Dear Johnny (Part 2)

Maybe you could call it apathy. Comfort?

I don’t think that’s what it is.

Johnny, I’m knee deep in responsibility these days, and I feel like I’m wading. It’s not that I don’t want to be here. I really do. I have so much going for me that I can’t seem to put it in words.

But when you’re constantly surrounded by intense, driven academics who thrive off approval and grading and measurement of successful outcomes (after all, that is the quintessence of physical therapy), there’s this incredible pressure to prioritize every test, every little detail. And that’s what I’m lacking. Yeah it’s perfect timing, just in time for finals and the busiest time at work. I’m dragging.

It’s almost been a year since you’ve been gone, and I still talk to you in my head… when I think of how transient and unpredictable our lives are, it’s hard to believe that a GPA, or praise, matters as much as we’re led to believe. How inconsequential it is whether I get a 100 or an 80 — because I talked to Anna and Jason and Jay the other day, and it scared me shitless that people like them could be gone in a second. People like you.

But maybe it matters. What do you think? Maybe it should matter.

It’s conflicting, because a part of me is feels like I’m at the tail end of a dream; it’s like I’m playing tag with my dreams and it’s so close I can almost feel it. But at the same time, I’m wondering why I’m not –um, I don’t know– on a boat buck naked with a pina colada this second. I think, if you were alive, you’d see how much I’ve changed. You’d say I don’t need a distinguished career to help others –and you’d be right, I know.

It’s weird talking about you in past tense, like you only used to exist.

 

Like I said, I still talk to you a lot. But you know better than anyone else, there’s a difference between being listened to, and being heard. Sometimes, I get frustrated talking to you. It’s like being surrounded by others but feeling completely alone.

I talk to you the way I used to talk to God, back when I had one, at least. I question, I provoke, but I never get a reply. I have to use my imagination, but what’s the fun in that.

I’m really happy these days, though.

I don’t like that there’s some sort of trade-off between being truly happy and keeping perfect grades in perspective, but it is what it is. I’m pretty sure no patient has ever said, “My physical therapist changed my life; did you know she got a 4.0 in college?” and I’m banking on that.

Otherwise, I might be screwed.

 

Oh, by the way, Trump is president.

know.

 

Miss you bud.

Jane

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Dear Johnny,

I’ve rewritten the first sentence of this letter over and over again, because I don’t know where to begin. Somewhere between the brain that can’t stop thinking about you and the fingers that rest upon this dusty keyboard, words fail me. Johnny baby, I hope you are reading this.

It was a quiet day. Was it a school day? Binghamton sure felt like a daydream. A soft stream of sunlight had poked its nose past the sheer fabric curtains, accentuating blonde specks of unsettled dust around us. It hung in the attic air in an ephemeral stillness; like us, the dust had nowhere to be and no rush to get there. I watched you sink into the couch groove beside me as we filled the silent room with a winding, convoluted discussion, like a tree branch with aim but no end.

In an isolated solidarity, we had brewed the best kind of friendship –if introspective minds are the perfect ingredients, we surely weren’t in short supply. I can’t recall how many hours had to conspire to drown out the sun, and I’m sure you can’t either, because in those awesome one-on-one conversations, we’d get trapped in the present like lethargic feet in quicksand. It always worked out in our favor, though, because sinking in the deep end is a hundred times better than wading where it’s shallow.

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We made a LOT of friends in college. Good ones, too. But you were one of the very, very few people I kept in touch with, because I wanted you around forever. Forever is a silly word –a selfish word, I know– but it’s a word I hung onto when I thought of people like you.

I can say, without hesitation or doubt (and I’m glad I had the chance to say it to your face): you are the most genuine and kind-hearted human being I’ve encountered on this planet. You promoted a better world. You were conscious of your actions. You led and taught others. And might I add, you did a damn fine job of doing so. My life is tremendously better because of you. Unlike most college kids, we didn’t need to smoke weed or drink beer to “have something to do” together. We didn’t discuss stupid shit; we talked about our vulnerabilities, the source of happiness, and what ways we could change the world. We had plans, Johnny.

So when I read the first half of Colden’s text last night, I didn’t understand it. It read, “Hey, hate to be the bearer of bad news, but I just got word the Johnny Cass…”

The ironic thing is, I had my phone in my hand because I was going to call you. It’d make my day when we’d sporadically check up on each other and say “I miss you.” I wanted to see how your feet were doing, and if you were following the exercise program I sent you. I was curious as to know how your solar panel projects and yoga practice were going. I was going to ask if you’re still in touch with Stummer because I haven’t seen him in a minute. I wanted to check — are we set to volunteer and camp at Catskill Chill this Fall? And remember, I was supposed to visit your house in Albany so many damn times, it was starting to become a running joke. I was actually hoping to make it happen this Memorial day weekend… Only two weeks from now.

Before I clicked open his full text, I assumed Colden was trying to say something along the lines of “I just got the word that Johnny Cass… is moving to the middle of fucking nowhere,” or that “Johnny Cass broke his leg snowboarding” or that “Johnny Cass decided to devote his life to underprivileged children in India and we probably won’t see him for another six years.”

Six years would’ve sucked, but I could have swallowed it. Forever, though? It’s beyond me. I’m going through these rapid bursts of anger, curiosity, contentment, regret, sadness, inspiration, denial, and every other affect in the rolodex of human emotion. I’m feeling so much at once that I’m starting to feel numb. Sensory overload is a lot like sensory deprivation –we would’ve gotten a kick out of discussing that.

When I found out, I could’ve gone out for a drink or two or eight. But I figured you would rather have me meditate and do hot yoga (of course), so I did exactly that. But Johnny, I swear, I looked like a fucking madman, choking back tears in half moon, grilling angrily at the sad mess in the mirror for ruining my focus. Could you blame me though?


Today is a little better than yesterday, and tomorrow will be a little better than today. It sounds like some cheese quote you’d post on Instagram, so I know you’ll appreciate the thought, ha.

You once posted this quote: “If the only prayer you said in life was ‘thank you,’ that would suffice.” I thank you, Johnny Cassaro. Thank you for loving me, brother. Thank you for having an impact on me more than most people ever will.

I said I repeatedly rewrote the first sentence because I didn’t know where to begin. We were right, Johnny; life does come in full circle. I keep rewriting the last sentence over and over again, because I  don’t want this to end.

Love, Jane