Can you please provide suggestions on how I can improve my letter and where I can add more aesthic features to my letter? Please also correct any grammatical errors if noted?  Dear Joseph,...

Can you please provide suggestions on how I can improve my letter and where I can add more aesthic features to my letter? Please also correct any grammatical errors if noted? 

Dear Joseph,

“Time’s up!” The prison guard’s words disturbed me as I stole one more glance through the glass.  Your visit really has got me thinking. I saw in those eyes of yours the exact same look as in our brother James’ when Father left. I never imagined I would see that look again - skittering eyes that did not focus. I know these eyes; I know what they mean, what feelings and thoughts they hide. You scared me today Joseph. I’ve been asking myself questions ever since you left. I feel responsible for you – not only am I your older brother but, I took a part in leading you astray. I know that maze you’re caught up in and I know that it has many different paths, dead ends, but only one passage out. I’ve been there before you and so has James. I have reached a dead end though. I am going to spend my last few years within the confines of prison walls and tinted glass as my illness takes its final toll on my body. I often find myself staring at this glass that prevents me from protecting you – it’s a funny barrier huh?  A glass that’s only a few millimetres wide is all that is separating us - an adamantine glass. Prison is less a mirror than a looking glass, dismally showing who I am, what I could be, and what I should both fear and hope for my collective future.   

Nothing prepared me for the shock of what I saw today when you helped Mother up from her seat as you both readied to leave. When you placed your arms around her shoulder, I saw it. That Black Annie’s tattoo protruding from underneath your sleeve –permanently etched into your skin. The Black Annie’s tattoo. James’ gang!

Who is this person that you’ve turned into? I know the circumstances of your life – no one wants to be the third child, surrounded by older brothers. Do you know how it is for me seeing you like this? I tried to be a role model for you, an umbrella to shelter you from the underbelly of this world. I know I have failed big time but I tried. You witnessed the tragedy of the night I was arrested by the police. In hope to revert our family to what it once was, I went with the intentions of changing James’ mind with thoughts of returning home.  But he repudiated all offers. Incapable of restraining the different emotions that battled for dominance in my mind and heart, the appalling events took place. People like us are born unlucky but it substantially depends on our own choices to remain misfortunate; you do have choices. But if you let sorrow take over you, you will drown in it.

Growing up in a dysfunctional family is not fun. School is the worst. Those expressions you see when you’re walking past the mean students. You told me that you made many friends at school, but why then did you always stay at home alone every summer break? I never really liked to ask you about that, but now I wished I had. I’ve been in your shoes and I appreciated it when James said nothing, but always gave me a reassuring look. It was enough that I knew that he knew what I felt. But you’re different to me; you would’ve appreciated me reaching out to you. Self- reflecting in this sad chiaroscuro of this prison, I realized that I have faltered, I was cynical and rapacious. I’m paying the price.

Mother had been with me through this journey, bolstering my hopes but there comes a time when there is no hope left – instead of looking for cures, you look for acceptance. I am not complaining, I am just trying to show you that we’re in the same maze, but your path still does not lead to a dead end. Your will find the passage if you look hard enough.  

This situation brings back my memories to the first day back to school in grade four. I want to share my pain with you so you don’t have to experience what I did.

I was the quiet, nerdy kid who had minimum interactions with the rest of the world. I didn’t bother anyone, nobody bothered me. During my primary school, I had given up on making friends, staying by myself seemed the only option; I was a bomb that could explode at any second, so I tried to minimise the causalities. Because of my limitations, I could not participate in sports. Instead of being a part of a team, I was sitting, isolated in an impersonal hospital room. Mother and Father were very supportive but it was a tough period for the whole family. Paying off the medical expenses nearly broke us. People pitied us. Despite their exhaustion, Mother and Father juggled many jobs to give us the best life they could afford. The stress proved too much for Father though. Knowing that our family situation would never improve, especially with a new child coming (Mother was three months pregnant with you), Father left us. He walked out of the house and we never saw him again.

