Ethan2Wild (WARNING: Spoiler Alert)

Spoiler Alert:

Let me tell you how this story ends. Well, not how, exactly; that will follow.

It’s called the rope-a-dope. It’s called “SAY MY NAME!”

Sometimes you have to play dead. Sometimes, that’s the only play.

Sometimes you have to wander in the desert. But it is true that all who wander are not lost. (SO- J.R.R. Tolkien)

And sometimes, just sometimes, they leave behind clues. Sometimes, sometimes, they bury treasure.

If they’re writers, if they can’t help but write all the time, all the time, all the time –

If they’re mothers, maybe they want to leave tracks. If they love their children more than anything in the whole world, maybe all they care about is that their children are okay. Maybe it tears them to pieces every single day that they cannot protect them from the evil that holds their Onlies hostage. Maybe, maybe– maybe they even went so far as getting murdered refusing to back down from protecting those children that they love more than anything.

Maybe, though, that murderer fucked up. Maybe that murderer fucked up big time.

Then what does he do? Does he get a “friend of a friend” ATF agent to hunt that mother down wherever she goes?

That bitch won’t die.

That bitch won’t die.

Why?

She can’t. She won’t. She has a job. She has always had a job.

But just in case, maybe, just maybe, that mother does things that make sure that no matter what – and I do mean NO MATTER WHAT – live, die, or otherwise, the seeds are planted. The evidence is there. The love is undeniable. The children, in the end, regardless of what happens to Mama Bear, regardless: there can be no doubt of that love. Because she WRITES. And she buries. And she entrusts. She ensures – that love, that evidence, that proof, that TRUTH – can never be wiped from history. Can never be doubted. Can never be erased.

Then, she does the hard part.

The hardest part of all. Not the having to look neutralized so that things can come full circle. So the bastard will finally get married. So that the “friend” – (Rusty, btw, yeah, you’re fucked, too,) – feels safe and secure while he self-destructs for real. Because that mother knows that she underestimated – went off half-cocked, and a million other things that, regardless of all the truly unjust and wrong things that she couldn’t help – there were things that she could have done. That she didn’t do.

That mother knows she has to learn.

That mother knows she has to be as patient and as persistent and as dedicated as her adversary. Then, that mother has to be more patient and more persistent and more dedicated than her adversary.

And she is.

Because whatever prize he wants, whatever “win” he’s looking for, that cannot distract her. She must remain totally focused on one thing and one thing, only. The only win for her is her Onlies. And she knows that it is likely that she may not make it. And worse, she also knows that to make it will require her to appear – not only neutralized, that’s not so hard – but that during that time, her only chance of making sure that when it is all said and done, regardless of the outcome for her, that there is a system set in place, in stone, ensuring that the evidence she left buried all over this country will, in fact, be found when the time comes. She can’t keep looking like she’s fighting.

She has to let the lie stand.

Because the fighting for that love is only hurting the ones she’s fighting for. The more she fights the worse it is for them. She has to look like she’s stopped.

She has to… God. It kills her. It kills her every day. But then, then she works harder. For every day she cannot actually reach out, she works harder. She writes. Letter after letter after letter. There are novels worth of love letters that survive. There can be no doubt.

By the way, as an aside, The Brazilian is dead. I did not kill him. But Cassidy, Candice: he is dead. Mal; my little angel, he is dead. He cannot hurt you.

For the record, I don’t want ATN to kill himself. I want him to live. I want him to live with the truth. Who knows, maybe he’ll find some scrap of humanity left in him and spend the rest of his life trying to make up to my Onlies for what he has done. I think that would be better for them than his suicide. I just don’t want them to hurt anymore.

The trick now, and what we are working hard on, is ensuring that we – and by we, for the record, that includes no men; but a few very capable women – we want to make sure that when the Scavenger Hunt begins that the RIGHT people will be able to get to those “x‘son the Treasure Map before the wrong people can get there and destroy 10 years of love letters and other trinkets.

Candicane, btw, I haven’t been able to check and make sure, but it’s possible that your American Girl doll is still recoverable. One thing about Kitchen Mesa, ain’t no fat boys climbing that bitch. Right, my love?

The Rope-a -Dope.

