Somewhere in La Fortuna, a block or two west from the city square, just left of the mural of a cheetah, there is a restaurant, a restaurant wall where the owner collects drawings from his customers, customers from all over the world, the drawings depict it all from Ontario to Israel. And somewhere among that colorful clutter, there is a drawing of a bridge, the only rep in that collection for Michigan. I looked at my partner, then, and asked if he thought this picture would outlive us, and no, I said, I don’t mean our lives, I mean our relationship. Because even then, things felt fragile. Even then, my twentieth birthday in a country thousands of miles away from home, driving mountain roads so narrow, we could have died at any moment, we felt fragile. The answer to my question, I wouldn’t know until September of the next year.
And when I think about how you don’t want to exist, I remember Costa Rica and that drawing of the bridge, that restaurant owner who was so friendly, why can’t Americans be like that? I think about the family who owned the hotel, who would do our laundry after I handed over some bills, some coins, an exchange in broken Spanish. I lost a pair of underwear, somewhere between that load of laundry and packing my bag again. So when you say you don’t want to exist, I want to tell you about how I sometimes miss those people who don’t even speak my language but who left an impression in my brain anyways. I want to tell you about how somewhere in La Fortuna, a block of two west from the city square, is a drawing with my old surname on it, and somewhere in a hotel laundry room, is a pair of cyan underwear. And these things are all that’s left of me in that country, all that exists of me outside the USA, and isn’t that kinda what you mean when you say you want to be erased?
But I’m here to tell you even erasers leave marks, and if that’s the case—if you’ve already left imprints all over the place—then you may as well keep living, you may as well paint yourself across the canvas of this world. And I’m not afraid to tell you this because one day, my colors will run dry and when I look up from my brushstrokes, I don’t want to regret staying quiet, staying silent. Because if you’ve already made marks, they may as well be colored in, not an outline of who you want to be. Bold and brilliant on your good days, gray and subdued on your bad days. I guess what I’m trying to say is that you’re already permanent, and I know you didn’t ask for it, but this is it—this is it, so go for it. Exist.