I put my thoughts to paper while I am still able, knowing that there is not much left of my life. I look back upon it, feeling very few regrets, blessed as I was. I have heard more times than I can count how sad it is that I never married, what a shame it was that I was alone. I can say now, I was the least alone man in the west.
I have been immeasurably lucky to love and be loved by two extraordinary and extraordinarily insane people. Some--including them--would also say extraordinarily inappropriate. Since many people consider me and most of my friends inappropriate, I call them perfectly suited for me. I would not trade either of them for the finest Eastern lady with all her schooling and manners and excruciating appropriateness.
The first was a lady I name now for the first time. She was called Trixie. Whether this was the name she was born with I do not know, only that was the name she died with. I attempted to ask her about it only once. Some things you only did once with Trixie, lest you not survive the second time.
Trixie was beautiful. She was strong and tall and was the rock for more than just myself. She was beyond rubies, as my forebearer would have said. I loved her and would have married her, but she would not have me. Not because, I think, she did not love me, but because she did. It would not do for us to marry, as it would "ruin" me.
I feel the need to inject the one thing she would insist I say to describe her: she was a whore. She would have said it without shame, merely as fact, because she had known no other life. I say it was what she did and what was done to her, not what she was. I have never believed in the phrase "the weaker sex"; I know I could not have survived what she had in her life. I know if she were here now, she would call me a crazy Jew and kiss me.
I wish I could say we grew old together. I wish I could say she was lying next to me, here in my bed that is too large, in a house that is both too empty and too crowded with memories. I wish beyond everything I could have given her that.
She died too young. The second great fire, she was trapped and I could not find her. The floor collapsed beneath her. In my mind, I grasp an image of her as I would like to remember her: tall and wild and fierce. Perhaps yelling at me for reasons beyond my understanding.
I cannot claim to have understood her even half the time. I understood that her anger masked her worry, masked her gentler, kinder feelings which frightened her, as unusual as they were in her life, but I did not always understand her at the time. I merely tried to wait it out, as the storm always passed. I know she worried about far too many things, far too many people, including me.
I find myself waiting now, wondering if her spectral self will appear before me, yelling at me for my ridiculous notions. I was not raised on the belief in of ghosts, but the stories have surrounded me all the rest of my life, and I found them more and more intriguing as the years passed. I am now wishing I could invoke her, call her, that my ridiculous fucking notions of some goddamned Jew sense of honor and fucking romantic feelings which compel me to put pen to paper in such a way that would ruin me this close to my own fucking deathbed (as she would see it) would enrage her so that she would cross the border between the living and the dead to rail at me.
But no. Perhaps, in a little while, when my end is actually here, she'll come for me, and kick me all the way back to the other side. But I wished her peace then, when we first met and until her own end, and I would wish nothing less for her now. My other wish for her would have been to acknowledge her, to say to the town and the world that I loved her more than she thought I should, which was only a small fraction of what she deserved. I did ask her once, long ago, to marry me, and I had the bruises to show for it for days. I did not always understand her, but I hope I understood enough.
Trixie is no longer here to object, however, and so I name her as she would never allow me in life, even if only in a letter only one person will ever read. Her objections for my standing in the community and my family are hollow. My blood relations are all gone now, and my standing in the community could not be shaken by a gale-force wind, let alone by the acknowledgment that I loved or (I hope) was loved by a beautiful, strong woman. If anyone's view of me would be markedly changed by this, I call him a fool and not worth knowing. I call myself a fool for never saying anything, loudly and repeatedly, from the top of the tallest building in town, for all to hear.
My other love even now I hesitate to name. I know he will be the only one to read this, as I plan to put this in the drawer in his desk only he ever opens as he searches for his spectacles which are most likely in his breast pocket. Letters, however, have a life of their own once they're let go, and while I care not who knows what about me at this point in my life, I care what people think of him. He does have a family, beautiful and strong, who have always taken me to them, and I would not hurt them for anything. It would perhaps not be difficult to deduce who he is for anyone who might find this, but what people know, and what they know are very different things.
We met many, many years ago, long before even coming to this town we came to make our fortunes in and ended up helping to build. He was passionate about many things, but feared his own passions. Sometimes with good reasons, sometimes only to his own detriment. He never suffered fools gladly, and seemed to think himself the greatest fool of them all. He was not always wrong, either.
Some think him humorless, but I knew him better. His smiles were rare, but that made them an even greater gift. I always felt he never laughed at himself enough. His anger frightened those around him, understandably, and in his pain and anger, he occasionally would turn on me, as the only one who stood close by. But I never feared him. He would never hurt me, not permanently. Not without such overwhelming guilt, I don't believe he could have lived with it. You cannot let his anger break you; you stand straight in the storm until it has blown past, and pick up the pieces after. All storms pass. Someone has to clean up afterward.
Some days, there was more laughter than I could stand. Some days, there were more pieces than any man could pick up all at once. Some days, I would have stood between him and the world, against all weather and all enemies. Some days, I would have liked to hit him over the head with a chamber pot. Some days, I want to find the father who raised him to think so little of himself, no matter the remarkable things he's done, and take a pickaxe to his head.
Some moments, deep in my heart, I would have liked quieter loves in my life. But what would I have done with the quiet? Peaceful loving could not have given me half the joy nor half the riches of my heart as I attained with my two incredibly unpeaceful lovers. The blessings were worth the bruises.
Old friend, I'll say this to you one last time: no regrets, no shame. I know you feel that you somehow forced me into a lonely life, and we both know that's bullshit. You have never made my decisions for me, and I've kicked you in the ass when you've tried. I have made my own choices, and do not apologize for them. I have been surrounded all my life with friends. No matter what other feelings you have conjured up in me, good or bad, I have never once, since the day I met you, felt alone.
I do not worry about you now, when I know my time is short. You have raised a strong family you can be proud of, who love and honor you every moment. I am also not ashamed of anything we have ever done. We have made a town together. What could be greater than that?
It's getting later in the morning, and soon you will be heading to the hotel to start your day. I'll have to hurry if I am to put this in your desk before you get there, and I'm not as good at hurrying as I used to be. Then, neither are you. I close this letter now as
Always your friend,