Why I never write right.

We’re almost home, little ones. And if something should happen to me, I don’t need a dead man’s switch. We got real, live, ABLE people working for good. Working for you. People who already love you and already know everything about you a thousand times over. Justice comes either way. Love comes either way.

We’re almost home, my babies.

I have a soul in some notebooks

 

Some people have jewels in safe deposit boxes. I have a soul in some notebooks.

I have written in journals since sometime in the first grade.

I have written all kinds of things in journals. My deepest secrets, my purest thoughts, quotes, and questions on life, truth, tragedy and comedy. Anything that comes to mind. Sometimes it’s long prose, sometimes poetry, but often just ideas, or a funny remark that someone has said. Unfortunately, I am separated from most of my journals right now. Some I will most likely get back. Others, I know, I will probably never see again. But I will always have them in my mind. Because once you write something down you’ve built a road connecting the valleys of your own brain. You lay down some actual track when you engage of the act of writing. It deepens the memory.

At least, that’s what my mother told me.

It was my mother who made me obsessed with writing everything down. I was about four years old, sitting snuggled up close to my mother at one end of the couch with her reading to me, when she paused, leaned into my ear and announced, in her most majestic, secret whisper: “Once you write something down, it is in your memory forever. Did you know that, my darling Tami?”

Wide eyed, I shook my head. No.

Her big blue eyes were suddenly a dancing circus in front of my small face.

“The act of writing is a mystical thing,” she continued. “More than the mere marks written upon a page; writing a thing down can actually bring that thing into being. It is already halfway there as soon as your pen touches the page! And understanding? Writing will rain down blessings of understanding and knowledge into your life! I tell you the truth, my little angel, the ballet of the pen is, at times, divine.”

Then Mother paused, took both of my hands between her long thin fingers, and turned me around to facing her. She leaned her head slowly in and I followed with mine, until our foreheads touched, and I looked up into the kind face of my pixie mother’s sapphire-rimmed eyes.

“But you already knew about the mystical nature of writing, of course, didn’t you, my sweet Tami?” my mother asked, smiling.

I didn’t know anything at all about the mystical nature of writing, but I don’t say so. Mother gave my nose the lightest of kisses and then kissed my forehead with her slightly puckered lips, while fluttering her lashes like butterfly wings in my hair. 

(I love her love her love her.)

Still smiling warm sunshine, she took my left hand in her right, and mimicked writing on a page.

“The beauty of writing,” she said — while not so much holding my hand as dancing with it — “is that as your fingers skate across the page making the words on the paper they are also digging new little tunnels in your brain. A new road has just been built somewhere in your memory simply because you moved your pen. You will remember longer, because you have written a thing down. But more importantly,” she whispered, pouring her fairy-blue eyes into mine, “you will remember deeper, and if you should ever lose what you have written, it will remain, forever, deep within your soul.”

She made journaling sound like secret magic. And I wanted some.

My first diary, when I was seven, was leatherish with a metal attachment that clicked to close it. But just closing it didn’t seem safe enough to me. I wanted a lock. I wanted a place where I could write everything down. Everything. Anything. I didn’t want anyone else to ever read it. It was my magic journal. I was pretty sure that dad wouldn’t snoop in my stuff, but mom would read all she could. She would try not to, but she wouldn’t be able to help herself.  

It wasn’t her fault.

She was born genetically over-curious.

So I felt that I had to consider other security plans, so that I, too, could partake of not only the mystical side of journaling, but also get new memory tunnels in my soul and roads in my brain.

There were plenty of good hiding places in and around our house, and I decided that I could move the sacred book around so that it would most likely never be found, but that still left one other worry. People were always looking over my shoulder when I wrote. Mom did it without even meaning to. I wanted to take my journal everywhere, and I wanted to record in it under any and all circumstances.. I wanted to be able to write whatever I thought at the moment without the writing affecting any of the behavior around me, but that seemed possible only if people couldn’t read what I was writing.

So I began writing the way I had before I learned better.

You see, at the age of four, once my mother realized that our five-day-a-week treks to the library had morphed into her only child learning to write, or something like it I wrote “wrong;” that is, I reversed everything when I wrote, like a mirror, right to left instead of left to right – she intervened and ordered 2 big boxes full of teaching materials and taught me to read, and more importantly, to write.

