Station Eleven (Page 28)

I’m not exactly homesick but not exactly not. I’ve been spending a lot of time with Clark, who’s in my acting class, who I think you’d like. C. has punk-rock hair half-shaved, pink on the non-shaved side. C.’s parents want him to go to business school or at least get a practical degree of some kind and C. told me he’d rather die than do this, which seems extreme but on the other hand I remember when I thought I’d rather die than stay on the island so I told him I understood. I had a good class tonight. I hope things are good with you. Write soon,

—A.

Dear V.,

You remember when we used to listen to music in your room in the cliff house? I was thinking about what a nice time that was, even though I was about to leave for Toronto so it was also sad. I remember staring at the leaves outside your window and trying to imagine I was staring at skyscrapers and what would that be like, would I miss the leaves, etc., and then I get to Toronto and there’s a tree right outside my window so all I see are leaves. It’s a gingko, though, nothing I’d ever seen out west. It’s pretty. The leaves are shaped like little fans.

—A.

Dear V.,

I’m a terrible actor and this city is f*****g freezing and I miss you.

—A.

Dear V.,

Do you remember that night we stayed up to see the comet? Comet Hyakutake, that really cold night in March with frost on the grass, I remember we whispered the name over and over again, Hyakutake, Hyakutake. I thought it was pretty, that light just hanging there in the sky. Anyway I was thinking of it just now and wondered if you remembered that night as well as I do. You can’t really see the stars here.

—A.

Dear V.,

I didn’t tell you this but last month in acting class the instructor told me he felt I was a little flat, which is his way of saying he thinks I’m a terrible actor. He said something vague and almost kind about how difficult it can be to improve. I said, watch me, and he looked surprised and sort of blinked at me and then mostly ignored me for the next three weeks. But then last night I was doing my monologue and when I looked up he was watching me, really watching me, and he said goodnight to me for the first time in weeks and I felt like there was hope. I’m like a man in a wheelchair watching other people run. I can see what good acting is but I can’t quite reach it but I’m so close sometimes, V. I’m really trying.

I was thinking about the island. It seems past-tense somehow, like a dream I had once. I walk down these streets and wander in and out of parks and dance in clubs and I think “once I walked along the beach with my best friend V., once I built forts with my little brother in the forest, once all I saw were trees” and all those true things sound false, it’s like a fairy tale someone told me. I stand waiting for lights to change on corners in Toronto and that whole place, the island I mean, it seems like a different planet. No offense but it’s weird to think you’re still there.

Yours,

—A.

Last letter, dear V., because you haven’t answered any of my letters in four months and haven’t written anything longer than a postcard in five. Today I stepped out and the trees were exploding with spring flowers, did I dream you walked beside me through these glittering streets? (V., sorry, my roommate came home in a generous mood with some excellent pot and also I’m a little deranged and lonely, you don’t know what it’s like to be so far from home because you’ll never leave, V., will you?) I was thinking earlier that to know this city you must first become penniless, because pennilessness (real pennilessness, I mean not having $2 for the subway) forces you to walk everywhere and you see the city best on foot. Anyway. I am going to be an actor and I am going to be good, that’s the important thing, I want to do something remarkable but I don’t know what. I told that to one of my roommates last night and he laughed and called me young, but we’re all getting older and it’s going so fast. I’m already 19.

I’m thinking about auditioning for an acting program in New York.

Something I’ve been thinking about, which will sound harsh and I’m sorry: you said you’d always be my friend but you’re not, actually, are you? I’ve only realized that recently. You don’t have any interest in my life.

This is going to seem bitter but I don’t mean it that way, V., I’m just stating a fact here: you’ll only ever call me if I call you first. Have you noticed that? If I call and leave a message you’ll call me back, but you will never call me first.

