Wednesday, September 05, 2007

A Very Long and Overdue Letter

Novicat de Soeurs Missionaires de Notre Dame d'Afrique & four religious drummers - Yesu Ka Mkwebase MP3

Dear Lacey,

I was busy writing about something else, the loss of innocence and all this kind of shit, when I was suddenly distracted by your memory, or rather the memory of you, and thought that perhaps it would be better if I just wrote you instead. I believe it's because I was writing about high school, that miserable place which afforded us little more education than the camaraderie and independence that grew up inside of us, partially the product of choice, partially the product of necessity, that shared closeness that comes with the experience of being a social outsider.

More specifically, I was recalling the bit of forest behind the school, the one we were never meant to visit, past the portable classrooms and pick up trucks, and that horrendous chain-link fence, the one which separates truancy from athletic participation. There's something really beautiful about that piece of land, that delicate fabric of trails and open fields which reminds you, if only for a second, that perhaps central Texas is not the worst place on Earth, a beauty which is no doubt enhanced by its forbidden quality.

I'm sure it was you who made me go there first, or maybe it was Courtney. I can never be sure. You were always forcing me to do stuff like that, to bend rules, to push boundaries, not so much because you were a junior revolutionary, but more because you had the foresight to understand that these temporary rules enacted to govern the lives of young adolescents are, really and truly, complete and utter shit. Like the time you convinced me to ditch the career fair, and we spent the whole day mucking around South Austin; you bought me a sandwich, and then we rolled our pants up, halved a piece of cake, and climbed carefully but deftly down the root-encrusted bank to the still and forgotten creek behind the sandwich shop. I might not be pushing it if I said that was one of the best days of my life.

Yes, that's what I remember-little moments of freedom. I think we were quite good at that, our little group. We attended school in a place where it is customary to see Confederate flags, where the term "faggot" is thrown around with little to no objection, and where unconditional praise of the athletically gifted is encouraged (all typical traits of the southern experience, but one has to remember that it's disturbing that these things should ever become normalized). And so, in our own futile rebellion, we ate our lunches outside under the trees, sported our montage of paisley retro gear, pinstriped vests, and Goodwill t-shirts, celebrated Bob Dylan's birthday with chocolate cake at seven in the morning, and generally tuned out the world by filling our ears with music that was long ago forgotten by many-or so I thought at the time.

Of course this is a regular occurrence, that feeling of togetherness which is born out of isolation, but I like to think there was something a bit different about our situation -it wasn't identifiable as any nationwide youth trend, but it was instead a bond colored by a complete and total obsession with the past, a fundamental belief that things were inherently cooler in the sixties. And they were. The first week of school, I didn't even know you, but I knew you enough to think that I was in love with you. And then, with minimal provocation, you agreed to sew onto my bag all the patches which I had collected over the summer-The Grateful Dead, Jim Morrison, The Beatles, Bob Marley... The most obvious characters of retro obsession, which at that point, for me, held no cultural association of mainstream taboo. Yours was the most finite stitching I had ever seen, so evenly spaced, and with all the patches placed at angles that allowed them to exist in perfect harmony. As soon as I held the now-transformed vessel in my hand, I knew that I was definitely in love with you, and always would be.

Maybe that's the benefit of going to school in the middle of nowhere: the popular trends take longer to reach you, the only norm is mainstream country music, so you have to find something on your own, something that moves you and gives you shelter from your incongruous environment, the one that, as somebody quite clever once said, "says nothing to me about my life." There is one event that I remember quite vividly, sticks out in my mind, a party held on your mother's land, just across the creek from your father's, in that magical nowhere dip where the only signs of life were the distant silhouettes of cows, presumably in place for tax purposes. On this particular night, we had managed to craft something of truly Kesey-esque proportions:

Everything in my memory is shrouded in the flickering of several campfire lights, brief flashes of beards and naked skin, the competing strums of acoustic guitars, the kids from the neighboring school (namely your boyfriend and his team of beautiful hooligans) with their Kent III shirts, converse and gas station wine situated at the opposite flame, the constant sound of didgeridoos (by this point, the Alaskans had arrived and firmly planted themselves on your land and in your heart), and last but not least the incredible image of Courtney channeling Mountain Girl, wandering from person to person, offering each friend a poem from a jar, which had been folded into a pyramid shape (the poem, not the jar). "A poem for you..."