Properly. Left to right.

It was difficult, but I learned. I don’t know why I had naturally reversed everything, and it would be years before DaVinci’s mirror writing became well known, so it was worrisome to my mom. I’m left handed, but so are a lot of people, and they don’t do that. I was still allowed to write my way, right to left, but I was encouraged, first by my mother, and then by the conformism of school, to

“write right.”

It always felt forced, and to this day my handwriting is much, much prettier when I write my way. Now, with this first journal, and my concerns about bearing my soul in it, I took back up my strange habit in force.

And I think that helped me to remember even deeper.

“Deeper” was a word my mom used a lot.

Not “more deeply,” but “deeper.”

I learned to write deeper.

 

The Secret Itself is the Power: My Mother Was the Real Genius

My dad was undoubtedly brilliant, and I have loudly lionized him for the last decade, while quietly writing the story of the real genius, my mother.

And now that story will be unearthed. Step by step. Stone by stone. Just as she planned it.  Clockwork. Reproduced so many new places each step of the way that stopping it is a ridiculous thought.

She was too smart for that from the beginning, even without the aid of technology.

(Although the technological side of it does feel like a sweet coup for the Universe, one further feeling of the sun smiling down. There was a time when all things were turned against us, and this story ever getting told. Injustices piled high and lies reigned. All that has changed, and the first clue in The Dr. Suess Scavenger Hunt comes in a few hours.)

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The secret itself is the power.

So sure, once I decided that I would simply write “backwards” – completely natural for me – the issue of keeping those sacred texts safe became pressing.

I was learning to write deeper.

I was learning that writing helped me to understand what I thought I already knew. By the time I began Ms. McCann’s second grade class at Horace Mann Elementary I had seven journals hidden away in our Stanley Drive attic.

I was addicted to Annie and would scuttle between New York and Beverly Hills to see it. My dad could always get me the ungettable tickets and before long I had a sweet, red bound script on my lap and a letter from Mike Nichols himself in my little hands. Soon I would begin my own version of Annie at my school; not just producing, like Dad, but also directing and starring in it. Meanwhile journals were piling up and that began for me another problem.

My soul in my notebooks.

I realized, child  though I was, that there had to be something to placate my genetically over-curious mother who I was sure would snoop.

The answer was pretty straightforward, even for a seven year old.

I would need a decoy journal. Written left to right. Something for my mom to read so she wouldn’t keep looking and find the good stuff.

The ironic thing is that not only did mom figure out my little scheme quite quickly – in fact she had anticipated it – but she also respected it

She thought it was clever.

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She thought it was clever.

And in a truly beautiful and loving example of her extraordinary farsightedness, she also recognized the profound implications of allowing me to continue believing that I was fooling her, namely that it allowed for me a space to explore my thoughts and feelings without the self-censorship that almost always accompanies a child’s journaling.

As a bonus, I got the benefit of feeling clever in a completely harmless way, which she also understood as healthy.

And as I was a very good kid there wouldn’t be a whole lot of other avenues for me to experience the satisfaction of feeling like I was getting away with something.

In college my friend Brenna was endlessly fascinated by my backward doodles while I talked on the phone. (I didn’t doodle pictures. Instead I would write some random word over and over and over and over, mindlessly. Only backwards.)

When I finally married, despite how close – both physically and emotionally – I was to my parents, I ended up impulsively eloping since I knew they didn’t like him.

I didn’t tell my parents until the next day. “Surprise, I’m married!”

My mom’s first question was,

“does he know about the journals?”

He didn’t.

“Consider keeping them here,” was all she said.

And she didn’t just mean the ones I was writing in at the moment.

She meant the two dozen big boxes worth stacked high in Dad’s work closet that began with a little girl’s very first secret from her mother. Her daughter’s stash of secret code.

Secret code hiding in plain sight.

Box after box after box – stacked high in dad’s amazingly tall work room closet, grew month by month of my marriage, untouched except to put a new one away for safe keeping. I wrote a lot, too. Sometimes hours a day. (It should be pretty clear by now that I can write quite a lot.) By the time my parents died I had been married 10 years, and in that time the number of used up, backward written journals had more than doubled, and I had to take two boxes up into the attic to make more room.

