Hi J—,

You wrote me more recently than I you; think about two years ago maybe, and I just never got back to you because I'm a poor friend and don't do enough of what I used to do, the things I used to enjoy doing. How old are you now? It is difficult to remember that all my internet friends are older now, they have aged along with me, in the background, without my permission. I do recall you moving to Asheville. Why don't you love it there? What did you love about where you lived before? I wonder if I have ever loved anywhere I have lived. Probably not. What you doing for work? You're so lucky to have a studio; well, I mean it's not all luck, because you work hard, but it is fortunate.
    I'm dry tonight and would love some red wine—my taste of which is still tied strongly to end-of-aisle discounts and would embarrass you tremendously—because of some antibiotics (STI, origins unknown), but it is good to take my foot off the intoxication pedal just before Christmas, when one is so inclined to drink copiously and almost subconsciously, like some Tudor royal, safer than the water, etc.
    I am still single and doubt that I shall ever find love, such is my character, taste, appearance and luck. I had—counts on hand—one brief relationship this year; she was lovely but the passion just faded out, hurried by my only—and quite potent—case of covid. I no longer smoke cigarettes, but I also no longer play guitar. I don't write as often as I used to nor as often as I would like; life seems to tire me out and for many months now I have not slept properly. I get my kicks through chess, music (currently enjoying some Ethiopian nun from the sixties on piano!), cooking and playing with my cat. After a tax rebate and money saved from no longer smoking, I acquired a kitten in February. She is a Russian Blue (actually bought off some Russians in north London, whole house smelled of steamy overcooked meat) and her name is [redacted]. Without an ounce of bias or exaggeration: she's the most perfect cat in the world, possibly the whole universe. She is sat on my lap right now, eyes closed, undisturbed by my clattering keyboard. Everyone who meets her loves her because she is playful, engaging, affectionate, inquisitive and clumsy as fuck. She is my best friend in the whole wide world and I tell her I love her no less than forty times a day.
    In July I started a new job, same work but a new company, new location. I am still undecided on it, on the people. We went out on Thursday and it made me awfully depressed, so I left in a hurry without saying good-bye. I have just finished therapy, too. I did it for three-and-a-half years and found that I am now pretty well-adjusted to everything and have the tools to look after myself and didn't really have much going on in my life to talk about. I will miss talking to my therapist. Sometimes I wonder what I will do with myself. I don't have any friends. There's this guy at work I really don't like and he asks me what I'm doing at the weekend and I never have anything planned. Soon I will have to start lying before I die of shame. Today I went to the pet shop, tried to do some christmas shopping, did the washing up and wished I had a bottle of wine. And I wrote you.

    No longer 5,305,

    PS I stalk your twitter occasionally. I used to read your blog but you stopped updating it, then parts of it disappeared. No one blogs anymore. No one reads mine anymore, but I still enjoy making it look pretty.

Dear J—,

How comes you decided to go vegan? What do you miss most of all? If I was vegetarian, I would miss chicken wings most of all. If I was vegan, I would miss chicken wings most of all, as well. Even as a meat-eater, if I'm not eating chicken wings, I miss chicken wings. Why did you quit drink too? Do you hate yourself? Fuckit, what works for you, that's great. As soon as I quit smoking my anxiety dropped off a cliff. Don't get anywhere near as anxious as I used to. I still get the old hangxiety, but nothing to the extent that I used to. Such a change justifies the whole decision to quit smoking. I thought I would miss it more, but I do not. I don't vape or anything (lol, vaping is so shit) and I just gave up like that because it seemed like a challenge. But the anxiety and the migraines, well done, seriously; huge changes. Although it's a bit disgusting you've gone from wine country to sober; what a turn!
    I thought people in the south were supposed to be super-friendly. Podunk is a great word, though. I am not quite sure of its meaning—beyond the context afforded it—but I don't want to look it up and spoil the mystery. How are you making these D&D friends? I don't know how people make friends, beyond repeatedly enforced social encounters, such as school, work or church. I got a bit blue at work yesterday afternoon after—again—very little sleep, just blue that I don't get on with anyone there. I have made friends at other places, so I see it more as a reflection on them than a reflection on me, but still, one can't help such feelings.
    I don't discount the amount of fortune we've had, with the business we sold, the house we builtDon't you think it's amusing we were just strangers on flickr (remember that place!) and you've done all that shit since and written to me about it? Those years seem to have flown by, yet flickr seems a lifetime ago. Lives measured in websites and fads: livejournal, myspace, facebook, flickr, tumblr, blogspot, twitter, instagram; like triassic, jurassic, cretaceous.
    How's your week been? Mine has been long. It's only Thursday but it feels like it should be Tuesday of next week. Monday I had meetings in town. Tuesday I had a survey in the sticks. Wednesday (somehow only yesterday) on site. Today I worked from home, finished late and then sat back down to write you (cat sat on the radiator next to me). It was a productive day but I will have to work all of tomorrow before the Christmas break to get shit finished. I'm going back to my parents' for the duration. They love the cat (I'll send photos separately as I'm writing this on my laptop and all photos are on my phone). It'll be my brothers & their partner/family during the day and then relatives in the evening. I don't like Christmas but I have finished all my Christmas shopping so that's a bonus. It does not escape me that I am the hardest working member of my family, working a job, cooking, cleaning, buying the presents on a single income, no one to share responsibilities or duties with, kinda makes me feel a little smug but my smug-meter is nearly maxed out anyway.
    I don't like sparkling wine, and I don't like alcohol-free anything. I do like the word Freixenet though. I cannot wait until tomorrow to have a drink. And turning off my work laptop. I have given thought to writing a novel but lack the discipline and inspiration at the moment. I used to write in the evenings, but now, by the time I have cooked and cleaned up afterwards, I am too tired to write; sometimes there is not even time to sit down. Back in the day, I would sleep on the train, but I cannot do that anymore! I am trying very hard not to lose sense of who I am or who I was. I'm looking forward to tomorrow night, having a drink and writing while listening to music (i've been buying a lot of music lately). There's not much else I look forward to. Unfortunately my mortgage goes up by £400~ in April, which wipes out my savings and still requires me to spend less every month. I was saving up for a holiday but that's had to wait. If I think about things too much I get very depressed, hence missing booze so much.
    I should get off my arse now, put some laundry away and then do dinner. I hope this finds you well.