Dear Horatio

A series of letters written to Horatio.

April 27, 2022

Dear Horatio,
Do you ever think of that ever consuming chaos that is slowly overtaking our
souls until time runs out? I do. I think you should more often. It makes for excellent
breakfast material. Not that I’m eating the idea, just that I like to think of chaos in the
morning. It gets me ready for the day.
I don’t think I’ve ever breakfasted with anyone but you. Doesn’t it get lonely? Not
really. There’s too much in my life to let me be lonely. Yet I feel there’s still not enough
to fill that chasm in my heart where you once lay.
But that’s gone, and you always said we shouldn’t dwell on the past.
Today I went for a walk. It wasn’t a very long walk, only to the park, but still, it
was nice to go outside for once. It was a warm day, and there were many other people
around: mothers, fathers, children, couples, etc. I didn’t talk to any of them. I never do.
Then I thought about painting. I can only say I thought about it because I never
actually picked up my brush. That’s alright, there’s always tomorrow. Or maybe there’s
not, but that’s alright too. I wouldn’t be around to deal with a nonexistent tomorrow,
anyway. I wouldn’t be around to deal with anything. It must be nice.
I hope you’re doing well. It’s been a very long time since we last spoke. In fact, I
can’t hear your voice anymore, and your face is a slowly fading shadow. I’ll have to see
you again soon. Hopefully you’ll be back, but I’m not sure. I might have to come find
you.
It’s those who drown for whom the penny drops. I don’t have a penny though. I
don’t have anything. Except a paintbrush I can’t use and blank canvases. I don’t miss
painting though. I can’t stand the bitter smell of the paints. Not now.
There were ducks at the park today. There are always ducks at the park. In life
there is only one constant: ducks. They’re stuck at the park, idly floating in the pond,
nobody there to free them from their chains of stupidity. How easy life must be for
ducks.
I didn’t have any bread to feed the ducks with. Nobody ever does. Anyway, they
need more than bread to save them now.
Maybe I’ll paint the ducks.
I’ll write tomorrow, if I’m around.

 

 

Dear Horatio,
I didn’t feed the ducks today. I didn’t paint today. I wasn’t expecting to, but I
tried, I really did. I got so far as picking up my brush. It felt comforting to hold its long,
wooden handle again. But I could tell the evil was there, waiting. It’s been so, so long
since I painted. I still can’t bring myself to miss it.
I painted you once, don’t you remember? It was a long time ago now. (Everything
to do with you was a long time ago now, though.) You sat on the sofa and you were
laughing. I remember how beautiful you looked. Not anymore.
I tried to remember your face again today. I can only remember your smile, no,
not even that. I can only remember your laugh. It was happy, like a child who had just
been given a new today. But it was also cold. I haven’t felt your happiness like that since.
I managed to walk again. To the park, as usual, and the ducks were still there.
They always are. Maybe I’ll bring them bread tomorrow.
Tomorrow. That’s all I need, a constant stream of more days. I won’t get that
though, not ever. Because one day I’ll die. Then there won’t be another tomorrow.
There’ll be a plethora more for others, but I’ll be too busy rotting away to care. I wonder
if I’ll miss having a tomorrow.
I thought about you at lunch. I ate nothing, but I sat in silence, honouring the
occasion. How odd I call it lunchtime when I didn’t eat lunch. Or maybe I did, I can’t
remember.
Maybe I do have a life, but I’ve forgotten it all. Well, of course I have a life, but
that’s only because I breathe. I mean an important life. I’ve made no impact on anyone
nor impression on this world. I hope I never do. How arduous the whole ordeal would
be if people knew about me.
You know about me. Or I think you do, but it’s been so long. I hope this letter
finds you. Or you find the letter. That would be good.
I miss your laugh.