And all that time, no one even batted a damn eye.

It makes you feel like a god, almost, to have a secret that big and that powerful. And not an egoistic god-complex, kind of god; but touched by a sweet sense of the infinite.

There was also none of the two-faced, false front thing, either. At first, I made a serious attempt not do write backwards in front of anyone. I didn’t want to be found out. This was my secret. I never wanted anyone to know about it. But it didn’t take very long for me to become bolder.

In the end, I spent decades writing completely backwards in front of everyone, and no one ever noticed but my mother and Brenna at college. Ever.

And it was there in front of anyone and everyone to see. Mom saw it. But she was looking. She paid attention. Nothing escaped her notice. Nothing. Sometimes I thought my mother was more like an antenna than a human. And Brenna, in college, saw. But she, also, was a “noticer.” A noticer in close proximity to me almost all the time.

But nobody else saw. I wrote in those top secret  journals in front of Tony a million times and tons of other people, every place I went, spanning decades. And no one ever noticed.

That was an amazing discovery. To have the world unveiled with such force, to realize beyond all doubt at a very young age how very little people notice, changed at once my perception of everything else in my world. And everyone else, as well.

Once, sitting in the middle school cafeteria table, not eating a thing while writing so furiously in my journal that I failed to notice that a real asshole – a proud bully – was standing right over me with his little group of bully wannabe’s.

He looked at my sacred spiral notebook and demanded: “Gimme that.”

I didn’t know what to do, but he grabbed it so fast that I didn’t have to make that decision.

I froze. It was open, I had been writing… it was right there. And now my hubris, which had made me sloppy, overly bold, and thoughtless was about to kick me in the ass. My secret of a decade, destroyed, in a matter of seconds.

He studied the page for a minute that for me, took hours, and then made a very unfriendly sound.

I couldn’t breathe.

Finally he said, “you have very pretty handwriting,” and handed me back my book.

“Thank you,” I replied, reaching for that journal as if it was breath itself.

People are very unware as a species. Completely unimpressive.

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The secret itself is the power

Tony never seemed too interested in the box of decoy journals stacked in our garage – at least he wasn’t interested yet; that would later change – but when my mom found out she had only a few weeks to live only to have my dad cut in line and manage to die first, the last thing on my mind were journals.

I was shell-shocked, anguished and lost. And my marriage was fine.

Still, mom understood that with neither parent alive my secret journal hideout was about to disappear, which to me seemed unimportant in the extreme, but there was no whim too silly for me, the only daughter of my just-widowed dying mother to turn down. One last game of “journal intrigue” seemed like the exact right ending.

It was our last secret together.

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It was our last secret together

It wasn’t the old journals themselves, so much, that were important.

What my mother understood, and what I would all too quickly come to understand, was the significance of the secret, itself.

Secrets bond us to others. A secret that only you and one other person in the world knows is a bond forged in titanium. To have that secret handed back to you, to carry alone and by yourself, well, you can’t. It just keeps the dead person from ever really dying. That secret remains past death.

It spans immortality with grace and ease.

Especially a secret like this one, which was conceived by my mother for the whole purpose of spanning immortality in the first place. The journals got incorporated in later. She had her wildly bold and hyper-imaginative immortality scheme cooked up long before I was even on the scene.

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And it’s a doozy.

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Anyway, Tony didn’t believe in secrets.

For Tony any secret was fundamentally sinful.

(Anyone else’s secret. He had plenty of his own that were anything but innocent.)

For me my backward journals are, quite literally, as close to sacred as anything physical could possibly be. They have existed for as long as my ability to write has existed, an outward manifestation of my very soul that I never shared with anyone.

And over all that time, the longer the secret stayed secret the more value the secrecy itself seemed to have. Everyone has thoughts and feelings they never share with anyone.

And we all have the right to that.

There was no way for me to know back then that whatever instinct made my mother suggest that maybe I should keep keeping that secret a secret would end up having value, but that is, indeed, what has happened.

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Stick around, it’s just getting good.

Stick around. It’s just getting good.


The Dr. Seuss Scavenger Hunt will now begin.