12 September 2036
Dear Miss Palaminia,
Exactly three weeks ago today my foot came to rest upon a piece of ground that called out to me in a way I have never before experienced, and since that moment I have busied myself with the necessary task of creating a residence for myself, so that I might remain here throughout the fast-approaching winter, which I have been informed on more than one occasion is often quite harsh. And since it is my wish to remain here not only this winter, but for all of the remaining winters of my life, however many that proves to be, I have taken my task to heart, placing hands to dream, saw to board, hammer to nail, and for the better part of three weeks now, have measured and cut and pounded so diligently that it seems I have failed to take notice of several other aspects of this new life of mine that are taking place, some of them, apparently, under the very tip of my own nose, lying as close to me as a long, stone’s throw across the nearby meadow lake. I was informed by the woodsman named Jamb only yesterday of the nearness of this new home of mine to your own home. Apparently, Miss Palaminia, you and I are to be neighbors, or have been now, albeit unknowingly to me, for some three weeks, and if it pleases you to read any further, I should very much like the opportunity to correct my past oversight and properly introduce myself.
My name is Tomas Smollet. I have been told in the past that it is a simple name that belies my true nature, and that I am at heart a complicated man suffering the idea of simplicity in a complex world. Perhaps this is true, perhaps not. It is an interesting observation, to say the least, and a conclusion that you may, upon our ever meeting, arrive upon yourself. I will not, nay, cannot stand in the way of personal opinion. I will say, however, that given the proper time and the right frame of mind, I might convince someone willing to listen to my story that I am no more convoluted than the next man, which of course may be saying very little, depending upon the opinions you currently hold of the men you happen to know. You may very well hold all men in low esteem, at which case, I have already done myself more harm than good with the casual observations I throw about in this letter, but it would not be the first time in this life that I had undermined my own intentions. Far from it, in fact. But since I am on the subject of observations, I may as well make one more, saying that it seems that in so many aspects of this life—perhaps I might even go so far as to suggest that this is true of all aspects of life—acceptance and understanding comes back time and time again to the delicate matter of first impression and personal opinion, which I have come to respect as perhaps this world’s greatest, and yet least understood, power.
Pausing for a moment with my writing, I might ask myself what kind of impression I myself might be making. How am I doing? What impression am I leaving on this new neighbor with these words of mine, these far too many observations and opinions? A poor one, I fear, for reading back just now I fear that up to this point I have given you nothing about myself other than my name, that simple label handed to me by my mother at birth. I have said almost nothing and yet have rambled on most excessively.
I have sometimes wondered if the world wouldn’t have turned out much differently if instead of using just a name, we would have evolved into the kind of people who were comfortable introducing themselves to one another with a tale or story or some description of some place we had been, some words showing that we had taken the time to notice something about the world around us and that we were now willing to share with another. Names are such a brief attempt to label ourselves that they often sadden me when I think that what they really are is a label for our own impatience. Our names are short either because we don’t have or don’t want to take the time to get to know other people, but perhaps even sadder, we don’t want to take the time to explain who it is we are, and so we condense everything about ourselves into that one small label.
Hello, my name is Tomas Smollet.
See what I mean? Reading that, what do actually know about me? Do those two words, those two symbols actually mean anything? No, of course not. They mean next to nothing, and yet, we have come to rely so much upon this type of introduction, this exchange of names.
So having now filled these pages with absolutely nothing, I will simply say that I should enjoy very much the opportunity to walk around this magnificent lake that separates us—as I have no boat as of yet and am much too old for a swim of that undetermined length—so that we might both be given the chance to share something of ourselves other than our names. I shall continue to work on my home while I wait for your reply, and look forward to that day. Perhaps the woodsman Jamb will be the deliverer of your message, as up to this point, other than the two times I have taken the time to walk into the village, he seems to be the sole source of news for this entire valley. I am beginning to wonder, in fact, if he is even a woodsman at all, but rather some sort of old-fashioned town crier. If he is, I have no doubt that he is the quietest, most tight-lipped town crier in the entire history of town criers, for I don’t believe I have ever met a man more short of words than Jamb.
I await your reply, and remain until that time,