A Letter to a Newborn Baby I Saw on My Facebook Feed
My first boyfriend had a truck with a little toggle switch on the dash. The kill switch. “For when the po-po roll up.” I didn’t understand at the time, so I just said cool. I looked up example videos on YouTube later. That’s how I imagine my own switch. A silver toggle, most likely somewhere around the nape of my neck. I’m sure I’m not the only one. Probably most people have it. You’ve got it, and hopefully you don’t switch it anytime soon.
I have a theory that goats have it too―the switch. It's only expected, especially when nature includes nightmares like eagles pulling goats off cliffs. I also watched that on YouTube. Eagles pulling goats off cliffs to a jagged valley floor. Smorgasbord. I saw the switch switch in those falling goats in the videos.
I used to wonder what I looked like to a goat through his rectangle pupils.
I used to wonder what I looked like to a goat through his rectangle pupils. You’ll see what I mean if you get one of those farm animal picture books. Or look them up on YouTube―goats and their pixelated eyes. I suspect everything a goat sees is squeezed through that rectangle, shaving off all depth and detail until it’s reduced to his language of bleats and grunts.
No wonder he wants to eat everything.
My high school science teacher showed us a VHS once―I’m sure you could find it on YouTube―of the universe expanding into ever-growing squares of space. It was supposed to show you a perspective on how much is out there versus how little we see.
I imagine goats see exactly like this video, but in reverse—smaller and smaller rectangles of less and less.
I suspect everything a goat sees is squeezed through that rectangle, shaving off all depth and detail until it’s reduced to his language of bleats and grunts.
I dream that I’m falling off a cliff sometimes. That’s how my switch got switched in the first place. “Well, I guess I’m dying now.”
I always thought that once you accept you’re dying, those thoughts in free fall should be the most interesting you’ll ever have. But someone always switches my eyes out for goat’s eyes and everything comes through in bleats and grunts and an eat-everything attitude.
I think I should be feeling a certain way all the time, but there’s not always someone there to tell me which way, and when.
Maybe if I can learn to dream myself floating up a cliff, I could get that switch switched back.
When I was a kid standing in line after recess, I noticed my knees were knobbier than all the other kids’ knees. That’s when I knew the world wasn’t fair.
I noticed my knees were knobbier than all the other kids’ knees. That’s when I knew the world wasn’t fair.
And to be honest, baby, you look like a cabbage in your photo.
“Well, I guess now I’m an ugly person.”
My first boyfriend made me give him my panties at lunch and told the whole school, and even the teachers and my dad found out.
“Well, I guess now I’m a slut.”
When I graduated from college. “Well, I guess now I’m an adult.”
When I woke up at 5:00 p.m. to clinking bottles, nauseating smells, fuming voicemails, and a favorite left shoe lost forever.
“Well, I guess now I hit bottom.”
“I guess I’m clean now.”
“I guess I’m a nine-to-fiver now.”
“I guess I’m happy now.”
Avoid rectangles at all cost. I live in one of those beehive houses, and I covered any right angles with flowing fabric. People always knock on the door wanting to talk about the house.
“Well, I guess I’m into that stuff now.”
Avoid rectangles at all cost.
Every time I see a rectangle, the universe and all its wisdom, all stimulus and beauty, gets filtered through it until it reaches me all fuzzy.
I have to find that VHS tape and watch it backwards.
I study lucid dreaming. Think about a ladybug for ten minutes before bed and a ladybug will show up in your dream. Sometimes it works.
Okay. Here’s what happened this morning, and this is why I’m writing. I’m home right now, sleeping in my childhood bed at my parent’s house.
My parents’ neighbors have a very round pool. No right angles. I found myself there around noon today, with a bottle of my dad’s gin.
I was sitting on the pavement, feet in the water, scrolling Facebook on my phone and that’s when I saw you. Anyway, I decided to get on with planning it . . .
I was sitting on the pavement, feet in the water, scrolling Facebook on my phone and that’s when I saw you.
Rocks in my pockets.
Diving headfirst into the shallow end.
Purposely getting my hair knotted in the drain.
My imagination felt slow, like archaeologists removing a homo habilis skull from dried mud with a tiny brush.
“What are you doing?”
The man was naked. Stepping out the back door, goggles over his eyes ready for a naked swim. This was his pool after all. I’d hopped the fence like a common fence-hopper.
The answer on the tip of my tongue―“Well, I guess I’m ending it all now”―got stuck. It was a rectangle answer and my throat was round. His throat was round. But that was his own personal business. I panicked. I hunkered forward and was sick into the pool. It was a glorious, chunky, indefinable shape.
I may have made progress with the switch today, is what I want you to know, little one. I’m not 100 percent sure at this point in time.
So really, I guess this letter is to say: good luck, kiddo. I think I knew your mom’s sister in college.
Alyssa O’Sullivan grew up in Chico, in northern California but has called many places home since then. Now in the Pacific North West, she loves the outdoors – snow, rain or sun. She doesn’t care much for monkeys, but won’t reveal that very often as it seems to be a controversial opinion.
Illustrated by Meghan Irwin.