Only Four Letters Arrived

by Jaylee Alde

 

My Dear Old Neighbor,

You were like a photograph. The kind people kept in their wallets until nothing but the edges were left. I didn’t mean to do it. I hope I didn’t scare you. It was just a picture. I am well-intentioned. Sometimes, my hands are not mine and I do things. It’s not my fault.

I am a different kind of animal. You know this. I see the true faces of those around us. You do too. How their shadows shake behind them like an angry fist. Their indignation manifests into a coat of mean sap, clogging all the bits of kindness left in their guts, leaving heavy drips of it in grocery aisles and sidewalks for us to slip on.

I see how desperate they are to uncoil and how that desperation rots them from the inside out. It is ugly. They are all ugly. Sometimes that rotten scent they give off invades, it slithers past my defenses. It seeps into me like thick mud and I can’t scour it off and I disgust myself because of it. You are not one of them.

Understand? I know you do. Maybe it’s because of the way you love light. I’ve watched you, head bent towards the sky in the dead of afternoon, at your window, eyes closed and in prayer.

Before you, my dear neighbor, I once thought the world was only made for hammers, only built to house the noisemakers, and I was drowning in it. Not anymore and it’s all because of you. In you, I found a calm tide of soft things and a love for light.

I want to tell you about my day. It was not uneventful. This is why I’m writing to you now. I truly believe I saved your life today. I stood in my kitchen eating a fat plum over the sink when I saw it. An apparition, a sneaky thing but with hard edges, like an outline, slithering along the borders of your yard. I know, this sounds crazy. I thought I was going crazy as well, but the ghost hit a beam of light and its true nature revealed itself. A beast with loose skin and covered in black maggots that swayed as one with each step the animal took. Its eyes were human—bloodshot and filled with thirst. Its teeth were bared, snapping at the wind like clapping knives. I sneaked behind the beast as quiet as a forgotten book. Without hesitation, I lifted the thing by its neck—the maggots falling down my arm like the juice of a plum—and I slammed its face into the concrete base of your home. I repeated until the monster went limp. It is now buried under my back porch if ever you require proof of my heroics.

I must go now. I’ll see you soon. The sirens are growing louder.

With all my love,

Stuart.

 

***

 

My old neighbor,

I will get better. The doctors have said so. I don’t like it in here. Everyone’s eyes are dead and ugly in here. Not like yours. And why did you say those things about me in court? That wasn’t nice. I’m sorry about what happened, but I can honestly say it was no longer the animal you thought it was. It sounds silly, of course, but nonetheless, my accounts of the day were entirely accurate. I can’t help but feel you are ungrateful.

You shouldn’t be mean to me.

We were never strangers and you know that. But I did enjoy how pretty you looked in court. How stoic you were when the lies about me fell from your mouth like broken teeth.

Honestly, I don’t blame you. I don’t blame you for this bleached, bone-white room I’m sitting in now. I don’t blame you for all these numb days I sit through daydreaming if your sun looks the same as my sun. I don’t blame you for the heavy curtains, with thick stitching that reeks of vomit, that I stare at until my eyes bleed. I don’t blame you for this cloud of mumbled babble that I endure when all I want is a quiet place away from the loud thud of drums that vibrate off all this fucking ugly. Honestly, I don’t. Someone made you tell the court those lies about me. I know it. I’ll see you soon.

Love,

Stuart.

 

***

 

My neighbor,

They let me out last night. I don’t understand why you’ve never written back.

You should have written me back.

Do I still scare you? Is that it? I shouldn’t. I am obviously a harmless bug to you. Obviously, a lost plastic toy. A sad sack. A whining dog left out in the rain. I’m nothing to you, right? Do you still hum a childish song in the kitchen when no one is home? Do you still open all the windows on bright afternoons? Do you still close your eyes and soak in all that light?

Even if I wanted to hurt you, I wouldn’t.

Sincerely,

Stuart.

 

***

 

You have a beautiful family now.

You know who.

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