I’m back! Sorry I was away for such a long time. Many things have happened. The main reason I disappeared was because after five years, my computer decided to destroy itself from the inside out and it took a little bit to find time to replace all of its innards. That’s finally done now and it runs better than ever but I lost every photo I’ve ever taken and every word I ever typed. Fuck. Now that I typed that out, it makes me feel really shitty. But what can you do? New beginnings I guess.
Speaking of new beginnings, another reason I was gone was because I have a new girlfriend. That has been the greatest feeling I’ve had in my entire life. That’s been keeping me preoccupied, obviously. By the way, her name is Ali and she has a twitter account. She is an artist (a really fucking impressive artist at that) and her work will no doubt be showcased here at the Compass soon. But anyway, at this current moment, I have the time to sit down and actually write something to completion.
My sister had to write a speech for her class about someone they love and deliver it in front of everyone. She chose to write about me and then sent me the transcript. I read it through my phone sitting in the parking lot of the Vince Lombardi rest stop on the New Jersey Turnpike, right before the George Washington Bridge in New York City. I cried. So first will be her speech and then my response. I hope you enjoy!
It feels good to be back. Feels so good, man.
Happy Kid: A Letter to My Sister
An Untitled Speech
by Elise Martino
Anthony Michael Martino. I know this name has absolutely no significance to any of you and you are probably confused, curious, and wondering to whom this person might be. This person is my brother and he is probably my biggest role model in life. All my life I have looked up to him as an inspiration. For fun, we used to drive around random places with our sunglasses on, windows down, and blasting music. Those days are some of my favorite memories. But, eventually my brother turned 18 and left for college in New York. This was hard for me mainly because it meant that I would be living at home without a sibling and when he left we didn’t get to talk as much. Sure, he came and visited a lot but even now its different since he graduated college. He left then and moved to Washington D.C. to work with an organization called Americorps and now we really can’t talk as much because he is always working and I think that’s the hardest part for me. It’s hard knowing that I will now only get to see my brother about 2 times a year. Even though I don’t get to see him, I still miss him more than words can describe and he is still the one person who keeps me going. Anthony is the kind of person who is never down in the dumps and never abandons his goals. I know he is always just a phone call away or even a skype call away, but to me, it’s not the same. He always comes home and says how much it bums him out that he had to miss his sister learning to drive, and getting her license, and growing up. I know he is my older brother, but sometimes I feel like its harder for me to watch him grow up because I know we will never get to create memories like we used to because he is an adult now and I barely get to see him. I miss having my big brother around to help me through the good times and the bad times. It seems like time flew and now all of the sudden he is grown up and living his life. I love my big brother so much and I just wish he could be around more. He has taught me so many life lessons and he is honestly the one person who I can turn to for anything.
An Untitled Response
by Anthony Martino
You are not alone in these feelings. It hurts how much we have grown apart and I can only see your life through miscellaneous bits of technology. If it is any consolation, I think about calling you every day. When we do talk, I always ask you how school is going; I ask you to tell me about your teachers and your homework and your detentions and bad grades and the pictures of sea life you draw on your tests when you don’t know the answers. I ask about your friends and what you guys do for fun. I ask about the music you listen to and the parties you go to and how our puppy is doing and what foods he eats now. Watson is a picky dog but I still need to see him eat breadsticks because apparently it is the greatest thing in the world to watch, according to your texts.
I miss you, Elise and I’m sorry I haven’t been there in person every step of the way. I wanted to be there in the car with you the day you got your license. I wanted to be at home waiting to guilt trip you after you got your first detention. I want to be there to scare the living piss out of the first boyfriend you bring home. My plan was to just sit at the kitchen table and clean all of the gigantic knives mom has in the kitchen and just stare out the window and quietly repeat the words “I hope tonight is a good night” in a whispery version of the Batman voice. I’ve thought about all these things and it kills me to know that I won’t be able to. I’m going to try my hardest to be there to help you move in on your first day of college, which no doubt will be an ivy league. At least I can get really drunk at your wedding and make a great toast and embarrass you, provided you have an open bar. I’m not going to miss that for the world.
There is a reason I left you guys though. There is a reason why I felt comfortable travelling so far away from home. It is because I knew you would make it. I knew you would be fine. And you proved me right. You’ve done everything better than me so far. Your grades are better. You have more friends than I had. You have a direction. As much as you look up to me, I have a confession to make. I have no idea what I’m doing. I run my life like a massive experiment on an hour-to-hour basis. I travel around the country so much because I don’t quite know my own place yet. Its not easy. Moving to Washington D.C. in a post-9/11 world is probably the scariest thing I’ve done and I know how much you and everyone else at home worries and I’m sorry for that. I need to challenge myself in order to keep going. I wanted to challenge you to see what you were capable of and you went above and beyond my expectations of how successful you could be. You are my role model, Elise and I am very jealous of how well you’ve navigated yourself through middle school and high school.
I’m able to stay away for so long because I know you are doing great. Yeah, you have mood swings like a mothefucker but I know on the inside, you are going to kick life in the fucking balls and prove to everyone that you are the best at whatever you set your mind to. I tried to instill that in you all these years because I was unsure that I could do it myself. I didn’t want you to make the mistakes I’ve made; I didn’t want you to miss out on anything. I wanted you to be better than me. And you are.
Working with City Year has actually made me closer to you, believe it or not. Right now, I work in the lowest performing middle school in Washington D.C. in one of the hardest neighborhoods in the country. I work in a school where the fire department doesn’t show up when the alarms go off. I get threats against my life on a weekly basis. Recently, a student told me he was going to bring a gun to school and now I may have to go to court because I am a witness. This can’t be easy hearing this when I call home. I can’t even imagine the emotional pain I’ve caused our family and I am deeply sorry for that. But when I see my kids in class, when I see them actually learning, I think about you. I think about how I want them to be just as great as you are. You are the gold-standard of excellence and I am infinitely proud of you. I see all of my flaws in these students. I see the ignorance I had in middle school. I understand how serious it was that I had to write all those apology letters to teachers for my behavior. I failed English in 6th grade, the grade I help teach now, and then I went on the become and English major in college and hopefully one day earn my PhD in literary theory. Anything can be done as long as you believe in yourself and I believe in you.
We’ve been given an amazing family and I am proud and unfathomably excited that you are my sister. You are going to be so happy with where your life is going. I am now and you’ve done everything a billion times better than I have. Don’t worry about a single thing but don’t ever give up. Keep reaching for what you can never have. Grasp towards infinite space you will never know what true sadness is. I love you and can’t wait to see where life will take you. As always, I’ll be right there next to you. I never left.
Next time I’m home, we will drive down River Road together and blast Bootsy Collins and Gogol Bordello as loud as you want.