I was in Paris recently to film Canadian author Mavis Gallant. She was a super nice lady, and after the filming she gave me a book of her short stories. She also inscribed it for me. Back here at home, I have had to sell this book at my local second-hand booksellers in order to buy a pack of cigarettes. Should I buy the book back, or should I continue selling possessions to feed my nicotine habit? I am six feet tall.
Paul Kincaid Jamieson
Vancouver, British Columbia
If you had been any shorter, then yes, I would have said buy the book back. But since you’re six feet, you should be fine. By the way, I’m sending you an inscribed pack of cigarettes. Please don’t trade it for a collection of short stories.
I’ve been single for about a year now, after a long-term relationship fizzled. All of a sudden, I’m starting to get those codependency urges again. So what’s the problem? Simple: I like my independence and the fact that I don’t have to answer to anyone. Especially since I’m a graphic-design major with absolutely no time for a boyfriend. What would you suggest I do to suppress these unwanted feelings without the use of pills or alcohol?
—Looking for an Out Without Slipping In
What’s wrong with pills and alcohol? Are you judging me? It kills the pain. I hate it when people start spewing bullshit like, “You’re going to have to deal with it sooner or later.” Well, not really, because by the time “later” comes, my problem will be over because of the booze and pills. I’m not stupid.
Are you selling any pills?
I recently adopted a pet—an adorable young beagle hound with a face like pudding. I’ve spent the last several weeks trying to potty-train him, which has mostly involved laying old newspapers and magazines on my kitchen floor. I’ve noticed that he has some unusual preferences when it comes to what sorts of paper he will “do his business” on. He has almost completely ignored major periodicals like Vanity Fair and Harper’s, and he won’t go near the New York Times. But he has demonstrated a fond-ness for some of my books. He has already soiled my copies of Finnegans Wake and Tropic of Cancer, and he’s left a “surprise” on my hardcover edition of Kafka’s Amerika. I wonder if he’s trying to tell me something. Is it possible that he’s expressing a discriminating literary sensibility?
Oh my god, Scott Arkin? Is this letter really from you? It’s me, Amy. How are you? I called and called after that boating accident but nobody would call me back. Then the operator said your number had changed and that it was unlisted. I’m up and out of the chair now. It’s been a couple of hard months but I have to stay positive. Did you have a nice Valentine’s Day? I sent you a card but it came back to me. Have you moved again? Can I have your address? I want to show you some pictures of a farmhouse a friend of mine bought. She has a bird sanctuary. You would like her. She has salt and pepper hair, too. I met her in here. I would love to catch up. It’s weird, every book that you mentioned in your letter, I think they all belonged to me. Y’know, back when we were still living together. Do you think that means something or is it just a coincidence? I’m glad you adopted a new dog. I hope you have forgiven me. I was drinking then and I had just gotten my license. I was stupid. I’m sorry. But at the same time, if it makes you feel any better, I lost my job at Kemp’s Seafood. I bet this dog will straighten out. It’s like a second chance for you and the new dog. Maybe you would consider giving “us” a second chance as well. Please please please write me. I can still talk out of my throat part, but mostly I’m writing and giving people like you advice. Big joke that is, right?
I’ve gained 120 pounds in the past ten years. I’ll be sixty-five years old in June. Should I stay obese and merely be fat, uncomfortable, and poorly dressed? Or should I lose weight and deal with those hideous hanging folds of fat I see on the makeover shows? I’ll just loll around and snack until I hear from you.
Oh, Kay, you poor fool. Don’t you want to fit into a pretty dress for your casket? I say lose it. Right now, you’re just making a lot of people feel better about their own bodies by standing next to you. Don’t give them the satisfaction. You’re not sixty-four anymore. It’s time to grow up.