She’s always asking me what I’m thinking. Do I have to be thinking? I’m breathing. Does breathing have to be different from thinking?
My nose, my tongue. The air moving over them, moving back out. That’s how I think.
(into her iPhone video camera)
Hey mom, hey dad. Uhh…it’s September 4th. You just left yesterday. And, uh, I…I decided I’m going to make you a video every day. I don’t know if I’m going to send them to you or not. Maybe. I don’t know. Maybe later or something. But I’m just gonna make ‘em for now, cause…
Listen I know you think I’m crazy, coming here. I know you wanted me to go to Harvard or Yale or Princeton or whatever….I know you gave me every opportunity… Like you said, I’m your biggest investment, huh? I know you think this place, this school is just a waste of my time. Waste of your money. I know you don’t get it.
If I’m totally honest, I guess I don’t know if I get it either. I mean, I sort of do, but not in a logical way. Not in a way I can put into words really. It’s just a feeling that I have that I’m supposed to be here — or, somewhere like here. Somewhere that’s more wild, or at least where there’s wildness close by.
I mean, look at this! Just look…
I walked here from the dorm, it only took me like an hour to get up here. And I’m on top of a mountain! The one with the L on it. It’s called Mount Jumbo, I found out. And if you look this way, you can see all the way down the Bitterroot Mountains. And this way — that’s the Rattlesnake. That’s two different wilderness areas I can see from right here! And then look down — see? That’s Missoula, right there. I could probably even zoom in on the dorm building. So I can sort of have it all here — I can go to college, and I can go hiking, and…
I don’t know. I’m not really saying what I mean. But that’s nothing new, really. I almost never say what I really mean to you. What’s the point? You don’t understand anyway. And it’s really hard, you know, to say what you mean when you know you’re not going to be understood. It’s almost like… like I don’t even know what I mean sometimes, or what I feel, because I know you wouldn’t get it. Or maybe you’d get it, but you wouldn’t like it. So it’s not just that I can’t communicate my thoughts. I can’t sometimes even think my thoughts around you. Around…all of it.
So, I’m sorry that I’m disappointing you. I know I’m your only kid, your only chance to make something in your own image. But I’m not like you.
And it’s more than that. I’m not supposed to be in Boston or New York or any of those schools we visited. I don’t know why, I just know it. It’s part of this..thing. This thing I’ve been feeling, or hearing….I’ve felt it for a long time. When we went on that trip to Cambridge and New Haven and all those places it was just getting louder and louder — I mean, seriously, I could almost hear it, like a voice. And it was saying: none of this matters. The prestige, the money, getting on that treadmill and staying ahead of the pack. None of it matters. It doesn’t mean shit. Seriously. It never has, but it really doesn’t now. In a little while, it’s really, really not going to mean anything at all. For what’s coming, the things I need to learn — I can’t learn them in places like that.
God. I’m definitely not sending this to you. Not right now. You’d probably have me committed. I know I sound kind of crazy. But I’m right. I can feel it.
Six-thirty-three. OK. Still have time to make it on time.
C’mon Charlie, get your breakfast. There you are. Good boy.
Just leave the fork in the sink. Don’t want to be late. Where are your tags? Goddamn it. When are you going to learn to just hang them on the fucking hook that you put next to the door so you wouldn’t have to do this every fucking morning?
Deep breath. OK. They’re probably in your bag. Where’s your bag? There it is, there they are. Put them on. OK.
Bye Charlie. Look at you, you’re cute even when you’re pigging out. My sweet boy. Bye-bye.
That fork has food on it. It’s going to be nasty when you get home tonight. Just wash it. If you’re late it’s your own damn fault. Get up earlier tomorrow, so you have time to do things right. There. It’s done.
OK Charlie, for real this time. Love you Mr. Six-toes.
Missoula’s a western city. It’s in the western part of a western state. People come here to do western things. Reinvent themselves, take yoga classes, study the “environment," shoot things. Buy books, buy weed, go to college, or the taxidermist.
If you think I’m going to tell you dreamy and perfect it is, how clear the air is, how big the sky is, forget it. Our air sucks in the winter time, and in the summer, too, if we’ve got forest fires. And we live in a valley, so you’ll find bigger skies in Iowa than we have here. I’m also not going to fill you up with bullshit about the magic of fly-fishing, or tell you how gritty and determined, yet humble and self-sacrificing we are, or were once, or whatever. I was born here. Lived here all my life. And I know who we are, what we are. We’re ordinary. We’re five-foot-ten with sandy brown hair. We’re just like any other collection of sixty-thousand-or-so human beings. Some of us are fat, some of us are skinny, most of us are in between. Some of us are dumb, some of us are smart, most of us think we’re smarter than we are.
And yes, that includes me. Being a normal predictable human being, I truly think I am smarter than quite of few of my fellow Missoulians. But maybe that’s just because I work at Walmart — I mean you should see the crap people try to pull of here. Some of it’s dumb, but a lot of it is just thoughtless. Selfishness. Sometimes I wonder if some of our customers crawled out of caves. It’s like they’ve never seen modern plumbing before! I’m not even gonna get into that. And it’s not just them — half the employees are are just as bad. Earlier this summer we had a guy, worked here 15 years, and one day decides to try to steal watermelon. A watermelon! Under his coat! It’s August in Montana, and he’s got a coat. And then he puts a watermelon under it and tries to walk out the door. Did he think we wouldn’t notice that? People, I swear. Fifteen years, and he loses his job over a three-dollar watermelon.
I’m not saying people at Walmart are especially stupid. I’m saying people, in general, are stupid, and Walmart is a good representative sample. And Missoula, too. We think we’re special — just like everybody everywhere does. Thinking you’re extra-smart, extra-unique, just extra somehow? More than, better than? There’s nothing more ordinary than that. That’s the definition of the average human being.