G, MEET H Sophia Kraemer-Dahlin & Jeremy Allan Hawkins
G: Sophia Kraemer-Dahlin
Godly is a doubt upon which Howard sits. She is the womanliness of his computer, whose face he has glimpsed sub-monitor.
H: Jeremy Allan Hawkins
Howard Leforge was born in Sandusky, Ohio and, after graduating from Lakeshore Senior High School in Huron, spent most of his life as a salesman for Wilshire Bros. He is now retired and splits his time between gardening and reading the Harvard Classics with his church book club.
H: I don't believe anyone has called me "darling" since there were steamships on Lake Eerie in the business of doing anything more than taking the aged on joy cruises. Of course, that has less to do with the death of steamers and more to do with my demeanor. I have been told that as soon as I retired from Wilshire Bros., I gave up on congeniality. Sadly for my wife Cora—may she be now at peace with the Lord—I came to view cordiality as an occupational hazard that I seem to have been all too happy to exchange for my pension and chaise in the sunroom. I understand this happens to many salesmen after they have made their last call, but I suppose I could have tried a bit harder to keep up some of the trappings of my professional life—for Cora's sake at least. Not to say that we fought! She seemed happy to have me home, anyway, and maybe that change made up for my reserve. Speaking of reserve, I am obviously dispensing with mine for a short spell here so that we can be better acquainted. I don't mean to suggest that you are, perhaps, a bit premature in your intimacy of calling me "darling," but in fact I do wish to be more transparent about how I am approaching our correspondence. I understand we are meant to exchange views on a few points of interest, yet I don't know what to call you, nor do I have the slightest anticipation of your vantage point. This is fine, of course—I began my career with cold-calling, so I have no difficulty in starting with little less than a briefcase in my hand. But I thought it good to extend the courtesy of a brief introduction to myself, so that you will not be forced to behave like a salesman. That, as it should be, remains my job, even in my retirement. So, I greet you, thank you for the compliment inherent in your address to me, and express my pleasure at beginning this parley with yourself. I look forward to its exaltations.
G: Howard, not darling:
Would it be rude to say I'd rather know less about you?
I have started with feeling, and you with fact.
Would you mind if we pass like ships in the night?
I'll move, epistolarily, from feeling to fact.
You'll move fact to feeling.
I am saying more in this letter. I even use a pronoun.
Will you send me a letter saying less?
I propose that we head toward one another, pass in the middle and from then on follow the wake the other has left.
I mean that your second to last letter will be equivalent to this one, & your last will be one charged word. My second to last letter would mirror whatever you send me next, & with my last address to you you'll learn my biography.
If you agree, do you follow? Afterward we can arrange the text as pleases.
H: Dear ____,
Thank you for your highly artistic reply. While I have never had much of an understanding for the high arts, I do appreciate a thing of beauty and I do admire the people who have been given the gifts to make these things. In my own way I have tried to make my own contributions to modern sculpture, occasionally leaving a bar of soap carved into the shape of a fish when I have abandoned a motel. Despite my good intentions, though, I am not an artist, and I am afraid your designs are lost on me.
Now I'll leave it to you to decide your behavior in terms of becoming acquainted with a fellow human being; I am too old to be teaching people what is or is not rude. But I do think it appropriate to address my understanding of our objective here. I was told I was to correspond with a stranger on the topic of persona, something my former occupation taught me a fair share about. Anyone who doubts me is welcome to try walking through the front door of a warehouse with a sample case of industrial detergents to sell while acting like yourself. I mean to say, as it were, that I am something of an expert in persona in practice.
But as of now I am still uncertain about how to open this dialogue with you. Personally, I don't care a salt's lick about what form our communications take if we are discussing the matter at hand! So I hope you will accept my apology that I have failed to write you less, and that I continue to be interested in facts rather than feelings. It is a fact, after all, that I have accepted this task to the neglect of my back garden.
G: We collide.
H: Dear ____,
I am sorry to inform you that we, in fact, do not collide.
I had a very interesting encounter once in Edinboro, PA, where I found myself face to face with a hotel manager who simply could not comprehend my business. I would say, "Would you like to see some of our linen-specific detergents," and he would reply, "Yes, I would love to examine your shaving kits." I repeated myself, and he repeated himself, without change. Now at first, I'll admit, I thought he was having a go, trying to be witty about how to show he wasn't interested in my products, but when I turned to exit, he grew upset. He wanted to know why I was going back on the offered demonstration. It was then I realized that he had no sense at all of what I had been saying. I still cannot explain it, that bizarre exchange where I said "detergents" and he heard "shaving kits," and I won't use your time to detail how we finally came to understand each other. What's most important is I discovered that day that some people are unable to communicate on a fundamental level. They are at opposite poles. Instead of colliding, they diverge.
I think it is fair to say that ours has not been a collision. You are a romantic artist; I am a retired salesman. I introduce myself freely; you offer terms. I wanted to have a conversation; you wanted to make some sort of sculpture out of our correspondence. I said a great deal and you said very little. I present my name, just as you do not. At Wilshire Bros., we would have called that "a hotel without sheets," which is to say, a contact that will not lead to a detergent sale.
I knew of stories, from my years on the road, about salesmen getting so lonely that they resorted to any kind of companionship in order to feel less solitary. Women of the night, other men's wives, the so-called "glory holes" that are probably still serving the same purposes today in truck stops across our great country. I could never stomach it, though, even at my most lonesome, and not just out of loyalty to Cora. In a way, I never had time for it, being too driven to dawdle in intimacy, "Darling."
I should thank you for your brevity, in any case. Had this correspondence become more frequent, I doubt my bulbs would have been in the ground in time for an early spring bloom. As it is, my back garden is coming to life, like god's own creation should. Which, thinking of the lord, makes me want to end this note on a generous pitch. I will share with you a question I have been considering lately, and which might enrich your life as well, if you should choose to engage in it. The question is simple, but worthwhile, in my opinion: if, during his short but illustrious career, Mozart had been presented with an instrument of 88 keys that all played the same Middle C, would he have recognized it as a piano?
I wish you the best of luck in all your future endeavors, dear ____, since I have no doubt that you are still quite young, and will need that luck for a long time to come.