Letter To My 15-Year-Old Self (from my 38-year-old self)

Dear 15-year-old self,

You are cooler than you think.

You ask the teacher to use the bathroom just to wander the high school halls. You peak into classes, wondering what the popular kids are up to like they’re having some kind of a party in class. You think they have something special that you don’t, but the reason why they cling to popularity so much is because they’re scared they have nothing at all. And they’re right to feel that way about themselves. You’re not right to feel that way about yourself at all. You’re already cool. It’ll take years for you to see that.

You are spectacular.

Wait until you’re 35 and see what you can do with any writing tool. Most people won’t be able to express their feelings and ideas the way you’ll be able to, and your hardship will be what allowed you to get to this level. There’ll be few friends and girlfriends and party invites and social circles. You’ll have little to no financial success, but you’ll reach depths of thought and emotion that most writers would kill to get to. And it will fill you up inside.

You are wonderful.

No matter how discouraged you’ll get, you’ll never give up on your dream, because it’s no dream. It’s a reality in your heart and in your mind. And you’re heart and mind is your greatest asset. Not something to be ashamed of.

You are an artist.

Nevermind the ones that dress, walk, talk and body modify the way they think an artist is supposed to. That doesn’t make you an artist. Bleeding makes you an artist. Practice makes you an artist. Love makes you an artist. Everything else just makes you artsy. And that’s not cool.

You are beautiful.

People might not look for you on your phone, but they will trust you and the fact that you do not change for the worst. You are a rock. People you know will express this to you verbally and through their actions. They’ll admire your honesty, compassion and consciousness.

You are industrious. 10-word poems, 15-minute-plays, 100-word stories, 120-page screenplays, you’ll try anything, you’ll fail at most, you’ll succeed at some, you’ll be proud of it all. The skills you’ll develop as an artist, a writer and a human being will be the empire that you build and that empire will be glorious, until you say it is no longer is.

You are perfect the way you are.

I can’t tell you if you’ll have the success that you think you need. I still have more living to do on this end. I’ll tell you that you’ll not be Spielberg by age 30 or have a wife and kids and plenty of money to buy video games with. But you will love yourself more. You will feel more valued. And you will know that you are cool.

Not that you play video games anymore. They’re way too immersive these days, and you have more art to create. So keep producing. But you already known that. Don’t you, Marc?

Sincerely, 38-year-old self

My First Real Book

I never wanted to be a writer first. I wanted to be Steven Spielberg. At age 8, I asked the school librarian if she had a book on Spielberg.

She said, “No, but he’s a very interesting person. I think I’ll look for one and order it.”

I kept going back to the librarian nearly every day to see if she found the book and she eventually ordered it.

“It’ll take two weeks to get here,” she said. Once again, I went to the library every day and asked to see if the book arrived. I thought that maybe asking for it would speed up the process and ever time she told me that it takes two weeks to get to the school.

So as I waited, I tried to imagine what the book would look like and what it would say about Spielberg. I wanted to know about every movie that he made and what it would take to be a movie director. All I knew was that this was the man behind all of my daydream fantasies, and he got paid big houses and cars to make them. Movies allowed me to explore a more courageous side of myself that was not manifested in my interpersonal social life. I could be anyone I wanted after the credits started to roll, and I believed that I had a few characters of my own to share.

When the book arrived it was thinner than I thought, but I opened it and took in the new book smell. I could hear the glue of the bindings and the hard cover crackle. The pictures were in color, and I sat down to take them in.

I can’t remember exactly what was said about him in the book. Over the years I would take in more information about him and all the information seems to conflate to that book. But I do remember that this was the first time that I read a book that was purely informational. Until this day, I’m good at absorbing trivial information and consider myself an info junkie. I have so much data in my head that it fuels my imagination and serves as points of references in my mind. This book started it all.

The book didn’t help me become a filmmaker, but it helped me see the world more critically as non-fiction has allowed me to do. It helped me become a better writer and artist, who work deals with the critical analysis of reality and its nature.

Post-Meditation Journal Entry # 14

12/26/2017 (6:39 am – 6:54 am)

And the thought arose from the ocean of my mind and said, “Ask the breath. The breath will tell you both your question and answer.”

I had a vision. I thought about a current situation that I cannot control and a thought-emotion-image popped into my head. I was in early elementary school and I felt a bad feeling. I didn’t like early elementary school. Especially, the first two grades. I remember coming home crying to my mother one kindergarten day, saying how no one likes me. School was a jungle to me. People were wild and heartless animals and I could not understand their language. I was used to a certain level of attention and nurturing from home, from mother, but these kids just didn’t react to my jokes and TV references and my personality.

People were just mean without reason and no matter how many decent classmates were actually there, the sucky people stuck out the most. They were into who-likes-who-type things and who’s-being-bad-type things.

I always wanted to go home early in kindergarten and first grade. I was quiet and inside myself with no sense of social intuition. These kids were like Soviet gymnast on steroids when it came to socialization and I was Popeye pre-spinach.

