Letter from San Francisco

When my mom visited, and we had breakfast and lunch at Jack-in-the-Box, she showed me a thousand photos of the family. Most were sweet and happy, though it got boring after the first 150 or so.

One of the snapshots was of my niece, Kimberly. Her hair was clipped in a crew-cut on one side, longer and colored purple on the other. She had a ring in her nose and several studs scattered along her ear lobe. I’m an old coot who can’t comprehend these stylistic choices, but Mom was clearly annoyed by it, so I approve wholeheartedly.

Kimberly was just a kid the last time I saw her, but time goes by and she’d be 15-ish now. At that age, or any age, my parents would have grounded her for the haircut and called an exorcist over the piercings, but luckily for Kimberly, her mother is my sister Katrina — the sanest person in my immediate family.

When my mother showed me the picture, though, she mentioned that Kimberly had been saying suicidal things. I gotta be skeptical, because my mother is drawn to drama and exaggeration, so it's entirely possible that the kid said something like, "I'd rather die than eat these green beans," but ... it wouldn’t hurt to write Kimberly a short letter.

It’s two months since Mom's visit, though, and that letter still hasn’t been written. I’ve procrastinated, made excuses — like, how I hated unsolicited advice when I was her age, and the 57 ways I’m not a role model for troubled youth. Excuses won’t mean crap if she’s dead, though, so here’s what I wrote …

Dear Kimberly,

You might wonder why your long-lost Uncle Doug would send you a letter? Just because I remember you, and think of you now and then. Of course, the Kimberly I knew was a little kid, and you’ll be almost grown now.

When I was your age, I hated it when old fogies like me said ‘when I was your age’ because whatever followed would be boring. So this will doubtless bore you, but I'll be brief.

When I was your age my life was hell. I didn’t fit in anywhere, high school was like prison, everyone in the world told me what to do and what not to do, and everything I wanted to do was against the rules.

Maybe your life isn’t like that, or maybe it is. Either way, Kimberly, it gets better. It gets so much better! It might seem like forever now, but in a few years you can do anything you want — go to college, or tell college to go to hell, join the Marines, join the circus, move to Mozambique, really, anything. On your 18th birthday, you can give the middle finger to everyone’s expectations.

It gets not just better, but damned terrific. That's all. End of sermon.

Please don’t answer this, unless you want to. My feelings won’t be hurt if you don’t.

Have fun, eat pizza, fall in love at least twice, skip school now and then, and remember you have a fat uncle in Frisco who loves you.

Re-reading it again the next morning, I’m not wild about what I wrote, but it’ll do. Into the mail it goes. Good luck, kid.

From Pathetic Life #4
Saturday, September 17, 1994

This is an entry retyped from an on-paper zine I wrote many years ago, called Pathetic Life. The opinions stated were my opinions then, but might not be my opinions now. Also, I said and did some disgusting things, so parental guidance is advised.


Pathetic Life 

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  1. Replies
    1. Aw, seriously, thank you. I had my doubts about it then, and still as I retyped it this morning, but — spoiler — Kimberly is still alive and well.


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