That night, as David and I were ascending from the wilderness and back into my car, I remember turning around for one last look at the circle below of fire, bodies, and drone, and remarking to David that it looked exactly like a National Geographic special, a fitting description, for earlier that week, you and I had fought because you assured me that, if given the choice, you would abandon all things familiar and Western, and relocate to a specific Aboriginal tribe where a popular game included forming a large circle with linked arms, consistently altering the resulting shape so as to avoid being touched by the shade of an overhead cloud. In this moment I believed that, maybe, just maybe, you were being sincere.

Just as well, then, that you left us for Alaska, left school early to pursue something that, all in all, was far more worthwhile. Sometimes I can't escape thinking that perhaps your decision to follow those bearded Alaskans up into the wilderness meant you knew that you were to die young. Although, I think everybody once and a while believes they are to die young, at least I hope that's a universal premonition, otherwise I should be concerned. Sometimes I try to imagine all the events I missed while I was sweeping away at the cinema: the day you cut off your, long, famous hair, the endless paths carved through such esoteric towns as Moab, Utah in pursuit of that great, northern paradise, the hours spent studying the teachings of a Western guru, and lastly the days spent in that cabin alone in Alaska, trying to understand, as you said to me, your relationship with God.

But there are things I do remember, things I don't have to imagine, like the many trips down to the University in search of several spoonfuls of bohemian insight, all of us lying in wait in my heavily shrouded bedroom, unanimously dreading the possibility that any parent might arrive before my father's decaying cassette copy of "Sounds of Silence" had come to completion. Or an evening spent in my now-donated Mercedes (used, of course); eyes closed as the song I'd written for you surged from the speakers, through my body, and eventually from my left hand into your right, all but filling the dense yet awkward-less silence.

And then, of course, the last time I saw you. You were leaving for Alaska or I was leaving for Europe, I can't remember which. That evening I was closing down the theater, clad in maroon vest and nylon necktie. I met you in the parking lot for a hurried goodbye (sometimes that's the only thing available). Standing outside in the vast space between the bookstore and the cinema entrance, one of us (I can't remember which) said, "I don't know when I'll see you again," and the other replied, "It doesn't matter," not as an indication of apathy, but instead a reminder that deep-rooted love is something you carry with you, like a talisman, or rather like that essential piece of metal sewn into the wall of my stomach lining. "Even when I'm not with you, my love is with you..."

Each year, on the anniversary of your death, I intend to write something and never do, a disservice I always regret. Instead, I'd like to remind you of something you wrote, something I had forgotten about until I saw your father at David's funeral the other day. There is more to say about David, but nothing you don't know, and now is not the time or place. He (your father) said to me that it's finally time to begin taking apart your room, to free himself of the many possessions left behind in that upstairs purple abode. As a start on the project of purging, I was handed a package containing photographs of you and David (I had forgotten how the two of you looked so much like identical twins), along with a story you'd written for school when we were fourteen or so, detailing where you might be in ten years. I stored these items somewhere safe (so safe I can't remember the exact location) and thus I am unable to quote your original text.

But here's what I can remember-I can remember the rough penmanship, the sort that can only belong to a girl of fourteen, and I can remember the happiness that it brought me years ago when first I glimpsed it, a happiness which was rekindled when it was re-delivered to me much later. Fortunately I can also remember the general outline of my favorite part. It had something to do with you joining NASA, training to become an astronaut and traveling to the moon several times. After that vision of yours was quenched, you married me, we had three beautiful children, and I like to think that we lived happily ever after. If you'd only known how, at the time, I carried this story inside of me, intentionally ignorant of its casual intent, and allowed it to foster all kinds of beautiful hopes within my being. But maybe it wasn't all disingenuous. As we discussed earlier, love is something that you carry with you always, regardless of its form.

So many years later, all I can say is this: I'm glad this was your dream-because it was mine too.

Love,
Ramesh

30 Comments:

Blogger blue orchid said...

this is beautiful.

8:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your letter and your love took my breath away. Trish

8:38 AM  
Anonymous Heather said...

