Dear Coming Home Soon? (Letter #41)

by austin beaton

Dear Coming home soon,

You look like the main character from Eighth Grade, Bo Burnham’s recent film.

Has anyone told you that? You even have similar mannerisms. A quiet demeanor, the flip of the hair, how you compliment others. Freckles.

You gotta see the film.

No matter how secure or grown up you feel, for 2 hours it will transfuse into you the psyche of a nervous kid.

In one scene the protagonist Kayla and her dad are eating dinner. She’s scrolling on Instagram with her headphones in and when her dad speaks up, she unplugs, annoyingly.

“What?” she snaps.

“You know, Kayla, I just think you’re so cool and if you’d just put yourself out there I think you’d—“

Cringing? Remember hearing those words from a mom or dad? Our poor parents—if they don’t affirm us then they’re doing it the wrong way, and if they do the response will be thankless.

Are you an anxious person? I never knew if your being quiet was a trait or nervousness.

I’ve teeter-tottered between defining myself as extroverted and introverted, shy or the life of the party.

Transferring from a rural public school to an urban private one was the first time I reinvented myself.

If I hadn’t transferred, we probably never would’ve met.

Did you know I didn’t hang out with a single person outside of school that first year? Or that I’d make my dad pick me up a block from school because he drove my grandpa’s old Chevy truck with rusted paint and a machine loud engine?

One afternoon the drive home was particularly hostile—we were either yelling or silent.

“Why don’t you try to go to the winter formal or a football game?” he asked.

“Oh and say, what, hi I’m Austin, I don’t have any friends. Want to be mine?” I snapped.

When we got home I pushed open the truck door and dashed towards the front porch, but slipped in the wet grass. “I hate my life!” I said, crying, aware of the mud on my shoes and on my face.

How the fuck was he supposed to know what to do? How was he supposed to deal with the hostile animal that I was?

How was I?

I’m coming home soon to visit. I miss Oregon a lot. The giggle of my father, the dry humor of my mother. The coziness inside while watching the coldness outside.

There’s a beauty in brisk air, the gray mood on another overcast day, the small accomplishment of walking from A to B in the rain.

Where are you?

Would you ever live again in Germany?

I never thought I’d live in California.

But, I have adventures left here.

What’s crazy is the only reason I live in San Luis Obispo is because of a job I took that I quit after two years.

I’ve found the artist in me here. I get paid to write prose about drones and tennis. After work I write letters and poems and essays about people.

I’ve never lived so close to the ocean. I’ve never felt so connected.

Imagine me telling this to that teenage kid.

Be well,