Dear Connor Murphy,
That's how all my letters begin. First the Dear part, because that's just what you write at he top of a letter. That's standard. Next comes the name of the person you're writing to. In this case, it's Connor Murphy. I'm writing to my best friend, my only friend. Before Connor, it was just me and my mom. A run in at a book shop, and somehow we became friends.
My dad left when I was seven, he's off in Colorado with his new family. My mom doesn't talk about it, she likes to pretend it never happened. She tries, she likes to leave notes around about how my day will go or advice. All sounding they came from her daily horoscope. If she doesn't leave notes, she'll try to cram it all in during out daily conversations. It's all nonsense if you ask me, but I guess, for my mom, her horoscopes give her some hope and guidance. That's what Connor likes to say for the most part. These letters started as that for me, I suppose.
Speaking of which. After the greeting comes the actual meat of the letter: the body. My first line is always the same.
Today is going to be an amazing day, and here's why
Positive outlooks yields positive experience. That's the basic concept behind the letters. Well, that was the concept to begin. Before Connor. The letters started to myself, for Dr. Sherman.
I still edit them, submitting them as Dear Evan Hansen, instead of to Connor. Dr. Sherman gave me the idea for the first line, Connor thought it was hilarious. The assignment was what inspired out exchanges.
Because today is all you have to do is just be yourself. But also confident. That's important. And interesting. Easy to talk to. Approachable. And don't hide, either. Reveal yourself to others. But not in a pervy way, don't disrobe. Just be you, the true you.
I wouldn't send this to Connor, it was solely meant for Dr. Sherman. But it helped. It helped to feel like I was talking to Connor when I write this. Connor is understanding, he doesn't automatically think to make fun of me. He listens. His the only one that does. When he saw that letter... He was the one that told me to message him if I ever felt negative, if I ever needed to unleash. Even if we don't tell others, it's nice. Our own little world, away from the drama or pressure.
Great, all this thinking got my hands sweaty again. It's easy to get my nerves up, the smallest things. I can even just think myself into yet another moment. Trying to wipe my keyboard left me with csxldmrr xsmit ssdegv. And now my arm is sweating too. The sweat will end up sitting under my cast, no air getting in, and soon my cast will take on that smell, the slightest whiff of, especially on the first day of my senior year.
I reach into my bedside drawer. I already took my lexapro this morning, but Dr. Sherman says it's fine to take an Ativan, too, if things get really overwhelming. I don't use it as often as I used to, but it's still needed. I swallow the Ativan down, relief on the way.
That's the problem with writing. I start off on the direct route, then I always end up taking detours. Wandering into the sketchy neighborhoods of my brain where nothing good ever happens.
"So you decided not to eat last night?"
It's my mom, standing over me, holding the twenty-dollar bill I didn't use.
I shut my laptop and shove it under my pillow. "I wasn't hungry." I lied. That's what I've been doing a lot lately.
"Come on, honey. You need to be able to order dinner for yourself if I'm at work. You can do it all online now. You don't even have to talk to anyone."
The thing is you do. You have to talk to the delivery person when they come to the door. You have to stand there while they make change and they always pretend like they don't have enough singles, so you're forced to decide on the spot whether to tip less or tip more than you planned.
"Sorry." I say, I can't tell her that I had eaten. That I wasn't home. I don't think she'd like the idea of ice cream for dinner for one.
"Don't be sorry. It's just, this is what you're supposed to be working on with Dr. Sherman. Talking to people. Engaging. Not Avoiding."
Isn't that what I just wrote in my letter? Being your true self. It's not like I'm always hiding... I just can't be anything else but fake Evan with everyone else.
"Speaking of Dr. Sherman." She says, circling my room with a wondering gaze. "I made you an appointment with him this afternoon."
"Today? Why? I'm seeing him next week."
"I know." She says staring down at the twenty-dollar bill in her hands. "But I thought maybe you could use something a little sooner.'
Because I choose not to use her money on night. She thinks I didn't eat. I should have pocketed the money so she wouldn't have known, but that would be stealing from her, and Karma's a bitch.