 

 

Dear Horatio,
You have yet to respond to either of my letters. I understand, of course. There is
only so much time in a day, and one cannot spend all his time responding to letters.
For instance, I spent my time today making dinner. It was a very long process. I
went out to buy ingredients, but I didn’t talk to anybody. I can’t remember how I paid,
either… I made a chicken. Well, I didn’t make the chicken, no, the chicken’s mother did
that. But I cooked it. I hope it had a good life.
Making- no, cooking the chicken took up most of my hours today. It made a nice
change from the ducks. They’re still at the park. I know they’re there even though I
didn’t go for a walk. I know they’re there because they never go away. They stay at the
park. Their lives are simple and boring. My life is simple and boring.
How dull my life must be if cooking a chicken is a newsworthy story.
Most little things in life are an event, whether that thing is cooking a chicken or
feeding ducks. Remind me, I must get some bread for the ducks. They are waiting for
me.
When I go to the park, I can sense their beady eyes following me. They know all
about me. I suppose having a small brain must be useful somehow. The ducks watch me,
and I don’t like it. It’s not unnerving, per se, simply strange. I wish the ducks could talk.
They would give me the answers. Ducks know the answers to all the impossible
questions. Though their brains are small, their eyes are wise.
Those ducks know me better than I know myself. Better than you know me. Or
did. I can’t keep track anymore, I’m so tired.
I don’t want to give up painting, but I cannot bear the sight of my canvases just
lying there all by their lonesome. They look sad. I look sad. I’m thinking of giving away
my painting supplies, but to whom, I don’t know. I don’t know anybody but you. If I
know you.
I’m going to get that bread, just you wait. Those ducks won’t be prepared for my
bread.

 

 

Dear Horatio,
I didn’t get the bread. I haven’t done anything. Except eat leftovers from my
chicken. I’ve been thinking a lot about death lately. I put it down to the dead chicken I
currently live with. I’m not the cause of its demise, yet I still feel guilty. It would be dead,
with or without me.
Maybe it’s the same with you. I wonder, do you miss me? Do you long for the
days we spent together? Do you try to replay memories in your head like a talking
picture? I do.
I wish to paint you again. If you were here, I have no doubt I would be able to
paint, for better or for worse. But you’re not here, so there’s nothing to paint except for
ducks.
Of course, there are always ducks. To paint, to feed, to watch, and so on. I’d like
to paint the ducks, but they would never sit still long enough. Not like you did. You sat
so perfectly still, one might have thought you were dead. Maybe you were, but you
always came alive for me. Always.
Is death so bad, I wonder? I don’t think it’s bad for the person dying. Once they’re
dead, they’re dead. They have nothing to worry about. They have nothing at all, for they
are dead. No, I feel for the ones left to deal with the broken remains. How awful death is
for the living.
Death is like sleeping, for a very long time without waking up. The living get to
wake up. I’m scared I won’t wake up tomorrow. Not for me, maybe for you. Maybe for
the ducks. They might miss me. I must bring them bread. I hate forgetting. I forget too
much already. I’m forgetting you. Are you forgetting me?
I can’t forget if I’m sleeping. Those few hours of unconsciousness are the easiest
hours of my life. I have no worries, no fears, no… nothing. There is nothing when I sleep.
I don’t dream. I lay my head down on my pillow and wake up the next morning with no
recollection of what happened during the night.
Maybe that’s where my memories are going. Sleep steals memories, much like the
way you do.
I’ll write tomorrow, if I remember.

 

 

