can hack it, you can be completely alone, with nothing happening outside of the boundaries of your own body.

I will grant it to three-year-olds that they do put that philosophizing to the test pretty strongly.

Francie and Bill have been wonderful to me. They told me to stay as long as I need to get my feet back under me. And they are genuine about it, of course, and well, as I said, the extra hands are probably worth the extra body. But I don't want to wear out my welcome. I've been doing some odd jobs at Holy Cross Church, and the school, nearby. Maybe I might slide into teaching. Put that English major to some use. It's not exactly what I picture for myself, but it's a path that might be open to me. Hopefully one that I can trod for at least long enough to walk myself into my own place within the year. You know that I don't need anything fancy.

Anyways, you should give West Side Story a listen, if you haven't.

Regards,
Timothy

--

Dear Hawk,

It boggles me to think that an assassination of one man was the cause of World War I. Of course it wasn't solely that, but that was undeniably the spark. It's been on my mind. I've been agitated. I've been reading a lot lately about the aftermaths of other presidential assassinations. About how we, as a nation, got through it. It's just such an absolutely sickening insult to the country and her people themselves. Not to discount the human tragedy of it (Lord knows that I wasn't a fan of Kennedy politically speaking but he certainly didn't deserve what happened to him, and his poor family) but an act like this is so much bigger than the violence enacted upon one man. In a democracy, it's violence enacted upon every one of us.

I went to the top of the Empire State Building last night. (You know, I'd never gone up it as a kid. Not really worth the buck-fifty back then to look at your own city from far away when that could be dinner or a decent pair of shoes instead, both of which could actually get you somewhere there.) It was late, quite late, and while there's always a lot of people out and about on any day at any time of the night, it's generally not at the top of Empire State building at that hour, so there wasn't anyone there to bother me. I knew it would be what I needed, though. Didn't give a fig about work the next morning, and sure enough, I wasn't even drowsing today. I felt charged and cleansed, like there was an electric force that hit me from the moment I stepped out onto that observatory deck.

It's a bit of a different sight than the roof of the Old Post Office. The weather was clear, and I could see all the way to Lady Liberty. She's awfully small from that distance, but you know that she's there, and once you find her, she's actually very easy to see. I knelt up on the ledge and leaned against the metal fence. The night air was chilly, but all I didn't feel it at all, as if I'd floated out of my own body. I lost track of time up there.

I think that might have been what I found in faith: to lean out into the air at great heights but know that you're held.

I think that's what I found in love.

Yours,
Timothy

--

Dear Hawk,

What do you think about our Old Post office officially being an historic place now? And to think that it never would have gotten there without that loony Gravel from Alaska. Then again, everything is all topsy-turvy down there these days. I have to say, I'm not sad to see Nixon go, and it's not because of wounded nostalgia. I'd ask if you were making it through all right, but of course you are. You make it through everything.

I can't picture you not being invulnerable. When Megan and I were out for a walk the other day (can you believe that she still suffers to spend time with me at her age? Then again, I suppose that uncles have plausible deniability for when you're still a child but are at the point of not wanting to be seen to be clinging to mommy's apron strings, and it doesn't hurt that I can be around when most people can't), she told me that she was worried about a pal of hers and that it might be good for me to have a chat with him because he had no one to talk to. And then she told me who it was. And I'd been thinking that it must be some quiet schoolfellow who needed some direction but maybe didn't have it at home, and I was unthreatening enough and had enough apparent time on my hands to step in. But no, it was a friend of hers that we'd known for a while, who, while admittedly a little bit quiet, is hardly the troubled soul I'd been starting to create in my mind. We'd met the boy and his family, who are quite nice and hardly absent. And then I realized, of course, why she wanted me to talk to him.

Can you imagine being that young?

It's all something of a blur for me when I try to think back. Most of it is undoubtedly the natural effect of time. There is, however, clearly a before and an after; you stand as that dividing line. You were right, I did exist before you. By God, though, I hadn't been fully alive. And now I live in the after.

Who blew the breath of life into you, Hawk? I'm trying, but I can't wrap my mind around you being anything but whole. And knowing. Was that what made you so cynical? Knowing yourself and therefore seeing everyone else's nakedness as well while others long remained ignorant and unaware, whether circumstantially or purposefully.

Maybe creation isn't complete until we step out of Eden. All the same, I hope that boy is able to stay young for as long as possible.

