BY LAURA JANE/ ILLUSTRATION BY JEN
Hi guys! Today (June 24th, 2014) is my 29th birthday. Last year around this time I wrote a thing called "Some Lessons I Have Learned" about everything I learned while I was 27 and I wanted to do the same thing this year because well why the heck not. For my 28th year I wrote it as a letter to myself because I wanted to give myself a nice birthday present. Usually I buy myself a massage at a fancy spa for my birthday but this year my life is pretty low-stress so I didn't think the massage was applicable. It's a letter to my future self and also my today self at the same time. And also to you.
You’ll call his phone, which he will have turned off. He’s in no mood to deal with any more of your “asshole for no reason” energy, which is reasonable. But he’s drunk, which is scary. He could pass out drunk in the middle of a road and a truck could run him over. So you decide to go save him. You wander around the neighbourhood in a trenchcoat over your pyjamas and for some weird reason decide to call your father. It’s like two in the morning. You end up forgetting most of what you told him.
He’s nowhere. You cry a lot. You make some more phone calls you forget about. You write him a series of text messages in which you forget to apologize, which will become a cool fight sub-issue once he reappears via text the next morning.
You take a cab to his apartment. You cry in the cab. The driver is concerned for your well-being. Outside of his apartment you slam on his door and call his phone and write him text messages saying i'm outside and you holler his name and scream I'm sorry and then give up and get back in a cab and take a cab back to your apartment. You cry in the cab. The driver is concerned for your well-being.
You sleep like shit, obviously. You wake up when the sun does and for a second you’re cool but then the truth of it falls down your body like a shudder or an ache from your brain to your toes. The truth of it falls through you like a beer keg dropped off the top of a skyscraper. You fall back to crappy sleep and when you wake up properly you’re convinced that he’s dead. You call your mom and then the police to ask them if they came across any dead blond guys last night. They want to turn your night into a domestic disturbance investigation but you somehow talk your way out of it. Your boyfriend texts you back. He hates you. You make popcorn. You send him boring and pathetic texts that say things you’d never say like please don’t break up with me and I need to hear you say you love me. Your eyes are puffy from all the crying and you think of the sentence you wrote five years ago about your eyes going puffy from a different round of all the crying: “I looked the alien Mac from the movie Mac And Me, only way less adorable”— despite everything, you take a moment to give yourself credit where credit is due. You will always be very proud of that sentence.
You go to Urban Outfitters for no reason. People look at you weird because your eyes are gross. When you get home you eat the rest of the popcorn and write your boyfriend a 1500 word epic about You could say any old thing to the server you want and all I would do is love you. I love looking across a table and seeing your perfect smiling face and then sit around counting down the seconds until midnight, when you’ll send it to him— he told you during “mean text message era” not to text or call him for the rest of the day.
By six PM he cracks and comes home. His face looks like all the following words at once: ghostly, ashen, sullen, sunk-in, chiseled, hollow, sallow, older, shadowy, jaundiced, waxy, gaunt. You fall into him like he is your soldier husband who has just returned home from war. You fall into him like you thought he was dead for fifty years and now you are old and your life was a wash but he’s back and it’s better than nothing. You quietly sit on the couch while he reads the epic. He likes the epic. It’s warm out and for dinner you drink lemony beer and mash bone marrow into a fish cake. When you were twenty-eight you figured out: if you don’t behave like an asshole for no reason, you can go straight to mashing the bone marrow into the fish cake. It’s only the marrow and the fish cake. The rest is so boring it gets lost to time.
When you were twenty-eight you learned how to read Tarot cards and a lot about drinking wine. When you were twenty-eight you were the Queen of Swords and the Five of Swords and the Seven of Swords and the Nine of Wands and the Eight of Cups. You learned Furmint and Sancerre and Gewurtztraminer. You learned you liked pork carnitas and miniature whippets, which are sometimes called “miniwhips”- you learned that too. You learned the phrase “As the crow flies,” which means “in a straight line.” You learned that it is very easy to roast cauliflower in a toaster oven.
When you were twenty-eight you learned that when your boyfriend is an asshole for no reason you can deal with it in any way you want really. You can instantly forgive him even though you think your girlfriends would probably give you the advice to leave him or you can be in a snippy mood for several weeks and/or entertain yourself by imagining all the hot fake future British boyfriends you could leave him for or you can hold your breath underwater while waiting for the storm to pass, which it always does. He says “poor sausage” or “it’s had its biscuit” and his eyelashes exist and you love him. You learned that loving someone is harder than not loving someone and that being single was way chiller than you thought when you were single. I would even go so far to describe it as being “the best thing ever” but if you are single when you are reading this than you definitely disagree with me.
When you were twenty-eight you learned that your own knees look like two seal heads bobbing up and down in front of you when you’re sitting in the back of a car. You learned the word “inestimable.” You learned that if jump squats and plié squats and the weird plié pulses from the Six Minute Look Good In Your Leggings video are executed on around a tri-weekly basis some very nice-looking lines will appear on the outsides and insides of your thighs. You learned that push-ups make your delts bulk up like crazy and therefore are not worth it. You learned that burpees are also not worth it and that the word burpee is not worth saying. You learned that it’s better to be vain than be sad.
