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Letter to a Lost Friend


by P.R. Mercado


I keep attempting to start a correspondence with people 
but they end up not being interested in me, 
either that or I scare them away 
because I usually begin with: 
“Well, my favorite philosopher is Hegel,” 
and usually they have nothing to say about Hegel, 
which really is what separates me
from my father's dogs or my desk drawer; 
that is, the knowledge of Hegel—
but I condescend, as is the minimum of my manners, 
and I say: Well, what did you do today? 

I've spoken with a German who likes rap. 
He never got back to me. 
I've spoken with a Filipina 
who is also an editor of a popular kids' magazine in Manila; 
she stopped when I mentioned I spend my time reading Aquinas.
I played chess with a Mexican in Canada. 
I lost and he subsequently disregarded me. 

To them, I mention you 
as “a handsome but deeply flawed Englishman.” 
One cannot help but ask to be more specific: 
Do I mean some son of landed gentry? 
Worse, of course. 

In my “immediate correspondences,” 
that is, whenever I go out, 
I usually have a good time 
but find the depth of the conversation lacking; 
this is the result of conversing 
without the mediation of the written word: 
it is all just vulgarity if we speak as soon as we think. 
We might as well be Capuchin monkeys 
asking to be fucked or for some peanut or something. 
I find myself looking for a distant correspondent. 
I fail miserably each time. 

Lately, I've been fussing with my evenings, 
completely undecided
as to with which activities I should preoccupy myself. 
Books lay unfinished on my desk, 
and I am simultaneously writing at least three pieces. 
I have unplayed video games, 
unopened even from their packaging, 
films I have yet to watch, 
restaurants I've yet to eat at—
generally, my life is yet to be lived, even. 
Without an audience in the form of a correspondence, 
I fail to see the point.

Now, my friend the other day asked me in the car
while we were stuck in traffic: 
What has happened to you since we last met? 
Ah, but you see, apart from the usual drama of people my age, 
a few days ago I read a passage from Kierkegaard 
that equated universality with duty, 
universality with happiness, 
and therefore happiness with duty—
a pristine and wonderful argument 
that subverts individuality and particularity, &c., &c.—
but I could not tell her 
because she is my intellectual inferior, 
and so I ended up telling her instead 
about a new song I wrote for the ukulele. 

I don't tell you this in search of a response. 
You are unreliable, ungrateful, and selfish. 
Manners merely protect a more perfect indifference in you; 
and your thrashing of whatever affection I had for you 
was done in a manner so virtuoso in execution 
that I sometimes wonder if you achieved it 
through practice or genius. 

I say this because I know you will read it and understand. 
No one else has a catalogue 
of my failures and loneliness 
that is so comprehensive. 

The subject is a project, goes the existentialists; 
thus, observe how these hands threaten my jugular 
with the blade-like, hooked edge of the “I”! 
It is my greatest work, yet unfinished, 
but ongoing so long as I suffer to live.
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