Little one,

I hope that by now you’ve calmed and come to terms with your misapprehension. Have you any idea how sorely mistaken you are? Did you honestly think that I would prefer to be here, here with the dullards sniveling over their marks and comparing the importance of their daddies? I thought you were cleverer than that.

Really, I’d have thought you’d be overjoyed to be rid of me. No need to wait for me to be otherwise occupied to secretly go through my things and devour the contents of my books. You did always prefer my bed. Now I won’t be taking up space in it when you decide yours doesn’t suit.

You’ll be wanting to know why I left, if the first paragraph is to be believed. Perhaps you haven’t noticed, but I’m very nearly out of things to teach you. I’m playing the part I’ve always played — I’m here seeking everything worth knowing so I can show you one day. Please find enclosed a text on cryptography. Perhaps it will be easier for you to say everything you wanted to say to me when we last met if you know for a fact that only I will be able to decipher it.

(Disclaimer: This is part of the letter series)


Ruffians, hoodlums, gangsters, drug addicts — whatever the PC term you prefer for yourselves these days, I know what you did last Saturday. Did he seem like an easy target? Sweet, perhaps naive, not paying attention. Just a boy. So you hurt him and stole everything he had. No one else will say it, but I will — slavery is too good for you. Jail is too good for you. Life is too good for you.

This atrocity happened because you don’t know your place. Your entire existence isn’t worth a glance from a decent human being. You never learned your manners. I’m here to teach you. I will hunt you all the days of my life, and I will eviscerate you with a dull knife. Or even better, I’ll drag you, a rope around your neck, screaming through the streets and gathering a leering crowd. We’ll hang you from a tree and watch your eyes and tongue bulge from your head. Maybe the symphony will perform in the background and someone will sell popcorn and peanuts. Perhaps I will crush your teeth and skull into a curb with such a satisfying crunch under my foot. Will your brain dribble a bit and filthy up the concrete? Oh, I didn’t know you had one…

Perhaps all those words are too big for you to understand, you actual shit stain. Let me say it in words of one syllable so you have a chance of getting it*:

You do not fuck with my friends. I will kill you.

*Ah, but you’re probably illiterate too, aren’t you?

(Disclaimer: This is part of the letter series)


Your Majesty,

Do not let the desperate pleas of this (ex-)colony go unheeded! I know that we had a bit of a spat in the 18th century, and I deeply regret those circumstances. However, I am happy to put that all behind us if you’ll only just consider taking us back. We will be the best colony ever, I promise. We will pay taxes, we will drink tea, we will spell things like colour and honour and realise correctly, and no, by no means will we ever, ever pull a stunt like the one in Boston again. Never ever. I promise.

You were right that we did not deserve to be represented in government. We still don’t, if the current state of our government is any indication. Elected officials who don’t believe in evolution and climate. A congress that can’t agree on a budget. Health care that leads in costs but lags in results. Laxity with guns that’s resulted in more deaths than all of our wars combined. Indeed, I am fully admitting our stupidity. We are helpless, but we could help make the British Empire glorious quite large once again! Guide us, please.


(Disclaimer: This is part of the letter series)


Dear P,

There are roles for which you were perfection. I could think of none other to be the knight marching a drugged princess up the mountainside. Who better than you to face the water zombies slip-slopping out of the ocean? But your pride and your fear of the ordinary made you vile. Oh, you were terrified of anyone not being in awe of your intellect.

So you became a shut-in of your own fantasy world, much like me.

Here’s where our paths diverged: it wasn’t enough for you to believe your invented credentials, no one could challenge them. You became impressed with yourself. We stopped getting along because you were a breathing example of how very wrong I could go. You were every vice of mine, magnified, distorted into something ugly.

The only way I could pretend there was nothing wrong with me was to excise you. Now I wonder what story you tell yourself about our parting. That’s all right. I don’t mind if you blame it all on me. Go on then, let it all out.

(Disclaimer: This is part of the letter series)


By the pool that night, you tried to hurt me. You wanted to be “let in” — to see emotional depth in me that you were convinced exists. It doesn’t. “Let’s play a game,” I said. “Make me cry, and I’ll tell you anything you want.”

Your attempts were revealing. I think you channeled your mother, old lovers, ex-friends and more, snarling “you’re shallow” (true) “you’re fat and disgusting” (also true) “you’re stupid” (yes) “no one cares about you” (agreed) and others I can’t remember now. I nodded along, having long ago accepted that people will think these things of me.

When you had exhausted your store of insults, you concluded, “you really are a robot, aren’t you?”

I suppose I am. Or maybe I’m just not moved by any of the obvious things. Try harder.

(Disclaimer: This is part of the letter series)


Father, brother, nanny, friend. N, you are everything I know. I don’t remember ever being without you. When I read, it’s your voice I hear saying each word. It’s been that way since I began to read. Don’t you remember? I was abysmally slow to learn, and could barely stutter each word. You saved me from my own ineptitude by reading everything to me in your perfect accent. Velvety, smooth, never hesitating. Can you blame me that I love to read, if only to hear your voice?

When I’m alone, up too late, delirious, you’re the one that chides me. If I ever think I’m good at anything, it’s your indulgent smile that says “yes darling, but remember there are many others far better than you.” If I falter and doubt myself, you remind me I’m still better than anyone you’ve actually met. It’s you, it’s always you. Only you. You’re the only one I can count on to tell me the truth, no matter how dark. And if I want to fall apart and have a fit, you know which room to set me in. “Stay here, distract yourself. I’ll be back when you can be reasonable again.” Every room in my memory palace was designed by your brilliance to suit my rages and tantrums. On the brink of many a mistake you’ve whispered “No, you mustn’t” and saved me.

How can I ever repay you for teaching me how to somewhat resemble a real human being? Name anything, N, and it’s yours. I’m yours. But maybe to you, old boy, that sounds like a tiresome threat. And, of course, you’ve known it all along.

You may not be real, darling, but you’re better than that; you’re perfect. I guess I must have just imagined you.

(Disclaimer: This is part of the letter series)


Dear M.,

In your last letter, you asked me when I knew. Without context, I can only respond in kind.

When I was five, Mrs. Mitchell introduced letters, words, phrases, sentences. Watching the other children agonize over how to wrap their mouths around the syllables like “run” and “dog”, meanwhile, I had recently finished reading Dante’s Inferno to myself. Under covers, at night, of course — don’t tell father I was in his library. I knew then.

In algebra, when I dozed off and Mr. Young so rudely woke me up, I told him his class was boring and full of things I’d taught myself. He was furious. You should have seen the way his eyes bulged – oh, but he comforted himself thinking he could outwit me. He gave me the dragon problem. It took me 3 minutes and a page of scribbling. Each number danced, a different color and when I found the right ones the colors aligned in the most glorious way. Have you seen that happen before? When I handed him the answer, he became very still and asked me to leave. I didn’t move right away, so he shouted “GET OUT NOW!” I knew then.

When you came home and I gave you the same problem, it took you just a few breaths, eyes unfocused and maybe 87 seconds. No paper. You had never heard it before. I knew then.

You don’t smile. There is a twisted way you pose your lips when a social interaction requires some semblance of friendliness, but you don’t smile. Not generally. But you did, across the dinner table from me. You did when you found me reading your school books and trying to do your work. You did from the French doors when I refused to come in from the rain. You did when I woke up, still high, barely recognizing you. The way you touched my hair. The way you said my name. I knew.

When did I know? Maybe I always have. Ever since I knew that you were something other than me, I think I must have known.

(Disclaimer: This is part of the letter series)