Dear Barry Manilow

Dear Barry,

I was onto you so fast. Too young to have the words, so I couldn’t blow your cover. But I knew from your voice — from just your face, even, on the cover of my parents’ LPs. The sprayed blondness and the set of your upper lip.

I knew you always loved more than you got loved back.

It’s not a bad thing. The Abbey Road theorem was disproven years ago, after all; we now know that love is not a zero-sum equation, that in fact there is a 16% delta in one direction or the other. And we all have to fall somewhere on the scatter plot, or it won’t work. Nothing will work.

I can send you a link, if you like.

It’s not a bad thing to be the one with dog eyes, the one who can’t decide what to do with the third shirt button that falls right at the line of interest. Open, closed? It matters, what you choose to make visible from fifty, ten, two feet away.

It’s not a bad thing, per se, to be the open-armed one. Not empirically wrong to be a locus of need. On drives through Georgia to my grandparents’ house, you would come on the radio and in the way-back of the station wagon I would pine. For a boy? Sure. But more for the drowsy sense of homelessness to last — for geography to be under my power, to take myself places and remove myself, too.

A weekend in New England — to you it meant candles and sea spray. To me, sex and volition. Neither one of us is the first to confuse these things. And floating in the car between Macon and Americus, did I mistake the trees around me for a state of mind? Maybe. Probably. Like you haven’t?

It’s not a bad thing, a priori, being on the pining side, though it will open you to ridicule. Well, I think I’m preaching to the choir here. Running through some woods last week, you were in my earbuds, saying someone had left you but it was no problem because your roads are going to cross again, it doesn’t really matter when.

And I was just wondering: do you realize how you sound?

Do you somehow not know that everything matters? The shirt button, the way your hair curls under, how wide to open your eyes? And time. Do you really not know that when things happen matters very much?

You’ve got to go out on your own so you can find your way back home, you said. I stopped in my tracks and folded over my legs to let the ends of my hair draw in the sand. No, Barry, I said. No. She — he — went out on his own to disappear. There is no back. There is possibly no home. All that’s left before the lop-off is wayfinding and your brutal hope.

If you’d like, I can save you from yourself for free. But you’ll have to find me first.