Dear Kesha by Anthony Tognazzini
Thank you for your invitation. It arrived a week ago. The envelope is nice. Yellow’s such a festive color, and I thank you for that.
The truth is I’d love to attend your party, but I can’t decide which wine to bring. Malbec? Gewurztraminer? Also, I don’t own the right clothes. I tried on the puce blouse, and the green dress with red dots. Neither was right. I tried on slacks until the bedroom was a pandemonium of discarded slacks. Then I lay down, exhausted.
Also, because it’s a birthday party, I assume there will be cake. On my 5th birthday I ate too much Black Forest Cake with raspberry filling and threw up, and ever since I have associated cake with vomit, so it’s difficult for me to attend birthday parties. My uncle got the same way with Mexican food after one too many chimichangas at an all-you-can-eat buffet.
Also, as I’m sure you’ve noticed, I suffer from rosacea, an embarrassing skin condition of the face. After deciding to come to your party, I wanted to treat the rosacea in some way, and my friend Marcia recommended a chemical peel involving cucumber, hydrogen peroxide, and Saran Wrap, but the procedure did not go well and now my face is very blistered and messed up. Attending your party like this would be much worse than with my regular, rosacea-ruined face.
Then (yesterday) as I was recuperating with an ice pack on my face, my mother called and said there’d been an accident. Apparently my cousin Michael had died earlier that day. He was waterskiing, banking wide and sending up plumes of spray-- when someone drove past in a motorboat and shot him. It was a drive-by shooting on a lake. If that seems inconceivable to you, imagine how my family felt.
The shock of this news worsened the cough I’ve developed over the last couple weeks, which now sounds like a rattling sack of nails. To purify myself I’ve been drinking green tea, which, I remember, you introduced me to, so thanks for that, but I’ve been drinking so much green tea I’ve started to wet the bed at night. In the mornings I hang the sheets on the stoop where the neighbors notice the stains and snicker. You see my situation.
The real reason I can’t attend your party is that I am suffering from a broken heart. Liam, my boyfriend of the last three months, informed me last week he’d realized he was at least 86% gay, and that it was past time for him to, as he put it, ‘explore his options.’ I pretended I wasn’t hurt when I said, “Fine, explore away,” so now Liam is living in Aspen with an accounts executive named Tobias and I’m here alone, on a pee-stained mattress, holding Liam’s harmonica.
It’s raining now, and the shades are drawn. I’m writing this letter from bed, now and then pausing to cough, or play little blues licks on the harmonica. If I had the power to be two places at once, Kesha, I would, but I don’t, so it is with deep regret that I must decline the invitation to your party.
I hope your birthday’s great. I know we’re always saying how much we’d love to get together and have a few laughs, and yet, it seems, we never laugh.
© Anthony Tognazzini
Anthony Tognazzini is a writer and musician. His fiction and nonfiction have appeared in Guernica, Electric Literature's Recommended Reading, BOMB, Gigantic, Denver Quarterly, Crazyhorse, the Alaska Quarterly Review, Forklift, Ohio and TriQuarterly, among other journals; his fiction collection, I Carry A Hammer in My Pocket for Occasions Such As These, is available from BOA Editions. He lives in Ohio.
Dear Kesha was read by Roya Shanks with music by Caitlin Mahoney for the Brooklyn Book Festival on 14th September 2016