He starts writing, a hand tangled in dark brown, curly locks, as soft as cotton and the colour of dark chocolate.
'Rise and shine!'
Anti tries to sound optimistic, maybe that'll cheer him up.
What's it like to sleep for a whole year? Did you dream? I can't imagine what that's like. 7Zee puts you in a pod and then lights out for all that time… wow.'
He sighs, it's been almost too long for him.
'What's the Far, Far Range like? Have you started exploring? Is the air as clear as they say? I bet it's really beautiful.'
The rumours swam around like koi fish in a pond, supposedly, the Far, Far Range is a beautiful place. "As beautiful as those baby blue eyes." Anti finds himself muttering.
'I'm probably asking too many questions. I bet you have a lot of work to do on that ranch. I still can't believe it's yours now.'
Anti shakes his head, guilt building up in his stomach and making it feel heavier than it should be.
'I guess I better leave you to it and just keep it short: Good luck, Jack. If anyone can make it out there, it's you.
It takes two days to get the next letter.
'My pet cactus'
The title is silly, Anti's trying his best. That's kind of cute, but the words seemed a bit forced, as if he's trying too hard to seem okay.
I bought a cactus from you, sort of. When I came back home it was one of the only things left in your shop. Was a lonely little guy so I decided to adopt it.'
Anti recalls that sunny day, seeing the green cactus in the almost abandoned shop, he had picked it up, almost pricking himself on it.
'You know I kill every plant I touch, but I promise this one will last. I mean, if I can't keep a cactus alive then clearly something is wrong!'
Anti let out a small snort, rolling his eyes a softly and glancing at the cactus, which was resting beside him.
'When I look at it I think of you out there on the range, doing your thing. Hope you're ok.
Surprisingly enough, the cactus hadn't died yet. Anti's been trying really hard to take care of it.
'Re: The big storm'
When he received that letter, about a day or so ago, he felt a bit better than usual.
'I got your mail, of course I remember that day. I feel like that was when you and I really connected. It was raining so hard that the streets were flooding and we took shelter in that cafe. It was like a scene from a movie only we both looked like wet animals. And the guy running the shop was a real tyrant. The only way we could stay inside was by ordering one coffee after another.'
Anti remembers being dragged inside by a spiked choker, once dark green locks soaked and sticking to his forehead.
'I feel like we learned more about each other that day more than ever. Maybe it was the coffee because we were both taking really, really fast. I told you about my dreams; making music and all that. At least that's how I remember it.'
He remembers seeing his hands fidgety, his talking getting faster as if he had to get all his words out of else the world would end.
'Walking home, when the rain came back you got closer to me and my heart was racing. But I couldn't blame that on the coffee.
A dark red blush grew on Anti's cheeks, a fuzzy and warm feeling in his chest. It then takes another few days for the next letter.
'The death hike'
Anti immediately groans as he begins his own reply.
Do you remember when you took me hiking? I still didn't know how serious you were about the whole outdoors thing then and your idea of a hike just killed me! I showed up in normal clothes and shoes and you were decked out and had a pack and gear, it was a nightmare for me, haha.'
Anti huffed, whining softly as he remembered how much his whole body ached that day, not being able to move around much.
'I think it was around the five mile mark, when I was drenched in sweat and ready to collapse when I realized that our ideas of fun were two very different things. Also you weren't even out of breath then and I still totally hate you for that :)
As he signs his name on it, he thinks he can feel phantom pains around his body, almost like hallucinations, but not quite.
'Re: the… VAN'
Anti feels like he can sense the annoyed aura that Jack must have when he reads this one. It's been a few days now, as he writes this letter.
'Haha, it wasn't THAT bad. You just don't have the fortitude to make it as an artist, I guess. Seán William McLoughlin can climb a mountain before breakfast but can't spend a few days in a *ahem* modestly accommodated, breaks-down-only-half-the-time, VINTAGE touring van. You were so miserable, I still laugh about it.'
Anti let out a tiny chuckle, flicking his finger against the choker he was wearing that particular day. A guitar is resting against the wall, about 7 feet away from him.
'But I really did appreciate it for those few days, it was great to have you in the crowd.
That van still runs by the way.
He thinks of ending the letter that way, but decides against it.
'P.S That was a lie. The van literally caught on fire while we were driving it. It died like a viking.'
Anti couldn't help but snicker, the memory of the flaming vehicle just made him laugh at times.
'New Years Eve'
No, it's not New Years Eve at this time, but he still writes to Jack.
Do you remember New Years Eve when we were looking for that party?