Ramesh,
This is very beautiful and heartfelt. It is very brave of you to put such thoughts and feelings up for both total strangers and those close to you to read. I once tried to do this, but ended up censoring myself so much [more out of the fear of what those who know me well would think, not what the total strangers would think] that the end result read like a bad novella.
Not to sound corny or anything, but for this reason you are my hero. One day I hope to be able to say-- or even type-- what I have really felt and no longer be so afraid of what others think that I censor so much that the meaning is lost.
Thank you for sharing.

10:47 AM  
Blogger MIMI said...

how brave and beautiful x

4:16 AM  
Blogger drew. said...

Ramesh,
I met you at mowhawk place in buffalo, I thought at that time that you were one of the most beautiful writers that I had ever known, and had a beautiful voice at that. I have come to find that with all of your writing and insight I find myself aspiring to have half of your passion. I truly hope you the best and hope we meet again, keep the writing up.
Drew

5:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

your letter inspired me to profess my own love for a friend that i have loved for quite some time. we are now together.

thank you.

1:36 PM  
Blogger Anita said...

i love your writing. if you're ever inspired (even remotely) to write a book, please do. you have a way with words that make your memories so vivid.

on a different note, great performance last night!
~anita

8:41 PM  
Anonymous olga said...

i loved that. it was beautiful

6:47 AM  
Anonymous R said...

This letter reminds me of an Ashbery poem I once came across while studying in London-the specifics of which aren't as important as the connection of voice that I felt upon finishing the poem. The clarity with which you write is impressive, especially when discussing something as intangible as one's emotions. Needless to say, you are an excellent writer.

2:27 PM  
Blogger Leanne said...

Your letter was--in one word--beautiful. Thank you for sharing this with us.

11:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

sounds beautiful in a sad, nostalgic way
i jst read ur post on the internet from april
just wanted to let you know that there are still kids who live for an album
who feel like it is their heart and soul
and who invest so much of themselves into it
heard u at a concert a couple hours ago. u had a fever and ur performance was still breathtaking.
hope u feel better

11:46 PM  
Blogger Russian Federation said...

the last line was lovely and a nice ending to the piece.

3:04 AM  
Anonymous sruti said...

i always love long and overdue letters. this was no exception.

7:07 PM  
Anonymous Jyl said...

Beautiful. Tear-provoking. You are one hell of a writer.

1:14 AM  
Anonymous fifa said...

hey ramesh
What's up with you in surgery?
You ok? Nothing too serious I hope?
Heard u guys scheduled some shows in the UK to make up for today's show. I just wanted to make sure that you remember to have a good time, meet new people, and keep on doing what you love.
Don't stress out too much.
You honestly seemed like you needed to take a break when we saw u at the DC show. Hope you're feeling better and try to relax.
Fifa

3:22 PM  
Blogger Adam Goes Boink said...

hey Ramesh...i also came here to check up on you after hearing about this 'minor' surgery. i'm off myspace and no longer possess my amerikan celly so i didn't know how else to contact you.

so i hope it was real minor, and that you're alright, and that you'll be back to regular ol' somewhat healthy-ish ramesh in no time. try not to work too hard out there on the road.

also...tour south korea plz.

^_^

4:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am older. I came across this site quite by accident. I read, and was transported back many years ago to my alienated adolescence- sitting in the woods not far from the road, drinking, smoking, tripping with friends-knowing these folks were my family much more that the strange and abusive pair with whom I lived.
And now I look at my own children, the oldest probably close to your age- and wonder how it is that my two daughters, my husband and I are our own gang of four- who love each other and laugh at each others' stories, and cry for each other's struggles- how can family be this? I am so lucky- and yet I know part of what makes me hold these people so tightly is the memory of those early years. You brought them back, but in a good way.
But I am so sorry for your loss. You write well Mr, Srivastava- so now I'll buy some music and listen. I bet I'll like it. Thanks.

5:42 PM  
Blogger Sarah said...

thank you for writing this. i didn't know lacey well, but i really miss david.

5:52 PM  
Blogger C'est moi! said...

I'm glad you shared the same dream, too.

2:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your letter is so inspiring and heartfelt. The way you described your life when you were a teenager reminds me so much of my life right now. I'm sorry for your loss, she sounded like a wonderful person.

7:30 AM  
Blogger casey15 said...