Dear Horatio,
Have you ever loved someone so much that you feel you’ll go mad if you cannot
make them love you back? That was once me with you. But it became a devotion, and
devotion is never good. It blinds one from the wrongdoings of a person, and clouds one’s
perspective of life. I loved you, and I think you loved me. You told me not to dwell on the
past, but I cannot help it when life was happy then and sad now. I thought loving you
would make me sane, but it only brought me closer to madness. If love were true, you
and I would not be apart.
Love is a strange thing. Many say love is the opposite of death. They are wrong.
Life is also not the opposite of death. Love leads to death and therefore it can’t be the
opposite of death. Life also leads to death. You cannot have one without the other. I
don’t think there is an opposite to death. It is simply a circle that traps everything in this
world. Death cannot be broken. Nothing can outsmart death.
Death paints a grotesque portrait of life with its brush. I have yet to use my own,
but I have picked up again. It is lighter than I recall. I must’ve gotten used to the solid
weight of a fork in my hand. I can count every bristle on my brush. They are all so fine
and pointed, like needles. There are three thousand, six hundred-ninety-seven bristles
on my brush. I checked. They all play their own part when I use them. Each of them
contribute to the larger painting. I wonder if they long to meet with the canvas again, or
if they’d rather I never used them.
I like to think they miss it, but maybe I’m just telling myself that narrative to feel
better. Maybe I want to miss painting. Maybe I want to paint the ducks. Or maybe I’d
rather do nothing. I could simply waste my life away, (not that it’s anything now), and
never do another thing. Doing something is too much for me.
I’m going to bed.

 

 

Dear Horatio,
I am a soldier in my life. Fighting the enemies that are trying to kill me from the
inside out. My mind is poisoned, and I can’t find the cure. I know the cure: you. You
would save me, (you did before), but you’re not here. You’re not here. You’re gone. I
don’t know where to find you. So I’m writing these letters. They might find you.
I like painting. Or, I think I do, but I can’t quite untangle my mind. My thoughts
are intertwined with a thorn bush, and my memories are being torn apart by the pricks.
It’s not even a matter of bravery to get them back; I can’t fight anymore. I tried. So hard.
Promise me you won’t tell anyone about me. I’ll be burned at the stake for
conversing with the devil. I could always burn myself first to save you the trouble. Then
you wouldn’t have to bother with me at all. Then you’d be free of me. Or I’d be free of
you. I don’t know.
Maybe I shouldn’t be writing these letters. Maybe it’s all a horrible idea. I don’t
know why, but I can’t stop writing to you. I don’t decide to sit down and write these, but
I do. Strange thing. It’s all very strange. This world, I mean. My world. With no Horatio.
That’s you. You’re Horatio. Or you were. I’m not sure what you are now.
A fleeting dream, a cloudy memory. A forgotten portrait. I do wish I’d kept that
painting I did of you. I’ve misplaced it now. Maybe I threw it away, along with my love
for you.
It would be nice to love you again, but I don’t think I can. I remember the
nightmares too well. Of course that’s how it works; I forget the lovely afternoons we
spent together in the sun, but remember the hatred so well. I remember the way you
looked at me. There was no love there. Only hatred. I never understood why there was
hatred. I do now.
I loved you so you hated me. That’s the way it works. Maybe it’s the other way
around now. Maybe you love me and I hate you.
Life is a game of chess, and every piece I move is wrong. I’m always outsmarted
by the universe. By you. You were always better at chess than me. I haven’t played since.
Those were painful hours, playing chess. I was playing to lose, and I still am. There was
never a chance I would win, and there still isn’t. You may have left my life, but you’re
still here. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be writing these letters, would I?
No, without you I could be so much. I could paint. I could feed the ducks. I still
haven’t fed the ducks. That’s what determines whether a man’s life was worth it; if he
fed the ducks.
I must feed the ducks.

 

 

