Hi. I am 9 years old and I have always wanted to meet you because my mom has been reading me your stories since I was little. Can we meet? Can I be in your truck and see your dogs? I’m a nice girl and smart and I have a pet turtle named Milton and I am learning to play ukulele. I am good in school, especially P.E. My hair is brown. Are you a big talker because I am. I love macaroni and cheese, what do you like? Will you write me back? I know you’re busy, but my dad died just like yours did. So we are really simular.
I would love to meet you. You are welcome to come for a ride in my truck provided you (a) bring a parent, and (b) have had all your shots. A little about me:
I am middle aged, goofy, and not super smart. My hair is red.
I was never very good in P.E., which my generation did not call “P.E.” We called it “gym” because that’s the location where it took place. The gymnasium.
Our gym teacher was a part-time middle-school football coach and a part-time heavy equipment operator who often forced us to do the same activities that inmates are compelled to do in prison camps. Such as dodgeball, tight-rope walking, or climbing the 100-foot rope. Which is an archaic form of torture, especially for kids who were deemed “overweight.”
Which I was. I was a chubby child. Being chubby and having red hair at the same time is like having a bullseye tattooed on your buttocks.
So whenever I climbed the 100-foot rope—also known as the Rope of Death—I was only able to climb about three feet off the ground before I gave up and let go and fell belly-first onto the flimsy wrestling mat, which was a cushion thin enough that you could have read the newspaper through it.
We had to wear special gym-class T-shirts, too. The shirts had our last names emblazoned on the backs in vinyl, with iron-on letters.
Although my name was not spelled in such letters because iron-on letters cost money, and my mother could not see the point in spending that kind of cash on such extravagance. So she wrote my name on my T-shirt in bloodred Sharpie, which made my shirt look a lot like a horror movie prop.
Moreover, my last name is Dietrich, a German name that looks like two familiar English words pushed together. Thus, whenever the other children saw me in my tight-fitting shirt they called me “Rich Diet” because they were communists who didn’t love the Lord.
So anyway, we have much in common. Namely, because one of my favorite foods is also macaroni and cheese, inasmuch as it is the perfect health food. Part vegetable (natural wheat pasta), part vitamins (cheddar cheese), and electrolytes (orange dye).
I ate my mac and cheese weirdly when I was a boy, by drowning my mac and cheese in ketchup. I know it’s gross. But that’s what my dad did, and I wanted to be like him. My father was the kind of uncultured guy who would’ve put ketchup on his steak, baked potatoes, or sushi.
Also, the kind of ketchup he used was a generic brand of ketchup that came in a bottle labeled “fancy” ketchup. Which always made me wonder what kind of people we were, to be hard-up enough that we considered ketchup to be fancy.
I don’t put ketchup on my mac and cheese anymore, however. Because I have grown up a lot in the past decades. And you will too.
One day, years from now, you will look back at all the things you used to be, and all the troubles you once had, and you will wonder why you ever took the time to email a fool named Sean Rich Diet.
But on that day, if I am still alive, you will realize that this fool who didn’t know you, loved you very much. Not only because you’re a smart, brown-haired, big talker, ukulele player. But because we both share the same hurt, which makes us indeed, very simular.
Tell Milton I said hello.