When you were twenty-eight you came to terms with the fact that your ceiling fan will most likely not fall on you and kill you and that your boyfriend is not a secret serial killer and that you probably won’t die in a plane crash. You figured you may as well just suck it up and write a novel about the fucking Beatles since that’s obviously what you were put on Earth to do, duh. You learned that if you get to work early and you’re alone in an empty restaurant you should play the first Clash album, loud. You learned that the first Clash album sounds better when played very loud in an empty restaurant, or an empty wherever-you-happen-to-work, than it possibly could anywhere else. You learned that white wine tastes inestimably better when drunk (your instinct is still to write “dranken,” silly baby) out of a chilled glass. And that the only ice worth your time is crushed.
When you were twenty-eight you learned that you teach people how to treat you. Your therapist taught you “You teach people how to treat you” (which was also great because when you were twenty-eight your therapist jacked up her price to two hundred bucks a session which is highway robbery so at least you got something out of the deal) when you were complaining about how your boss liked to text you before work on Wednesdays, asking you to run some errand that she very easily could have run by herself. Once, she asked you to pick up some “clips,” and it drove you so nuts you kicked over your recycling bin while rhetorically yell-asking your boyfriend, “WHAT ARE CLIPS?”
(Here’s my poem about “WHAT ARE CLIPS?”:
NO BUT SERIOUSLY.
WHAT ARE CLIPS.
CLIPS COULD BE SO MANY THINGS.
HAIRCLIPS. PAPERCLIPS. ETC.)
You began ignoring her texts. Eventually, she stopped texting you.
When you were twenty-eight you forgot you were writing this in the second person and started writing this sentence as “When I was twenty-eight” and then you changed the “I” to a “you” and you were charmed by your own narrative voice taking on the persona of a cute yokel: When you was twenty-eight you learned that if you were a character from Mad Men you wouldn’t be Don Draper or Peggy Olson as you’d previously believed. You found out in the back of a car, seal head knees a-bobbing; you were drunker than anyone who saw you that night had ever seen you: You Are Roger Sterling. You looked out the window and the red-yellow-green of a traffic light was so blurry you dopily touched your eyeball to make sure you still had your contacts in. You remembered back to a sentence you’d written a couple weeks earlier, Roger Sterling is so chill about being selfish, and you thought That’s what I am, or at very least That’s what I’ll be. Every human in the entire world is so selfish I could die and the only people worth ten seconds of your time are those game enough to admit it. Those chill enough to accept it. Those brave enough to embrace it.
High-waisted jeans look good on you. You learned to boxer-shuffle and punch the air.
You taught yourself to run. You ran down the side of a mountain. It was the weekend you went to Woodstock with your dad. He said, “When you’re running on a country road, always run against traffic,” so the cars can see you coming and they won’t run you over and kill you and leave you to die like roadkill on the side of the road. You saw a dead deer the day before and your dad said “It’s just sleeping” like you were a little kid and you laughed but secretly hoped the deer was just sleeping. You wore a t-shirt of John Lennon holding up a sign saying “War Is Over” and liked how you were silently advertising John Lennon and the concept of war being over to every car that passed you by. To kill time while driving home you asked your dad to tell you the entire gist of Oppenheimer’s biography which ended with Julius and Ethel Rosenberg being executed for telling Russia how to build the atomic bomb. You asked him why they did it and he said “For world peace.” They thought if Russia and the USA both knew how to build the bomb than nobody would use it. Nobody would bomb the other guy because nobody wanted the other guy to bomb them back. And you thought that particular “For world peace” was the most beautiful thing you ever heard.
You listened to Baby You’re A Rich Man over and over and the air was so clear and thin it was like you’d been drinking milk your whole life and that air was the first time you’d ever had water. To the north and east were mountains paved with tiny faraway fir trees that looked like sprigs of dill. In the middle of one mountain was a house, Tudor-style, built right into the side of the mountain.
You didn’t realize you were running down the side of a mountain; you thought you were running so fast and with such ease because of the air quality. You imagined all the Woodstock runners going for runs while visiting their friends in cities and discovering what horrible runners they truly are. The air quality helped but you realized when you turned back to run home that you’d been running downhill the entire time. I’m not an idiot. It was not a particularly steep slope.
When you were twenty-eight years old you ran up the side of a mountain for about twenty seconds before giving up and walking slowly. When you were twenty-eight you decided, “I have better things to do than run up the side of a mountain,” and took a picture of the house. You posted it to Instagram and captioned it “dream house” even though if you lived there you’d never stop imagining yourself dying in a landslide. You pressed backwards on the song to start it over from the beginning since it had passed the part where John Lennon sings “Tuned to a natural E/Happy to be that way” without your noticing it. Everything was staggeringly beautiful and psychotically boring at the exact same time. You started writing a story about running down the side of a mountain in your head.