Shortly after he left, summer break was over and I began grade four. As soon as I moved into the grade, our class was forced to write a page about our holidays and what events took place. Events! I sat in my chair at the back of the class, resting the back of my head on the wall with my arms folded. I closed my eyes and listened to the eager kids sharing the joy of their summer holidays. Then it was my turn. I opened my eyes and gazed at the crumpled piece of paper on my desk. My story wasn’t something to share.  Who wants to hear about chemotherapy? Who wants to hear about Father running off and leaving his wife and kids destitute? Who wants to hear about a bald, lonely, depressed kid spending his summer holidays in a cancer ward?

My wobbly legs scarcely made it to the front of the classroom. I hung my head. Looked at my shoes like I might find the words in the leather. My mind somersaulted with crazy thoughts. Nothing I could share. The teacher broke the silence. “Johnathan?” My eyes stung. I tried to hold back the tears. But then I broke open like the dam floodgates after the rain. I wanted the ground to open up and swallow me whole. A warm hand on my beanie. Muffled giggles. Nothing more. When I woke up I was in the Nurse’s room.

My life changed from that day. Now, everyone knew that I was a freak. And we know what happens to freaks. No one really wants to know you. All I got was pity. The last thing I wanted. All pity did was create a barrier between me and them, pushing me neatly to the edges of society where I withered like a seed without water. My school years were a nightmare. It shattered me Joseph. It destroyed me.

You have been given a blessing Joseph, one I had to live without. Treasure it and be thankful. I know that all our lives have taken a major turn, will never be the same. But the path you have chosen has no exit. I am warning you. If you don’t turn your life around, you’re making my purpose in here pointless; my clock is no longer ticking, the battery has worn down. I was born unlucky but I was foolish to think that it had to stay that way. I am relying on you to change your path to keep the clock ticking for all of us.

Love,

Johnathan

Asked on by rainbow224

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durbanville | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

"Time’s up!”

The prison guard’s words disturb me as I steal one more glance through the glass.  Your visit really has got me thinking. I can see, in those eyes of yours, the exact look I saw  in James, our brother’s, eyes, when Father left. I never imagined I would see that look again - skittering eyes that do not focus. I know those eyes; I know what they mean, what feelings and thoughts they hide. You scared me today Joseph and I’ve been asking myself questions ever since you left. I feel responsible for you – not only am I your older brother but I took a part in leading you astray. I know that maze you’re caught up in and I know that it has many different paths and dead ends, but only one passage out. I’ve been there before and so has James.

I may have reached a dead end and I am going to spend my last few years within the confines of prison walls and tinted glass as my illness takes its final toll on my body; but it's different for you. I often find myself staring at this glass; this barrier which prevents me from protecting you –glass that’s only a few millimeters thick and yet, it separates us - an immovable structure; this is my glass tower. The reflection I now see in this  glass dismally reflects who I am; reminds me what I could have been, and relates to what I should both fear and hope for my collective future.   

However, back to you and your future! Nothing could have  prepared me for the shock of what I saw today when you helped Mother up from her seat as you readied to leave. When you placed your arms around her shoulder, I saw it: that Black Annie’s tattoo protruding, offensively, from underneath your sleeve –permanently etched into your skin. The Black Annie’s tattoo: James’s gang!

Who is this person that you’ve turned into?

I know the circumstances of your life and I know that growing up in a dysfunctional family is no fun! – You are  the third child, surrounded by older brothers. Do you have any idea how it is for me, seeing you like this? I know that my attempts to be a role model are my biggest failing, trying to be an umbrella, sheltering you from the underbelly of this world, the crime and the gangs. I really tried, you must believe me.

That fateful night when you witnessed my arrest, the only thing on my mind was the hope of changing James’s mind and the possibility of returning our family to what it once was. But he repudiated all offers. At that point, I was incapable of coping with the different emotions that battled for dominance in my mind and heart, and so those appalling events took place. You may think that people like us are born unlucky but it is the choices we make that define our future and there is no need  for this amount of misfortune; we do have choices. But if we let sorrow take over , we  get lost.

There is not be enough space to complete your whole passage but hopefully this helps. You could post another question for the remainder.

Your letter has some real poetic value and you must just be careful when using comparisons. Too many metaphors may detract from the intensity. For example, you have referred to a maze at the beginning so, to continue this thread, it may be more beneficial to refer to "getting lost" (see above), rather than to drowning which creates a different image from a maze and how easy it is to lose your way. You also have the image of glass and reflection which you can build on when comparing the lives of the two brothers and the image of the umbrella and it's ability to protect.

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