Hello there! My name is Raymond Timmerwilke and I am a writer. At least, that's what my friends say. My sister would say that I am a bad writer, but she got her B.A. in English and has had her writing appear in such monstrosities as Paste Magazine and Bon Appetit. Besides, she has only read one novel-in-progress that I was writing when I was twelve years old. I remember I was playing fetch with my imaginary dog when cackles from the computer room interrupted my play. I never wrote another creative sentence in my life. Well, not until my 24th birthday.
My 24th birthday was this past October 21st. I had heard it was customary in some weird country like Bulgaria, that when it is someone's birthday, they invite all their friends over and cook a feast for their guests with a dessert and all, not to mention give each guest a parting gift! I thought that sounded like a good idea so I invited Lester and Anna over, made Kraft macaroni-and-cheese and chocolate milkshakes in my MagicBullet, and wrote them each a personalized story of my own creation.
I read them aloud while we sat around my kitchen table and they laughed and slapped me on the back and told me I should write more often. I laughed a lot too and thought about how long it had been since I laughed that hard. I couldn't think of a time. Maybe I will post the stories I wrote for Lester and Anna sometime, but Lester and Anna wanted to keep them. I spilled macaroni on them and told them I would print out fresh copies the next time I went to the library, but Anna said, "No, I want to keep this one. It has more character." I think Lester agreed because he took his orange-cheese-smeared story too.
I told Lester and Anna not to buy me any presents because I was trying to mimic the culture of Bulgaria or wherever, but they surprised me by pulling their money together and buying me Elliott Smith's "From a Basement on the Hill" in vinyl. I don't have a record player, but so far I have liked looking at Elliott being so sad on his stoop when I listen to his music. They didn't just buy me his album because he happened to have committed suicide on my birthday or because I have thought of doing the same thing a couple of times before, but because I am a recent fan of Elliott Smith.
Last Christmas my sister and brother-in-law clearly didn't know what to buy me for Christmas so they settled for a gray T-shirt with a bunch of white sheep on the front facing left and one black sheep in the middle facing right. I didn't think it was fair to buy both my sister and brother-in-law presents when they only gave me one between the two of them, so I decided to buy only my sister a present. I've known her longer. I wanted to buy her a copy of Troll 2, but Anna told me I had better get her a gift basket of lotions and other stuff I don't care about already assembled and wrapped from Bath & Body Works. I asked her if the black sheep was supposed to symbolize me. She just said, "I thought you'd like it. You're always doing and saying crazy things. You like to be different. So I thought of you." I think she really just thinks that I am an outcast of society with nowhere to fit, but as Lester told me, "Sometimes you just gotta just trust your family. Even if she did mean it like that, you still got to say 'thanks' as if it was the best present in the world." I'm not sure if I agree, but if I can't trust Lester, I can't trust anybody.
I wore the shirt once before I lost it at the laundromat. Somebody somewhere found that black sheep shirt in their pile of clean laundry when they got home. I hope they don't think God is trying to tell them something. When I got home myself, I found a T-shirt with some design of a weird black silhouette, a white circle with a blue edge around it, and "elliott smith" written in white cursive on the front. Since I don't have too many clothes, I started wearing my new T-shirt and figured I better buy some of his CDs and become a fan of him. I was tired of being scorned by strangers when they'd walk by and say, "I love Elliott Smith too!" and I'd reply, "I have no idea who he is."
To this day, whenever I am wearing my Elliott Smith T-shirt around my sister I remember Lester's words and tell her "Thank you." Sometimes she gives me a weird look because I say this at random times, often in the middle of something she is saying. I don't mean to, but it is hard for me to listen when she talks to me sometimes. And when I look down and see my Elliott Smith T-shirt, I remember I only got it because I lost the T-shirt she gave me at that laundromat and I blurt out "thank you" for seemingly no reason. But it is for a reason. It's a thank you for the T-shirt that I lost, and the T-shirt that I gained, and for introducing me to the music of Elliott Smith.