Yours,
Timothy

--

Dear Hawk,

What a mess. What an absolute mess and disgrace. I don't know that even Reagan will be able to recover from this. To say nothing about my worry for every single American overseas, whether civilian or in combat. To say nothing about the internal damage of our own government having become its own shadow nation. This is not the path by which I think any of the reforms that are actually needed will be able to actually come about. America is a grand ideal that functions on faith. If that is lost, I fear for the entire experiment. We'll have to see if anyone is actually held accountable.

Not that anyone is looking for my opinion about policy or foreign affairs these days. Although that implies that anyone ever did. I was there to report other people's actions and mimic other people's voices, not to put forth any of my own. But I thought that that was how I could make a difference. We both saw how well that worked out.

Somehow, you made things happen. When you wanted to. For the things that you wanted to. I know that you thought I was foolish and a dreamer. But it's all dreams, isn't it? We can only travel as far as the boundaries of our imaginations.

Oh Hawk, I really think that we could have done some good together.

--

Dear Hawk,

I went to see Dave with Megan this afternoon. Very charming, and not just because of Mr. Kevin Kline. I'm not usually the biggest fan of comedies, but this one was right up my alley. And in any case, we were both looking for something on the lighter side. I'm sure that you'd find it to be ridiculously naïve, but it heartened me.

Do you remember that time we went to the movies? Demetrius and the Gladiators, because The Robe had left the theaters by the time we had the chance. I think you ended up enjoying it more than I did, even if half of your enjoyment was mocking it. The other half, of course, being the titular gladiators. One would have thought that the title should have clued me in, but I just wanted to pick up from where The Robe had left off. God, I was so embarrassed! I'm surprised that I didn't get yelled at for turning on a light and causing a disturbance in the back row, I must have blushing so brightly, my face felt like it was on fire.

That wasn't what you teased me about, though. During the scenes with Lucia when I was so caught up in her devotion, you held my hand and leaned close to laugh, which just got me even more worked up. I spilled the popcorn, and you leaned your head on my shoulder and I could feel you laughing even harder, silently. It wasn't about cutting me down; it was pushing for a reaction. And it utterly worked, and I don't think I really understood it then, but on some level, I knew. That you wanted to be near me. As myself. So I cried even harder, and you squeezed my knee and left your hand there until the lights came up. Maybe until after. I remember seeing it, but I don't know if that memory is real.

There's been a lot of sad news lately. I can only hope that those boys had at least one happy memory as strong as that one.

Yours,
Tim

--

Dear Mr. Laughlin,

I'll be upfront and say that I'm writing to you about another man's book. Please hear me out – I promise that it's a fan letter.

My father is getting near retirement, so I've been helping to go through his things to downsize and potentially move closer to me. I was hitting the bookshelves the other day, and I flipped open an older looking one, curious about when it was published… and what should I find inside but your autograph! From way back in the early DC days.

I first read you when I was in college in my Evolution of Catholic Literature class. (I know, the question always comes up and your answer is so gracious, but "culturally Catholic" counts when it comes to syllabi, I guess.) In hindsight, I can't believe that dad didn't mention that he knew you in some capacity, because I was kind of obsessed for a while. Like, "please get me the box set for Christmas." He probably was trying to avoid this very scenario, actually.

Anyways, probably shouldn't have been overly surprised that dad was holding out on me on something, but I figured it was as good a reason as any to finally reach out and tell you how much I love your work and how much it's meant to me in my life. I've had my darker moments, and your books have been a light for me.

I'm still a little in shock at the coincidence of it. And laughing about how I no longer have to kick myself for missing getting your autograph, because apparently we've had it all along. And I'm probably overstepping here, but if you have the time, I think it would mean a lot to my dad if you gave him a call. He's pretty alone, and a voice from the past might brighten up his day.

Thank you for all that you've done.

Sincerely,
Marianne Fuller

--

Dear Ms. Fuller,

What an incredible surprise this was! It's been decades since your father and I have been in touch, but reading your letter, it felt as if I'd been picking up that book in Trovers just yesterday. (Henry Cabot Lodge, yes?) I have to confess that I'm a bit of a Luddite and don't much use the phone, but I've enclosed my address. Please pass it on to your father and tell him that he should stop by.

Warmly,
Timothy Laughlin

--

H-

These letters are for you.

-T