Here at Queen Mob’s Tea House I’ve been archiving my favorite TinyLetters from Rohin Guha. He wrote one per day in November 2015, leading up to his 32nd birthday. When Rohin and I first discussed this project, I’d decided which of his missives were my favorites. Some spoke to me immediately, some related to my experience as a Bengali in America, some simply broke my heart by virtue of their honesty. The “letter to yourself” model is not new in essay-writing, but Rohin’s 13th TinyLetter, titled “You’re Now Older and Alone”, stopped me in my tracks when I first read it, because it is both kind and blunt. Still, I didn’t choose it as part of my archive. Several months passed. I was laid off from my day job. En route to my first day at a new job, I was in a car accident, resulting in a severe concussion that an ER doctor sternly told me could’ve easily morphed into a coma. In the six weeks or so I lay on my back, staring at the ceiling—banned from doing anything more strenuous than that—I grappled with a few less-than-pleasant ideas: Going home to move in with my mother. Losing the new job I’d been driving to when the accident happened. The fact that I wasn’t dead enraged me. Today, as I searched my inbox for Rohin’s next TinyLetter, I reread #13. I do not think many of Rohin’s decisions can be transferred to me—my relationship with my parents is very different, and, well, I’m stubborn as an old mule—but in this TinyLetter-within-a-TinyLetter, Rohin demonstrates his willingness to borrow hope from his future self. And that is something I feel unworthy of. Perhaps, for now, it’s enough that I get to share it with you.
“You’re Now Older and Alone” — Nov. 22, 2015
You’re now older and alone. Which makes you me. From where–rather, when–I am writing, my world is stranger than yours. Maybe it has always been this strange and you didn’t know all the things I now know.
Our parents are no longer with us. I have mastered that thing that you were just learning how to do: I did not cry at the funeral. I did not cry for months. I did not cry until one day, I found myself in the supermarket on a Sunday afternoon trying to decide between Red Delicious and Granny Smith and I came apart at the seams there–and even then, even then, I was able to contain myself until I got to the car.
Our parents are no longer with us, well with me, rather. What that means is they have left the house to me. It is not a home any longer–I am not good at keeping it clean. It is just a fancy, sprawling single-level house. The deer still stop by in the backyard and I wonder if when the fawns come of age, they mourn the loss of their parents? You probably pondered the same thing.
I wanted to tell you, Rohin, that it may not have been the most glamorous life choice for you to make, but it was the right thing you did: Moving back in with your parents, with our parents. You know as well as I do that doing the right thing is frequently unglamorous. It is difficult, it feels weird. Of course. A grown man in his thirties living with his parents will never quite adjust to this particular life choice. There is diminished privacy. There are now curfews. There is never complete autonomy. And yet, I know it was the life choice that made you take better care of yourself–and it was why you stopped drinking as much and you began exercising more. It is easier to take care of yourself when it means your parents will stop asking as many questions.
You knew it and I know it: When they asked us so many questions, to the point where we begged them to stop probing, it was because they loved us and it is how they show that love. Ours are not parents who say, “I love you.” They, instead, enforce curfews, ask too many questions, and then demand our assistance at the most inopportune times, to move heavy pieces of furniture around the house.
I can’t tell you when you’ll lose them both. I can’t tell you how you’ll feel when that happens–I am not writing from that point in time. I will tell you that there’s no manual for how to cope. Here’s a thing you’ve learned well: Most of your friends will probably abandon you when you need them the most and at that point in your life, you’ll only have you. And your brother. Be kind to him. He might be older, but you’re more experienced. You have a short fuse, so your patience is going to be the glue that keeps both of you together–and not turn your relationship into the dysfunctional stuff of mediocre indie films.
It took a while–probably until your thirties, honestly–but you finally figured out how to be alone and how to be strong in your solitude.
I’m glad you moved back in with our parents because it means you didn’t feel the need to go on bullshit blind dates or sleep with guys you had no interest in. It means that you could work on yourself and it means that whatever you did paid off because while I am alone now, I have finagled someone into a lifelong relationship with me. Of course I am alone–I think to a degree, I will always feel this way, but it helps to be alone and still be with someone else. Especially someone who knows how to fix leaks or hire the right contractor when termites start feasting on the side of the house. I am more or less very happy now.
Wherever you are in life right now, Rohin, I know you probably have a lot of questions. You will always have questions. I have a lot of questions, too–but I want you to know that you did one thing right by spending your grown, adult life with our parents. It was important that they get to know who we are, what we do, and how we relate to the world–so they can be at peace (well, mostly, ha!) with how we turned out.
Hang in there, kiddo.