A long-term houseguest of my next-door neighbor refuses to acknowledge me, even when I wave and say hello. Haven’t seen you in a while, but I keep seeing this woman who never talks to me. That is loss and regret, with which I am already well acquainted. What I am now digging is that the permanence of the past is a double-edged sword. They happened, and neither life nor Earth nor humans nor white people nor even I can undo them.

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You decided to pretend that my mother and my sister and I all shared the same false memories, and so I cut you loose. Despite the uncertainty along the way, all of those events are now certain.

” You squirm just a little bit, and start speaking before you know what to say. But, sure enough, this question, or one a lot like it, was how I began the exchange over 20 years ago. I know that in 2012 I get my black belt in a dojo I’d joined 26 years earlier.

But I am going to ask the old question.” “OK.” “What was it, about me, when I was a kid, that made you so angry? Your fuzzy old man routine is so good that I believe it even when I don’t think I am. I know that I write at least one novel and record at least two albums.

You’ve asked me this before.” I’m surprised you remember this. I know that at some point in my 30s I start to make my mother proud of me, or at least I begin to justify her pride.

This country is only about 5% more visibly crazy than it’s always been. And they all have parents, and many of them have kids. And if Trump loses, they won’t all Rapture up to Heaven or something. I also cite the history of this country, to this day. Like me, you grew up hearing about one atrocity after another. I must have mentioned Public Enemy—back then that happened whenever anyone spoke to me for more than 20 minutes—and she said she wanted to get deeper into their catalogue. The way I saw it, the tape was the product of my physical and creative energy; I deserved the slightly better audio quality. (We’d have had to mail them to each other.) I thought it was odd of me, but I let myself do it.

What is different is that this latest little boost seems to have, temporarily, crested over the threshold of your denial. They weren’t just born; they are all old enough to vote. If so, she’s confused; that’s dogs they are thinking of, not people. You had to figure out if someone sounded cute) and spoken directly on the phone once, the day before. Back then, even if I made a mixtape specifically to give someone, I always kept the original and gave away a copy. America has been on the verge of a President Trump for as long as I can remember. In support of this position I cite the millions and millions and millions of grown people who have recently gone into a little booth and consciously cast a vote for Donald Trump. All that stuff that happened—it all actually happened. That is a terrible thing for me to say about you, but you would be able to see it if we were talking about someone else, in a different time and place. Pretending that they were not said, and/or explaining them away, did not make them go away. I certainly could be wrong, but it sure seems that way. We watch out for each other on this block.) My neighbor laughed and apologized and explained. But I do now know most of what will have happened, which is almost the same thing. We’d met on Telepersonals (voicemail dating service! But here’s the thing: I brought the original with me, to give to her. But you are basically OK with the climate in which he came to power. Finally, I cite every weird racist thing that has been said in your presence by friends, neighbors, relatives, coworkers etc. America getting a President Trump is like a lifelong smoker getting lung cancer. I think she’s doing that thing white people tell each other about not making eye contact with black men. I wanted to make sure that you were OK and, you know, nobody murdered you and started living in your house.” (This is actually not that unusual of me. I’ve never known what is going to happen, and I never will. Twenty years ago today I was making a mixtape to bring to a blind date I had the next day. Mixtapes were a lot of work, if you did them right. This time, you seem to be the one eager to get down to it, and I am the one making small talk. It’s a lot like the one a couple of years ago, except with all new material. I can’t discern a clear message, but maybe we are easing into it. Instead he shot daggers at my friend for a while, and then he paced a little bit. I know that I mostly recover from my childhood traumas, which is the longest of the longshots. I appreciate that.” In hindsight, I made a point of meeting up with you early in my trip this time, as if to allow for a second visit, which is rare. As always, your aide/protector is nearby, out of sight. “I would like to read you some things.” “OK.” And a poetry reading follows. After a half hour you read me a poem about the start of what will become an unhappy marriage. This clearly set Sayeed off, but he didn’t say anything. There was a time when I was pretty sure that was never going to happen. I call you a week later to schedule, and a few days after that I return. But we only talk about politics for a few minutes before you pull a thick sheaf of wrinkled paper out from under your chair. ” “Well, you said you wanted to tell me some things. “Yes, you did, I understand, but I was talking to my good friend Don Paolo a little while ago and he thought that maybe you have a space and he asked me to tell you that he would consider it a personal favor if I could rent it for whatever you’re asking.” Then he smiled some more. But then he turned around and rushed back up to Mitch’s window and stuck his finger in Mitch’s face. I know that, after a couple of false starts, I meet the woman I am supposed to be with and spend at least 20 happy years with her.