..First Glyph

February 1
3 p.m.

Dear Deborah,

I feel a little dizzy. I'm resting in a cafe trying to reclaim my breath. I haven't stopped moving since I woke this morning on my sister's couch in Ft. Worth. She and her husband drove me to catch a 7 a.m. bus south. I missed it. I took the 8 a.m. When I arrived here in San Antonio I sat in a park near the bus station and gobbled up a lunch prepared for me by my sister. Then I strolled the Riverwalk. While strolling, I remembered the bus I used to take to get from downtown to this cafe. Number nine. This is La Parisienne French Bakery and Cafe. And, as you can see, my journey has begun.

I spent the last month in Wichita parked in front of my parents house. My mother had to exert herself very little, therefore, to deliver your letter to me. She won't, however, be able to perform this function for the next couple of months. I'll let you know when I return. It should be early April. I decided to take busses through Mexico instead of the Winnebago. And I've abbreviated the trip from ninety to sixty days. I'm ready to start. I've been anticipating this journey for over a year.

Well...And solitude. I've let the idea simmer since your last letter. It seems to me the important distinction to draw, first of all, is that between solitude and loneliness. Solitude, I covet. And in it all of my best ideas have a chance to be born and mature before I scribble them down. For me, solitude is not something to overcome, but something to seek. I spend hours sometimes in a kind of hazy twilight of idea and memory, of the present moment and the possible future, of my readings and my work. A weekend phenomenon this is mostly, born of those hours I allow myself passive production instead of active production. But it is here where the abovementioned distinction is drawn. In such moments I am alone but never lonely. I do not even realize I am alone. It is only when I realize that I'm alone that the loneliness creeps in. And right now this is an infrequent occurrence. Loneliness for me is most acute when I'm looking for someone to ease it. It's one of those vicious circles. I feel lonely and I look for someone to ease the loneliness and when I look for someone to ease the loneliness the loneliness sharpens. I don't think I've ever had it easier in this regard than I do right now. Since I left San Diego more than two months ago I've known I would not be in one place for more than a few weeks at a time. I will be in transit, in fact, until I settle myself in Albuquerque sometime after this trip. That in mind, it becomes pointless to look for someone to ease the loneliness, right? Well, at least for me. Short-term relationships that I know are short- term only exacerbate the loneliness; exacerbate it and deprive me of solitude. Oh well, I hope I'm not rambling on too much. I've not conquered loneliness by any means. At the moment though it is not the monster it usually is. Loneliness is the only sacrifice I make for this lifestyle of mine, my only cross to bear. Nothing else really bothers me. Not the poverty, not the soul-less jobs. But solitude! I relish my solitude!

A waiter with a Chicano accent just refilled my French roast. This was one of my favorite cafes when I lived here. Built to resemble a chalet, it's all wood with a big brick fireplace and a harpist on Sundays. A good art museum sits not far away. I would tour it if I had more time. Brackenridge Park is a walkable distance south. I might walk that distance just to lounge in the grass. Art has become something of a hobby for me. I don't think I've mentioned that before. Delacroix and Modigliani. Real idols of mine. And I'm a great fan of parks. Loved Tucson for its parks. That city has 94 of them! And all inviting in the winter months! Anyway, I didn't have much free time today. Enough to tread myself bleary downtown and hop that bus that brought me here. I continue on from San Antonio to Brownsville tonight at eleven. Due to arrive in Brownsville tomorrow morning at 5:30 a.m. I'll spend a day in Brownsville and then ford the Rio Grande. Tomorrow my work begins. Today I'm just enjoying the first day of this trip. An accordion lilts above me now, some smooth-voiced Frenchman drawling out a lyric.

And on a relationship's next step? Tough one. But I think if you are both honest with yourselves and with one another then there is nothing to worry about. What is meant to happen will happen. Of course, if either of you are not honest with yourself or with the other then...I simply have nothing to offer. Love may be the key to happiness, but it is truth that turns the key.

Hmmmm....I'm going to glance over your letter.

Walden can be difficult, but don't give it up. The conclusion is a powerful statement and a great inspiration of mine. It articulates many of my values. That work is one of the few in the canon of Western literature that clearly enunciates some basic principles of Eastern philosophy. And people listen. They listen because it's Thoreau instead of the Buddha or Lao Tzu.

I just finished Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged on the bus trip from Dallas. An enthralling work. I was captivated by it, challenged. I'm still sorting out some of the ideas. Rand presents an extreme individualism and builds a compelling philosophy around it. I have struggled with this question before--the conflict between working for oneself and working for others. The book emphatically argues that working for oneself is the most moral way. And I have thought before that a single human achieving its full potential can only be a benefit to others. But to pursue it, to pursue one's full potential means an inevitably selfish path. Maybe the question then is the motivation. Am I doing it for myself? Am I doing it for others? Still, if I spend my energy worrying about others, how can I arrive at my potential? That grand effort does not allow for distractions. I sometimes decide to focus purely and completely on my own development. Even as I commit to this I suffer qualms, guilt. Rand's characters suffered the same. Not until they conquered that guilt did they arrive at their potential. But when they did! How the world benefited! What do you think, Deb? I remember once here in San Antonio Pam using the word "individualism" as a pejorative. Help! All I know is that my potential lies somewhere among these words and that I seek that potential without reservation. Because of this I tend to favor Rand's individualistic philosophy. But her book presents it in the extreme. That extreme has roused again my questions. I will stop repeating myself now.

The story I'm including here is not from my unfinished novel. Not even my family has read any of my unfinished novel. All they know is that it's about Mexico and the Southwest. That's all I ever tell anybody. I have about ten short fictions finished enough to read. I've another ten not. This one's from the finished stack. Hope you like it.

I will exit now. This went longer than expected but that's good, my dizziness has passed. I think I'll walk to the park and enjoy the other sandwich my sister prepared for me. I might pick up a couple of postcards to fill out your correspondence here. I'll write to you again in a couple months when I cross back into the States. Depending on how much money I have at the end of the trip, I will re-enter at either Nogales, Arizona or San Diego.


P.S. When I stepped off the bus this afternoon the word that came to mind was "balmy." Warm and humid down here. Remember? Hope the snow's not too deep up there in the Berkshires!


John Dishwasher

The Gods of Our Fathers