A commissioned essay for the Summer 2013 issue of Kinfolk magazine (Volume Seven). The prompt was "neighborliness." My inspiration was a half-remembered passage from Alice McDermott's book Charming Billy, in which friends remembered a particular habit of Billy's of pulling out whatever paper was closest at hand, scribbling a note, and sending it off. It wasn't thought out, it wasn't planned, or "special." But it was genuine.
That's where I started. Here's an excerpt of where I ended up. You can read the full essay on the Kinfolk website:
"By comparison, I?m guilty of long to-do lists and of putting things off so I can do them ?right.? There is a small pile of letters on my desk that I have yet to respond to, one from an embarrassing thirteen months ago, because I want to write a ?proper? letter. By that, I mean the kind that I imagine nineteenth-century correspondents might have exchanged. It?s an unfortunate cycle: the longer they sit unanswered, the more pressure I feel to make the response special. This, then, means they?ll sit on my desk still longer."
How to be Neighborly: Checking In
Published by Kinfolk Magazine, Volume Seven, in Summer 2013. The text and published images are the property of the magazine.