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The Short Form

“Seventeen Different Ways to Get a Load of That”

Ben Greenman

Excerpt

One day, out walking in a neighborhood near campus, I had a very clear vision of the house where I grew up, as seen from overhead: the brown rectangle, the green rectangle, the white fence. In my vision, my mother was there, standing forlornly in a corner of the front lawn, and I suddenly came over with an idea. Since I could no longer write letters to Jill, and since I could no longer speak to my mother on the phone, I would write letters to my mother.

The first one was written with the kind of unthinking innocence that always reveals itself, in time, to be a form of deceit. I decided to type it because my mother had always complained that she could not read my handwriting. I obtained onionskin paper because it was the best lightweight paper available at the campus bookstore. (Perhaps the Shrink Fence would challenge both of these statements.) In that first letter, I affected a more adult tone because I wanted to impress her with my independence. “I know we haven't spoken for a while,” I wrote. “I wish it weren't the case. Life in the States is good.” The rest of it was small talk about the news, save for one long sentence at the end where I tried to communicate what I understood of human connection: “The way in which I faded away is unforgivable and I would not blame you if you agreed,” I wrote.

We read it in What He's Poised to Do.