The Silver Linings Playbook Chapter 31
Letter #2-November 15, 2006
First, let me say it’s good to hear from you. It’s been a long time, which has been strange for me. I mean, when you are married to someone for years and then you don’t see that person for almost as many years, it’s strange, right? I don’t know how to explain it, especially since our marriage ended so abruptly and scandalously. We never got a chance to talk things over – one-on-one – like civilized adults. Because of this, sometimes I think maybe it’s almost as if I’m not really sure the multiple “Pat-less” years have truly transpired, but maybe it’s been only a brief separation that feels like years. Like a solo car ride that takes all night but feels like a lifetime. Watching all those highway dashes flying by at seventy miles an hour, your eyes becoming lazy slits and your mind wandering over the memory of a whole lifetime – past and future, childhood memories to thoughts of your own death – until the numbers on the dashboard clock do not mean anything anymore. And then the sun comes up and you get to your destination and the ride becomes the thing that is no longer real, because that surreal feeling has vanished and time has become meaningful again.
Finally making contact with you is like arriving at the end of a long car ride and realizing I went to the wrong place – that I have ended up in the past somehow, at the port of origin instead of the dock of destination. But at least I finally get to say that to you, which is important. It probably sounds stupid, but maybe you know what I mean. The part of my life you once filled has been nothing but highway dashes since you were put away, and I am hoping this exchange of letters will help to provide closure for both of us, because soon I will drive back to the place I was before Tiffany contacted me, and we will be only memories to each other.
I can hardly believe how much you wrote. When Tiffany told me you were writing me a letter, I did not expect you to give her two hundred photocopied pages of your diary. As you can imagine, Tiffany was not able to read me all of the pages over the phone, because that would have taken hours! She did read me the introductory note and then filled me in on the rest, citing your diary often. You need to know it was a lot of work for her to read through the manuscript and pick out the parts she thought I should hear. For Tiffany’s sake, please limit your next letter to five pages – should there be a next letter – as reading five pages aloud takes a long time and Tiffany is typing up what I dictate over the phone as well, which is already too much to ask of her. (She really is a phenomenally kind woman, don’t you think? You are lucky to have Tiffany in your life.) Maybe it’s the English teacher in me, but I feel as though a page limit is best. No offense, but let’s try to be concise. Okay?
Congratulations on your dance performance. Tiffany says you performed flawlessly. I’m so proud of you! It’s hard to imagine you dancing, Pat. The way that Tiffany described the performance was very impressive. I’m glad you are taking an interest in new things. That’s good. I certainly wish you had danced more with me.
Things at Jefferson High School are gloriously shitty. The PTA pushed for online grade books, and now parents have access to their children’s grades 24/7. You would hate working here now because of this new development. All parents have to do is log on to a computer, go to the Jefferson High School Web page, enter an ID # and a password, and they can see if their kid turned in his homework on any given day or scored poorly on a pop quiz or whatever. Of course, this means if we are behind on our grading, parents will know and the aggressive ones will call. Parent-teacher conferences have increased because of this. Every time a student misses a single homework, I’m hearing from parents. Our sports teams are losing pretty regularly too. Coach Ritchie and Coach Malone both miss you. Believe me when I say they could not fill your shoes, and the kids are worse off without Coach Peoples at the helm. The life of a teacher is still hectic and crazy – and I am glad you don’t have to deal with this type of stress as you heal.
Sorry to hear about your father being aloof. I know how much that used to upset you. And I’m also sorry your Eagles are up and down – but at least they beat the Redskins last weekend, right? And season tickets with Jake, you must feel as though you died and went to heaven.
I think it’s best to say I am remarried. I won’t go into details unless you want me to, Pat. I’m sure this comes as a shock to you, especially after Tiffany read me the many parts of your diary that seemed to indicate you still hope to reconcile our marriage. You need to know this is not going to happen. The truth is I was planning on divorcing you before the accident, before you were checked into the neural health facility. We were not a good match. You were never home. And let’s face it – our sex life was shit. I cheated on you because of this, which you may or may not remember. I am not trying to hurt you, Pat – far from it. I am not proud of my infidelity. I regret cheating on you. But our marriage was over before I began my affair. Your mind is not right, but I have been told your therapist is one of the best in South Jersey, your treatments are working, and your memory will return soon; when it does, you will remember how I hurt you, and then you will not even want to write me, let alone try to re-create what you think we once had.
I understand my blunt response to your very long and passionate letter might make you upset, and if you don’t want to write me again, I will understand. But I wanted to be honest with you. What’s the point if we lie now?
P.S. – I was very impressed with your finally reading many of the books on my American Lit. syllabus. Many students have also complained about the novels being so depressing. Try Mark Twain. Huck Finn ends happily. You might like that one. But I’ll tell you the same thing I tell my students when they complain about the depressing nature of American literature: life is not a PG feel-good movie. Real life often ends badly, like our marriage did, Pat. And literature tries to document this reality, while showing us it is still possible for people to endure nobly. It sounds like you have endured very nobly since you returned to New Jersey, and I want you to know I admire that. I hope you are able to reinvent yourself and live out the rest of your life with a quiet sense of satisfaction, which is what I have been trying to do since we parted.