One: "Are We Losing, Or Just Beginning?"
I don’t quite know how I should start something like this, but ‘Dear Jack,’ seems appropriate. I guess that I should introduce myself to you first. After all, there is really no point in writing to someone you know absolutely nothing about until you introduce yourself, don’t you think?
My name is Alex Gaskarth; I never go by Alexander. You may have been told otherwise when they told you my name but there are only a select few people who I will willingly let them get away with calling me that. Anyway, I am a nineteen year old student that is currently studying English and Music at Towson University in Baltimore, Maryland. That is actually how I came about writing this letter to you. I chose it as part of an assignment which accounts for forty per cent of my final year grade. It was either this or write poetry for the semester.
I took a module in poetry last semester and let me tell you, it’s not all that it’s cracked up to be. That stuff is hard. Apparently it’s not all about finding words that rhyme and trying to fit them all together in a way that will cause them to make some sort of sense. I found that out the hard way. I’m sure that you can guess that my lecturer wasn’t too impressed with my attempt at poetry when he made us write one a short poem from the top of our heads during his very first lecture. My effort apparently just didn’t cut it and he made sure to read it out to the whole class (all three hundred of us) the very next day. That day I learned that writing about a fat cat that was wearing a hat and was sitting on a mat didn’t constitute as poetry… at least in his eyes anyway. Personally, I was very proud of my attempt.
Needless to say, I jumped at the opportunity to take on this this task when it was presented to the class. The lecturer who set it believe that ‘young people’ these days are too preoccupied with their social networking sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, that they don’t understand what it means to actually sit down and handwrite a letter. I have to be honest, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from it at first, but I find it rather relaxing. I don’t know, maybe I’m just weird like that.
Anyway, all I have to do at the end of this is make a presentation to my lecturer, and the rest of the class, about you. You know stuff like; who you are, where you come from… I just have to basically tell them your story. That doesn’t sound too bad, right?
To make things a little easier for you, I’ll start things off with a little more information about myself; I was born in England, believe it or not – Harlow, Essex to be more precise – but I relocated with my family to Baltimore when I was ten years old. Yup, for the first couple of years, I was known as ‘that kid with the funny accent’ and let me tell you, I was never as happy as I was the day when my accent started to become ‘normal’. I am an only child, I have been for a few years now, and I can definitely tell you that it sucks so much at times, but at other times it is really great. I think that being born in England and raised in the United States caused me to appreciate the English language and because I was brought up to love reading, it sort of just carried on throughout my life.
What else… oh, I love music; rock and pop-punk music to be exact, but I’ll listen to anything. I sing as well as play both the piano and guitar. A couple of my favourite bands have to be Blink-182 and Green Day; I seriously love both of those bands so much, you’d think that I was obsessed with them (although, not in a creepy way).
I’m not really sure what else to write about without it sounding like it’s coming from some sort of advertisement in a lonely hearts column. I think that I’ll just let you decide what you want to know about me and you can ask the questions in your letter to me. I look forward to getting to know you and I hope that this all works out (not just for the sake of my grade). Hopefully this letter reaches you without any problem.
P.S. That looks way too formal. Maybe I should just stick with writing ‘Alex’ in the future…
I sighed as I read over my attempt at an introductory letter. I wasn’t exactly pleased with what I had written but it was the best that I could come up with in this moment in time. It was definitely tougher than I thought it would be that’s for sure. After all, this ‘Jack’ was a complete stranger to me; all I knew about him was his name and the fact that he was a soldier serving in the United States Army. I knew nothing else about him, not even how old he was. I guess that you can say that I’m a little curious though, I want to know everything about the person who will be receiving my letters. It wasn’t just for the sake of my assignment either, I am genuinely curious as to who this Jack Barakat person is and more importantly, why he decided to be a recipient of some random student’s letters.
The support for the troops that were currently serving abroad is immense; you’d have to seriously be blind not to see it and while I may not necessarily agree with the reasons that these people are being kept away from their families, I still admire all of the work that they do to ensure that we all stay safe. I guess you could say that’s what drew my attention to the assignment in the first place and I could help but wonder if Jack chose to be part of this assignment as a chance to get to know someone new, or if he was just like many of the people that I’ve heard about in my Grandmother’s stories from her youth during World War Two. Back then people were encouraged to write to soldiers who had no one else; it lifted their spirits as well as giving them some piece of hope to cling onto during their otherwise bleak and dangerous world. These soldiers were either bachelors who had no wife and kids or even worse, men whose families had been killed during the war.
After a moment’s thought, I figured that asking him something as personal as why he chose to be a part of this assignment experience would be rude, especially if it was being asked by someone whom he has never even spoken to or met. Personally, I knew that if it was the other way around, I wouldn’t want him to ask me whether I had any family or friends to write to and why I would want to write to some complete and utter stranger all for the sake of a unknown student’s grade for a god-damn English assignment at a school that I’ve probably never even heard of before.
No, if for some reason this Jack guy wanted to tell me about his family and the reasons that led him to sign up for such a dangerous job like the ones that the Army provides, then he can do so in his own time; I’m not going to force him into it. Either that or I can just ask him all of the little questions about himself and build up a steady friendship from there until it would be okay to move onto asking the harder and more personal questions. I’m probably being a little too optimistic by assuming that this person would ever tell me such personal things, but I try so hard to be a positive person; it’s just who I am.
It’s times like these that I have to take a moment to stop and laugh at myself because once again I have let my mind run laps around one single thought. These were the times in which I was reassured that Creative Writing was definitely my forte. It’s true that by the end of my University degree, I would most likely have landed a job teaching English and Music but, that was really only as a practical measure; that was what everyone around me expected me to do but it isn’t necessarily where my dreams lay. Sure, being a teacher would be amazing and I really would like to share my love of the English Language and Music with as many people as I can but I do have other ambitions as well. It’s completely natural as I am only human after all.
Perhaps in the future I will become an author, I have a pretty active imagination which could come in handy for the job, or maybe instead I could just open up my own book store somewhere in the city. It’s amazing how just one single thought can have the ability to spark an entire chain reaction within my mind. Here I was painting this soldier in my head as some poor tortured soul with a horrible and tragic past when for all I know, he could just as easily be a happily married man with kids of his own and the reason that he chose to write was because he simply wanted to help a student get a pretty decent grade. It seems like a logical enough reason but then again, who knows.
As I stated on the summary page, this is a 'new & improved' version of Dear Jack,. Since it hasn't been updated in over a year, I decided that it was time to give it a little... refresh, if you will. I'm so happy to see that so many of you have stuck by with me and this little story for so long and I promise you that updates will now be more frequent; I've already got the final two chapters typed as well as two more since the last update!