A Message From Your Landlady

Sarah Ouyang, Nonfiction Editor

Dear tenant,

You have not paid rent for 18 years

But that’s OK —

That’s alright with me,

Because now the interest has accumulated

And you’ll be slaving away for me

For the rest of your life.

I gave you not just a roof

But also

A little five dimensional blob called love.

I gave you a bed on which you could rest

But you weren’t allowed to rest

Until you had finished your best work.

I gave you a seat at the table.

No, it wasn’t a round table,

But we aren’t all equals, are we?

We are not Arthur’s knights

But we have countless days ahead of us

And you will use them

To pay me back for the little purse I slung on your shoulder

The one I filled with hopes and dreams

Not lipstick or mascara —

But I did slip a wallet in there too,

Because you, little tenant,

The only valley you’ll fall into is Silicon Valley,

The only man you’ll follow is the man that follows your woes.

I want you to build a house

On top of the very ditch you fell into

And fill it with gold and silver and diamonds

Because I’ll be living there with you,

Reaping the rewards that you owe me.

But you’ll also fill it with bronze

To remind you that you can go singing in the rain

But you’ll still get wet.

To remind you that focusing on what should be

Distracts you from what could be.

Focus on what is.

To remind you that sometimes the best way to touch the stars

Isn’t to fly, but to climb on the shoulders

Of someone strong enough to lift you, and tall enough to touch them himself.

In an ideal universe

Your wings would be enough,

And you would soar and soar and soar without wondering

If the waves crashing below

Are going to claim you someday.

But it’s not an ideal universe

And you have to be gentle with the wind beneath your wings

Or it will never agree to carry you.

Instead it will pummel you,

Turn your face beet red —

Bears, beets, Battlestar Galactica.

The three B’s of life.

Remember, always,

That man was only the first draft

And while first drafts claim the glory of being first

The perfect copy is the one that is published,

The one sitting on the bookshelf of time,

Gathering dust and sitting quietly

With the rest of the wise volumes of the world;

While the first draft remains on the author’s desk

Still screaming loudly into the silence that it was the original

Still seeing itself as an opus

When it was only ever a prelude.

When you finally move out of this house

Take your notebooks and pens with you

But take the piano as well —

Strike any key and open any door.

Once you do that,

Once you cross the threshold into prosperity

You’ll race into my open arms

Smile meeting lovely smile

And as you pull away, I’ll lift my arm,

Palm facing up,

Ready to take cash or check.

Love, Mom.

– Sarah Ouyang