Dear Horatio,
I went to a concert today. I actually left my house and went to a theatre. Maybe
I’m getting better. Probably not. I’ve fallen too far down to ever climb out again. It’s for
the best, anyway.
The music was good. A cacophony of violins filled my mind, and the drums beat a
pounding of hope into my head but never getting in. Not properly. The flutes were too
soft, too friendly. The brass was too low, and I could feel the notes in my bones. Music is
an outlet for another man’s madness and people go out and enjoy it. I enjoyed the
music. Only a madman could laugh at his own demise.
I didn’t have time to feed the ducks today. I hope they’re not lonely without me. I
hope they don’t starve. If they do, I won’t mourn. Why would I mourn for something I
can’t control. I could feed them. I probably won’t. In every one of my letters to you, I
have reminded myself to feed the ducks, and yet I still haven’t. It’s probably all a ruse,
and I’m just writing down that I’ll feed them so I feel a connection to humanity.
I should talk to someone, but I only know you. You don’t talk back. That’s alright.
I don’t need a reply.
I could hire a maid, but who would work for a deranged artist? There’s nothing to
clean up, anyway, and I have nothing to pay with. I would have to start painting to make
money. I can’t do that. Not yet.
I could take up a new hobby. Train-watching might be nice. Or maybe I could
become a pianist. But that takes skill. I don’t have any skills. I used to be able to paint.
Not anymore. You remember those times, don’t you? You must do. You could recall near
anything when I knew you. You might be different now.
You could be dead, I wouldn’t know. Would anybody? Maybe you were never
alive in the first place. I can’t remember you anymore, so who knows what tricks my
mind is playing on me. Cruel ones. Of course, I could be mad. I wouldn’t know that
either.
I can’t keep track of mind. The train has flung itself off of the rails, and I’m sure I
can’t put it back on. I’m not even sure I want to make everything make sense. When I’m
stuck, nothing matters. Except the ducks, they always matter.
Would you feed the ducks, Horatio? You would’ve when I knew you, but I don’t
know you anymore. Have you changed? I don’t believe in change. The mould doesn’t
leave the loaf, no matter how much you want fresh bread.
Ducks don’t like mouldy bread. I’ll write tomorrow. Goodbye, for now.

 

 

Dear Horatio,
I baked a cake today. A lemon cake. I had never baked a lemon cake before today.
I have never been fond of lemons. I’m still not. They’re too sour for my liking, and yet, I
made a cake. It was too dry, too bitter. Too bad. I wonder if ducks like lemon cake. If
they do, I could bring them what remains of my cake. Then I wouldn’t have to bring
them bread.
Are there ducks where you are? I imagine so. There are ducks everywhere. They
are ever present creatures. The presence of ducks is comforting. I couldn’t stand a life
with no ducks. Then I’d have nothing. I would have a paintbrush, but that hardly counts.
I would also have canvases, but I don’t want them. I don’t think I wan’t anything
anymore. Except you.
I haven’t seen you in such a long time. I understood before, but after all these
letters? You’ve probably forgotten me. I’ve forgotten you, so it would only make sense.
How funny it would be if we’ve both forgotten each other. Then there would be no point
to these letters. There’s no point to them now, anyway, is there?
Maybe I’ll see you again. I won’t recognise you now, will I? I said before I don’t
believe in change, so maybe that’s it. You only wore a mask. I never knew the real you,
did I? But now I don’t know you at all.
The painting of you is gone. From my mind, from my life. I’ll forget you
completely one day, and that will be a good day. There will be nothing to stop from
feeding the ducks. OH! The ducks! How could I ignore the ducks? How could I say I
would mourn for the ducks? I’ll mourn for the ducks more than you ever did for me. Or
more than I did for you. I can’t keep track. Can you? Are you as mad as me? Am I as mad
as you?
We are both as mad as each other, are we not? Me with my ducks, and you with
your poison. How I wish I could drink it with the same ease that you did. But I can’t. I’m
stuck here, and you are free. How unfair it is. You can rest now, but I will never.
Tomorrow is a curse, not a blessing.
I’ll write tomorrow. Not because I want to, but because I must.

 

 

Dear Horatio,
I fed the ducks today.
I painted the ducks today.
I burned my paintbrush today.
I am now free to forget everything.
But I can’t forget you.
Goodbye, Horatio.
(There won’t be a tomorrow.)

 

Tegenn Jeffery (she/her)

I like to write about things that don’t make much sense and have no purpose. I’ve been writing since I was very young, but only now have I really figured out what I write about, which isn’t much, if you think about it.

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