I felt those feelings in that split second of meditation. I could see how those feelings began in early grade school and still follow me until this day. I had no control. Everyone and everything else did have the control, at least the illusion of it. But it’s better than nothing.

I formed my ego in the middle of a cursive writing lesson, writing out my name in the hope that one day I could sign autographs like Michael Jackson. The seeds for becoming a writer were planted on that paper with that lead pencil.

I don’t know what seeing that image and feeling that feeling will do for me. My guess is that its benefits will not take effect for another few months. For now, I’m made a connection and I know now with more certainty what meditation has been telling me for last year: God is in the breath, not the concept.

Nebe Nabe Veru ©2017 by Marc Alexander Valle

Jorge lied on the lawn face down, shirtless, feeling the funny feeling on his skin, thinking about how cows can eat grass but humans can’t, the sun blazing on his back. No parents home to say otherwise. No crying little sister. No older brother to call him weird.

And then the orange light shinned on the grass. He looked up as high as he could. A red orb floated before him. He froze. It approached him. His body shook. It hovered in front of him.

“Nebe nabe veru,” it said.

And the images flashed before his eyes:

His mother cut by the broken glass he forgot to pick up, cursing in Spanish.

His future wife.

His future children.

The catastrophic collapse of the world market.

His divorce.

His older brother’s incarceration.

His baby sister becoming a nun.

His mother’s final days.

His father’s heart attack.

His mother cut by the broken glass he forgot to pick up, cursing in Spanish.

Everything went black.

. . .

“Jorge. Get up,” his father said.

Jorge stood up, clippings covering his body.

“What are you doing?”

“Tanning,” Jorge said.

“What?”

“I saw it on TV.”

“On TV? Do they wash dishes on TV? Cause you’re grounded. Two hours we let you stay home and you can’t do abything around the house like we said?”

He peaked around his father. His older brother, David, stood smiling at him.

“Next time you go to church with us.”

“Damn it!” His mother walked onto the back patio, foot covered in blood. “I cut myself, Manny.”

. . .

Jorge and David sat in the hospital waiting room.

“Why you gotta be different?” David said.

“What?” Jorge said.

“All you had to do was go once and say it’s not for you. You think I believe in all that stuff?”

And then he thought about his brother’s future arrest, the wrong crowd that led to it, the drugs, the stealing, the lies to his parents and then the life sentence.

“You want to go looking for crawfish?” Jorge said.

“What?”

“At the creek. Remember we used to do that?”

“Crawfish? You’re thinking about crawfish?”

His brother stood up and started toward the bathroom. “You’re weird.”

Delicacy (Second Draft) ©2017

Words and image by Marc Alexander Valle.

The boy looked down at the worm, squirming on the backwoods trail. A ray of light illuminated its dark-pink hue and a warm breeze hit his face.

“Eat it,” she said. “I’ll kiss you.”

“No,” he said.

“Then no,” she said.

But he had wanted to kiss her all summer, floating in the deep end of the pool, bumping her hand at the movie theater as he reached for his soda, lying on the grassy field with the late-morning sun warming him enough to feel a sense of bliss.

He looked back down to the trail. The worm kept squirming and picking up dirt.

“It tastes like nothing,” she said. “Go ‘head.”

He thought of candy, then reached down and picked it up. He could feel the worm’s life force as it wiggled and expanded on his palm. “Candy would be pointless,” he thought, “It’s too fleshy.” He imagined roast chicken instead.

I’ve done it,” she said, “You won’t get sick.”

He popped the worm in his mouth.

He could feel it slither and contract.

The dirt turned to grim.

He attempted to limit the bug’s movement by controlling it with his tongue, the texture feeling like raw salmon, the taste reminding him of runny eggs.

He swallowed it and closed his eye. It slide down his throat quickly. He could feel it move. And like everything else he ate, the feeling disappeared just before reaching his stomach.

He opened his eyes and looked to her.

“Yuck,” she said.

He stepped forward and closed his eyes again.

His lips touched hers. But he felt nothing in return.

He held the kiss and waited for her to reciprocate. But he felt nothing in return.

He stepped forward and moved his face closer to hers. But he felt nothing in return.

He could feel nothing but dead lips, hear nothing but the cicadas and crickets chirping. Just the dead lips and live bugs and the hope of something in return.

She pulled away and jabbed his stomach.

“Gross,” she said, “I’m not kissing bugs.”

As he held onto his gut, crunched over, he could see her walk away down the path and out of sight.

The pain spread across his abdomen and he wasn’t sure if he needed to go to the bathroom. He could hear the birds singing and an animal moving in the brush. Sweat began to break out from his forehead.

He had to go home now. If he was late for dinner one more time, he’d be grounded.

Rays of light disappeared as a cloud rolled in. A cooler breeze hit his face. He inhaled a deep breath then let it out. He stepped forward onto the path.

Then he wondered what boy he’d get to tell first.