And I think that’s kind of a horrible thing, V., when you’re supposed to be someone’s friend. I always come to you. You always say you’re my friend but you’ll never come to me and I think I have to stop listening to your words, V., and take stock instead in your actions. My friend C. thinks my expectations of friendship are too high but I don’t think he’s right.

Take care, V. I’ll miss you.

—A.

V.,

It’s been years (decades?) since I’ve written but I’ve thought of you often. It was good to see you at Christmas. I didn’t know my mother was planning on inviting people over. She always does that when I’m there, I think to show me off in a way, even though if it had been up to her I’d never have left the island and I’d be driving my father’s snowplow. Awkward to be thrown into a room together, but wonderful to see you again and to talk to you a little after all this time. Four kids! I can’t imagine.

It’s been years since I’ve written to anyone, actually, not just you, and I confess I’m out of practice. But I have news, big news, and when it happened you were the first one I wanted to tell. I’m getting married. It’s very sudden. I didn’t mention it at Christmas because I wasn’t sure yet, but now I am and it seems perfectly right. Her name’s Miranda and she’s actually from the island, but we met in Toronto. She’s an artist who draws strange beautiful comic strip type things. She’s moving to L.A. with me next month.

How did we get so old, V.? I remember building forts with you in the woods when we were five. Can we be friends again? I’ve missed you terribly.

—A.

Dear V.,

Strange days. The feeling that one’s life resembles a movie. I have such disorientation, V., I can’t tell you. At unexpected moments find myself thinking, how did I get here? How have I landed in this life? Because it seems like an improbable outcome, when I look back at the sequence of events. I know dozens of actors more talented than me who never made it.

Have met someone and fallen in love. Elizabeth. She has such grace, beauty, but far more important than that a kind of lightness that I didn’t realize I’d been missing. She takes classes in art history when she isn’t modeling or shooting films. I know it’s questionable, V. I think Clark knows. Dinner party last night (very awkward and ill-advised in retrospect, long story, seemed like good idea at time) and I looked up at one point and he was giving me this look, like I’d disappointed him personally, and I realized he’s right to be disappointed. I disappoint myself too. I don’t know, V., all is in turmoil.

Yours,

—A.

Dear V.,

Clark came over for dinner last night, first time in six months or so. Was nervous about seeing him, partly because I find him less interesting now than I did when we were both nineteen (unkind of me to admit, but can’t we be honest about how people change?), also partly because last time he was here I was still married to Miranda and Elizabeth was just another dinner guest. But Elizabeth cooked roast chicken and did her best impression of a 1950s housewife and he was taken with her, I think. She kept up her brightest veneer through the whole evening, was completely charming, etc. For once she didn’t drink too much.

Do you remember that English teacher we had in high school who was crazy about Yeats? His enthusiasm sort of rubbed off on you and I remember for a while you had a quote taped to your bedroom wall in the lake house and lately I’ve been thinking about it: Love is like the lion’s tooth.

Yours,

—A.

26

“PLEASE TELL ME YOU’RE JOKING,” Clark said when Elizabeth Colton called to tell him about the book. Elizabeth wasn’t joking. She hadn’t seen the book yet—it wouldn’t be released for another week—but she’d been told by a reliable source that both of them were in it. She was furious. She was considering litigation, but she wasn’t sure who to sue. The publisher? V.? She’d decided she couldn’t reasonably sue Arthur, as much as she’d like to, because he apparently hadn’t known about the book either.

“What does he say about us?” Clark asked.

“I don’t know,” Elizabeth said. “But apparently he talks about his marriages and friendships in detail. The word my friend used was unsparing.”

“Unsparing,” Clark said. “That could mean anything.” But probably nothing good, he decided. No one’s ever described as being unsparingly kind.

“He liked to describe the people in his life, apparently. At least he had the grace to be upset about it when I called him.” A fizz of static on the line.

“It’s called Dear B.?” Clark was writing this down. This was three weeks before the pandemic. They still had the indescribable luxury of being concerned about a book of published letters.

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