Maybe it's more than the unused twenty. Maybe I'm giving off an extra-worrisome vibe that I'm unaware of. I stand up and check myself in the mirror. I try to see what she sees. Everything looks to be in order. Shirt buttons are lined up. Hair has been tamed. I even took a shower last night. I haven't been taking many showers lately because it's such a pain to have to cover my cast, first with plastic wrap, then the shopping bag and duct tape. It's not like I get dirty anyway. The few times I have, its been when I was off with Connor. Ever since I broke my arm, that reduced some.
I notice another thing. I'm biting my nails. I know why, it's not hard piece it together. After the summer of just me, isolation, with my only friend, it's time to enter the world again. The groups, the cliches, walking through trying to be as invisible as always. The short, secret glances, or passing moments.
"What happened to all your pins?" She says.
I turn and face the map on the wall. When I started working at Ellison State Park this summer, I got into the idea of trying to hike all the best trails in the country: Precipice Trail in Maine, Angel's Landing in Utah, Kalalau Trail in Hawaii, Harding Icefield in Alaska. I had them all marked on my map with different colored pins. Black were the ones Connor said he'd hike on too. But after how the summer ended, I decided to take them all down- Except one.
"I thought I'd focus on one at a time," I say. "The first one I'm hoping to do is West Maroon Trail."
"And that's in Colorado?" My mom asks.
She can see it on the map, but still, she needs confirmation. I give it to her. "Yes."
The breath she takes is painfully showy. Her shoulders practically lift up and touch her ears before they drop down even lower than they hung before. It's a word you have to be careful about using in our house, just like dad or Mark.
Mom turns away from the map, and presents me with a face that is meant to be brave and carefree but looks exactly not those things. She's wounded but still standing. That makes two of us. "I'll pick you up right after school," She says. "Have you been writing those letters Dr. Sherman wants you to do? The pep talks? You really have to keep up with those, Evan."
I used to write those everyday, then I just started talking to Connor. I slacked off, and I'm pretty sure Dr. Sherman told my mom, which is why she's been nagging me about them lately. "I was just working on one," I tell her, relieved to not have to lie for once.
"Good. Dr. Sherman is going to want to see it."
"I know. I'll finish it at school."
"Those letters are important honey, they help to build your confidence. Especially on the first day of school.'
Ah, yes. Another clue for why she thought today in particular warranted a visit to Dr. Sherman.
"I don't want another year of you sitting home alone on your computer every Friday night. You just have to find a way to put yourself out there."
It's not like she's home often enough to know if I'm really home or not.
She spots something on my desk. "Hey, I know." She pulls a sharpie from the cup. "Why don't you go around today and ask the other kids to sign your cast? That would be the perfect icebreaker, wouldn't it?"
I couldn't think of anything worse, it's like panhandling for friends.
"Mom, I can't." The only one I won't minding signing it wouldn't want to.
She presents the sharpie. "Seize the day. Today is the day to seize the day."
This sounds like a horoscope. "You don't have to add today. Seize the day already means seize today."
"Whatever. You're the wordsmith. I'm just saying, go get 'em, eh?"
Without meeting her eyes, I sigh and take the sharpie. "Eh."
She heads for the door, and just when I think I'm in the clear, she turns with an uneasy smile. "I'm proud of you already."
Her smile sags a bit, and she walks off.
What am I supposed to say? She tells me she's proud, but her eyes tell a different story. She ponders me like a stain on the tub she can't wipe clean no matter what product she uses. Proud of me? I don't see how that's possible. So, let's just keep lying to each other.
I open my computer and read what I've written so far.
Dear Connor Murphy
Sometimes I just prefer writing to Connor than to write out the letters for Dr. Sherman. I don't see why I don't now. I'll just finish Dr. Sherman's letter during school.
Today's gonna be a good day and here's why...
First day of school, I'm not ready. I don't think I ever would be. My mom made an appointment for today after school with Dr. Sherman. I don't think I can meet up after to the Orchard, but we'll see?
I took an Ativan today, first on in quite a while. How are you?
I'll spy you in the halls?
That was weird, I'm sorry.
I hit send, closing my computer. Slipping on my sneakers, and shrugging on my bag, I swipe my phone off the desk and make my way downstairs. Before I'm even out the door to the bus stop, my phone goes off.
Dear Evan Hansen
The smile slides on my face before I can stop it, even if we don't talk in person at school. We still have each other to make it through the day.