While we were wandering around the city, lost, I got my bearings and didn't tell you because I knew we were close to that coffee shop run by the tyrant. And since it was starting to rain I thought it would be really romantic to stumble across the place again. I guess I finally found the courage.'
'But the coffee shop went out of business and it was a taco place now. So, we ate tacos in the rain and it was just the best thing.
We were on the roof of your old apartment and we were hoping to see the fireworks. I was going to tell you something then but that's when you told me about Africa. It sounded like an amazing trip. I was really happy you were doing what you loved to do.
A soft, somber sigh escapes Anti's lips and he ends that letter before picking up the guitar leaning against the wall.
He replied to Jack sooner than expected, maybe he was just desperate for another chance to communicate with him.
'Thanks, Jack. I never knew you felt that way. I picture you out there on a safari, avoiding the clutches of lions on the savanna, riding elephants across raging rivers, and then, as you sit under the stars at night, your weathered hand opens up a lock and there's a picture of me inside. And then your loyal chimpanzee companion gives you a somber, knowing look.
Is that accurate? haha'
Anti has the guitar in his lap, a hand tapping against the side.
'Well, for what it's worth I missed you too when I was in LA. Uuugh, that bar was just awful, but at least I got some stage time.
Yet again, his letter doesn't end like that.
'P.S The chimp's name was Colonel Bananas.'
One small detail couldn't hurt, right?
There's a light somber aura around him, as if it's painful to talk about.
The year we both came home, do you think it ever could've worked? I mean, being with you everyday instead of a long distance thing, that was great. I remember feeling really happy, but something was missing. We both knew we were giving something up for it all.
I think about it all the time. That if we had been less honest about it all how you might still running that little garden shop and I'd still be trying to write music out of a basement.'
Anti thinks back, maybe, maybe. It could've been perfect, but…of course, nothing is truly perfect.
'It doesn't matter. I should've told you then what I never did. I should've said it a hundred times.
He shakes his head, "...just knowing that you'll be a thousand light years away…" He sings softly between his teeth, carefully strumming the guitar.
He doesn't stop writing, even if the tone of his letters stops being cheerful, and shifts to bring…nostalgic, as if he feels he's made a mistake and can't fix it.
'I know, it was the right thing to do. I appreciate you letting me know, but it never felt the same as having you close by. London was an opportunity I couldn't pass up, an opportunity to tour and do what I love.
But I still missed you like crazy. And when you told me about going to the Far, Far Range it made me miss you even more, even before you were gone.'
"'Cause I'm kicking myself for waiting oh, so long."
'I guess that's just us: what we really want just so happens to be in different places of the known universe. I mean, there's long distance and then there's being so far away that time itself might actually function differently. Why aren't there more songs about that, huh?
The soft melody plays out, not escaping the confinements of the house, but instead ringing across it.
'Re: Life is different now'
It isn't a lie, a lot of things can happen in a year, even if they're not wanted.
'I had a year to think about things while you slept your way across the stars. I think it almost scared me when things got easier, and when I finally realized that what we each have now is what we wanted all along. Because if you're still the boy I know, you're happy out there on the very farthest frontier.
And I hope the happiness you feel now lasts forever. I hope that the sunsets over there are as gorgeous as they are over here and that if you search far enough on a rainy day some rancher out there has a taco stand you can visit. I realize that last one probably isn't likely to happen but it sure would be romantic, right?'
Anti feels cheesy, as if this is a crappy movie with a cliché ending.
'I'm glad to have shared a part of me with you, Seán William McLoughlin. And I'm happy to know that maybe one of those stars I see up there in the sky is you.
But are clichés really all that bad?
"I should've held you near, every time I feared, somehow you just wouldn't feel the same."
There's another tour coming up and I have a feeling that this will be the one.
So here I am, packing my bags and thinking of you. Maybe this is how it felt when you were leaving for your big adventure. Lots of excitement, lots of butterflies.'
"So please don't say that'll you go. My heart can't bear the news. Just… knowing that you'll be a thousand light years away, if you do… oh, if you do."
'And even though I know you're so far away, I keep thinking that maybe I'll catch you somewhere out there in the crowd.
If that ever happens, I promise I'll sing a song for you. It wouldn't be the first time.
"Oh I'm just sitting here gazing up at the stars."
"Let's say we pick one out and call the whole thing ours."
"And even though that light we see ain't the same for you and me, well you know when I know."
"That you and I can't even be a thousand light years away, and I still love you."
"Oh yes I do."
"I love you."