I'm not sure why I decided to check your blog today. I'm bad at checking this sort of thing regularly. It's exactly what I needed today...quite beautiful. It made me think of my free-spirited (okay, hippie) cousin who comitted suicide a year ago and all of the things she might have done and might be doing at this moment. It also made me hope that someone might love me this much.

10:30 AM  
Anonymous Kadence said...

I came across this blog in an attempt to prove to my theater director that a certain bellhop in a particular high school play was also the one and same as you (which was discovered in the most casual manner).

In reading your letter, as you described the campus, I immediately knew each and every distinguishing feature that you described. I recognized the same social stagnation of the people. I connected with the same features of rebellion against sweeping trends and school regulations, and the quest for a different form of culture, an alternative to the reigning view that country-listening, overly religious, exalted athletes are the center of the universe.

It's comforting to know there have been individuals who have escaped from this desolate school of mine: that there are better things after living in this town.

and because of this I thank you for writing this entry, about another time in the history of Leander.

5:40 PM  
Blogger Would.Be.Adult. said...

It's odd to think that you once attended my high school. I had been speculating this idea for a while, with much derision from my tech teacher. But upon reading this entry, I can confirm this theory.

When you recalled your campus, I knew immediately each and every feature that you described. Of course the campus has undergone remodeling in recent years, but the social structure, the rules, they're immutable.

Sometimes I become discouraged and have an utter lack of faith in my generation because of the atmosphere and the people, but I realize that a lot of it has to do with the geographical location, not the generation.

And that is why I thank you for writing this entry-it proves, in at least some way, that individuals are able to escape from this desolate setting. Not only that, but individuals holding minority likes and lifestyles can't be suppressed by the overbearing athletic presence or the lack of what some would call a sophisticated culture.

8:57 PM  
Blogger Alex said...

This letter rings with poignancy after reading Into the Wild. Perhaps reading this novel will help bring perspective to your own situation and feelings. Also, your music is some of my favorite modern rock. Thanks.

12:12 PM  
Blogger Brennan Murphy said...

Hi Ramesh, I was just at the Henry Fonda show in LA where I talked to you for a moment...and if you remember I was the one who recorded the show. Maybe not...I'm not sure if anyone ever got around to telling you or not, but either way.

When I managed to get permission I told your manager (it's Stephen, right?) that if the recording came out I would send you a copy and he said that would be great. I didn't think to get any email address or anything from him though!

So, here I am, with the recording in my possession and no way to send it to you :P :) Do you have an address or such I can send it to?

Btw-that was one of the best (albeit a tad short..haha) shows I've seen in a long time...Thanks again just for playing!

my email addy is br3nn4n@gmail.com.. This is the only way I could find to contact you unless I completely missed something which is entirely possible..hah.

-Brennan

4:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi! I'm actually in love with your writing and your ability to eloquently convey such complex emotions through your words. It makes me happy. Please post again and please start touring again and please come to New York again. Thanks.

6:22 PM  
Anonymous SJariwala said...

This is by far one of the most captivating pieces of writing I've had to pleasure to read in a long time. I feel so happy to know people like you and her exist and have existed.

10:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i know that you didn't necessarily write this for other people to read, but thank you for posting it in a public place. if it means anything to you i've been crying for the last ten minutes since i read it. i've never cried from reading something before.

7:06 AM  
Blogger presley said...

ramesh, the feelings you evoke in this letter were practically divining the cutting board. i'd love for you to write a book like the way you wrote this letter - so honest with loving sincerity that it seeps through the pages. there are lovely bits of nostalgia just enough for us to see you and your friend and your love - but not as intruders but as spectators; it's like i'm seeing both of you in a dream. and when i think of alaska, i think of alpinists i'd read about going there to die young in the mysterious frontier. your words are like paintings.

i translate from this letter the honesty you represent in all of your songs.

as a writer to another writer, please write a book. it could be about anything cos i'd read every word you write. please write some more entries.

9:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Voxtrot's my favorite band because your lyrics have always seemed to fit so cohesivley with my life. I stumbled across your blog while looking for merch on the band site and am now even more madly in love with your writing. I can't even imagine making someone feel with my writing the way i do when i read yours. Although i dont know you i think its safe to say youre a truly amazing person Ramesh, and i really wish that dream had come true for you, partially because i have such a similar one.

8:25 PM  

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