Song: “Why Go” by Pearl Jam from Ten
The boy shifted from foot to foot, staring down the unblinking doorbell before him, a white cap over an orange light. He might think of it as the platonic ideal of a doorbell if that was a reference in his wheelhouse. Instead, he imagines it as the kind of doorbell sitcom families have. It’s a though that calms his nerves enough to press it, finally.
The ding dong chimes echo through the blue house with a white door and the slow thump of footsteps draw ever closer. He practices his speech again, exhaling outward in a long sigh of anxiety.
“Yes?” the woman ask as she ease open the inner door. She’s older than he imagined her to be. But then, of course she is. She couldn’t be the same 15 year old she was or she wouldn’t be here right now.
“Are you,” he pauses, attempting to settle his nerves before trying again, “Are you Brynne Klein?”
“I am,” she replied, confused.
“Well, I…I’m Nate and I live…lived at the North Allen Group Home.”
“Oh,” she replied, suddenly on guard.
“Yeah, and, I…well…umm….ok, here,” Nate mumbled, losing his nerve and handing her a letter.
“Who was that, Brynne?” her husband asked her as he came down the stairs and received only a shrug in reply. Walking to the nearest bathroom, she locked the door and slid down on to the floor. Closing her eyes tightly, she focused on the feeling of her heartbeat until it settled. Then, gingerly, as if the letter might bite her, she opened it.
“Dear Ms. Klein,
If I handed you this, it means I chickened out. Sorry. You are kind of a legend to me and I just couldn’t get over that, I guess. I hope that this will make up for me being awkward and stumbly.
I am leaving for college tomorrow and I don’t think I would be if not for you.
I lived in the same room at North Allen Group Home as you did when you were there 12 years ago. I was miserable. All the time. I’ve not had a permanent home, ever, and by the time I came to North Allen, I was just done. I had nothing left.
Late one night, I crawled into the closet and, no idea why, I started to pull up the carpet. And underneath I found your, well, I called them your “inspirationals” but that’s probably a pretty terrible name.
Anyway, I’m not sure if you even remember writing them, but I know I will not forget them. At a time when I was very close to letting go, your words, the sense that you “got” me and where I was and knowing you made it, it got me through.
So, what I came today to say was thank you. Sorry I couldn’t find the words in person, but there’s a letter to accomplish what I couldn’t.
Thank you Brynne Klein. Thank you for keeping me alive and out of trouble. Thank you for helping me get to college. Thank you for going what I went through first and doing it with enough grace that I could ride your coattails, even 12 years later.