Fourth of Four Letters to a Young Man

You’ve asked a worthy question. I suppose I made the connection with you
because I thought you were a meth cook. The name “chemist,” your liking for
guns, and your thoughts that you’d like to spend some time in solitude in
a remote cabin all made me think that. Cooks sometimes refer to themselves
as chemists, though a lot of them never got through high school chemistry.
Most of them also like guns for the most practical of reasons. And some
of them probably understand that cooking meth is something best not done in
town.

Nineteen years old and a meth cook struck me as a combination that might
include another trait: a lack of complete awareness in the road
conditions after you travel it a little further. When you connected with me because
of the picture of the El Palenque grips I immediately assumed all these
things. Along with that assumption came the thought that, if you were making your
choices without a full understanding of the downside it mightn’t hurt you
to get a look at one facet of it. There’s plenty in television and movie
fantasy about all that, but it isn’t reality, whereas this is. (At least
from my viewpoint.) The people who create those media dramas probably
haven’t been there.

If I managed to tell all that without intruding into your boundaries and
choices, I thought it couldn’t hurt. If you didn’t want to hear it, you
didn’t have to read it.

The hardening realization that Dan and his mom are probably dead has
occupied my mind a lot lately. I’m finding I’m moved by it, despite
myself.

Although I have no inclincation to do any cooking, now, I can see from my
own experience how a man might be moved to do it. I learned to cook out
of curiousity, hanging around the lab. I never did a cook, but before it was
all over I believed I could duplicate Dan’s product. For a brief span of
time I thought it might provide me a way out of the financial morass I’ve
gotten myself into. A few cooks would probably hold me for the remainder
of my life, the way I live.

The downsides are that it’s illegal enough to get you life in prison,
you’ll probably expose your body to a soup of destructive chemicals, and you have
to surround yourself with meth users. A couple of years ago, I didn’t
have any appreciation for the importance of that third part, which I’ve come to
believe is the one that carries the most weight. When it all culminated
with a near bust, the lab accident and Dan going insane, I finally figured
out that meth wasn’t the place for me. That entire reality is filled with
people ten times my ugly in ways I don’t find remotely interesting.

Over the last few years some of my closest friends have been hard men who,
over time, enlarged the boundaries (in my mind) of the concept of
“normalcy.” Even those expanded boundaries weren’t wide enough to include
the people I encountered during my “meth phase.”

I didn’t expect to hear from you again after I sent the anecdote about Dan
and his mom. When you replied with a brief description of your
aspirations, I figured I might as well offer a few thoughts on the subjects you named.
You succeeded in getting me interested in the problems a 19 year old might
have in trying to wind his way through a 21st century future, given your
preferences. Somehow that all wandered off down a monologue about the War
on Drugs.

What kind of person am I? I’m a man who tries to live by his belief
system in ways that go beyond what most people think of as “normal.”

My belief system includes the concept that life is probably “intended” to
be difficult. It also includes the concept that we are all entirely
responsible for our own choices. That no one “owes” us anything. That
“fair” is an absurd concept except when it’s applied during the feeding of
multiple pets or dividing cookies for kids. That pain, as we usually
think of it, doesn’t really hurt much and is worth enduring without complaint.

I believe almost every aspect of this life experience, the good, the bad,
the ugly, is a blessing that needs to be recognized as such.

I believe the choices other people make are mostly not any of our business
unless they apply force on the ones we make ourselves. I believe life is
an important place; a lot more important than most people give it credit for,
and in ways most people don’t imagine or perceive; that the choices and
decisions we make during this lifetime are crucial in some ways we ought
to each be concerned about, but mostly aren’t.

Years ago people who knew me well used to quip that I was a 19th century
man in a 20th century world. If they were correct, now I’m a 19th century man
in a 21st century world.

Last night I was browsing through DeviantArt and, in the back of my mind
caressing the thought about the folks who seem to have felt enough
hostility toward me for the past couple or three years to attempt to add
difficulties to my life. I found myself composing a piece of prose/poetry about it.
“He,” of course, is me:

If he could only feel

The fear, the doubt, the terror;

If he cold only satisfy your yearning

For him to feel those things

He’d probably do it.

If he could only understand

How much it means to you

To cause him pain;

With what a flood of anguish

And hatred you wish him ill

And want to be responsible;

Want him to know,

He’d almost certainly try.

But, he can’t.

Despair’s no longer sexy

To those who’ve seen it naked.

Fear cowers under a straight, steady gaze.

You’ll have to offer up something more frightful

Than your rage; your idealized terror;

Something more dismal than your impotent concept of emptiness;

Something with more substance than your scorn;

Something more somber than you think death is

To make him care.

Maybe that tells as much as all those other words about the kind of person
I am.

Best to you,
Jack

Note from Jeanne: Several years later, Jack was pretty sure he ran into Dan at a casino near Placitas. His looks had changed, but he was recognizable. Jack tried to have a conversation with him, but the man left.

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