April 11, 2016

Dear T—,

Thank you for your letter. I was very happy to receive it, as one of the things I wanted most in life was to have a penpal. There is something magical about reading a handwritten letter. Perhaps it lies in its distinction from the neatly typed bank statements and solicitors’ letters that we all receive.

I will answer your question in due course, but first I would like to mention that I have passed, and not died. It would be ridiculous for you to write to someone who has died. Even more ridiculous would be receiving a reply from such a person. So, for our purposes, with our correspondence serving as proof, I have passed.

I’m not sure what my obituary said. Would you be so kind as to include a clipping of it in your next letter, should there be one? I’m curious to read what my family has written about me.

To answer your question, most simply, I stopping being. The passage of time is an individualized experience, but one which all human beings experience. It is hard to know if my cat, Riel, understands the concept of time, despite his adoption of a routine. He doesn’t know when it is dinner time, but only that he is hungry. His life is very consequential in this way, and his routine may well be founded on his physiology, but we humans see this as time. We will say things like, “My cat wakes me up every morning at 6:30,” or, “Riel always takes a nap in the afternoon between two and four.” Riel, like all other cats, will not stop being, he will stop existing.

This whole notion is further complicated by the fact that human beings change with each passing moment. I am not the same man I was when I started this letter, if only because I am now a man who has written a portion of a letter he hadn’t written before just now. We hear about this in stories about stepping foot in a river.

The only thing that keeps us together is our evolving memory of times past.

That I stopped being is no different than my fate at the end of each passing moment, for the end of each moment ushers in the beginning of the next, and with each new moment, we are forever changed because of the last.

I am writing to you now from the vantage point of the last moment that passed in my life. I have not died, I have passed. You, T—, are doing the same.

You were probably hoping for a different answer, T—, one that would explain why my body stopped functioning and my heart stopped beating. Well, my liver failed. What started as a case of jaundice led to something that my body could not fight. My body fought for a solid three weeks before a winner was declared. T.K.O.

I don’t see this situation as a shame, however, because my body and I had been in our fair share of tussles with one another. A strong concoction of antidepressants and eighty-proof liquors helped me wrestle my body to the ground on many occasions. In the end, I came out too strong and couldn’t stay the course.

No matter how many times you read the story, the tortoise always wins.

T—, I have gone on for long enough. If you do write again, please be sure to include a clipping of my obituary.

Warmly,

BW

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