Execution Letters

Forrest Roth


When I say there is always another country far from ours—but not too far, in an anecdotal manner of speaking narrative without actually speaking it—the thought of it brings another day, though not this particular one. Not today, you implore, pushing the letter down in my hands, forgetting you and I already know what it says. These would be the words

where people who were never gentle to begin with who are executed for being anything other than gentle are given no advance notice of the day they are to proceed to the gallows because, say the workers in the building where they reside, they have never deserved anything in advance. Likely never will. Skip the final meal. Last rites waived, padre. Zero sum gain down the yellow line. Yet the families of these never-gentle people and their next-of-kin and their significant others and every other gentle person in that person who was never gentle to begin with's life receive no advance notice as well. There is only a letter after the fact, or the supposed constructed fact, one that is composed in plain, brusque whiteness, and written by someone working in a building for too long who never knew the person who was never gentle to begin with beyond his or her ill repute. This worked-over working person informs these gentle people waiting elsewhere that the person who was never gentle to begin with had the sentence carried out, has been cremated with ashes and other insistent remains scattered at an indeterminate and forever undisclosed location on this particular date and that this letter, which is not signed by whomever grants authority, will be only the thinnest proof received outside the building of the sentence carried out against the mortal body and immutable soul of the deceased the building affixes its imprimatur upon, thinking itself to be the final building because, in many ways, it is, so it has no misgivings of this since everyone has to have a building to call home and people who were never gentle to begin with have been shown they cannot live without a building, even in the afterlife reunion if there is indeed one. It is difficult to be certain of such things here without any anecdotal evidence to assuage you.

Here we are, then—

Returning I say they say

our condolences again that never are condolences though inquiries of sentimental nature may be directed to this address and phone number during regular weekday business hours unless they are actual inquiries in which case we will not answer since no authority of confirmation exists within this building we choose to work in and sometimes call home sincerely

But it is not enough to see it happening in a letter I narrate with no foreseeable end. You would rather see him instead.


Except the another day arrives where you and I and the another day are no longer allowed to enter the building where the gentle man who is no longer a gentle man resides—that is, the people who work at the building no longer require anything of us to allow our entry, other than out of simple etiquette, and upon granting our entry keep us waiting and waiting while you listen to The Sex Pistols for another day on your latest personal technology, and I consider yet again which working person will come out and tell us again what you and I already know.

Another letter that begins arriving for us, already has.

You and I fail to mention to this working person we already know this letter will not be a letter of the classic disposition, regardless of whether it's handwritten or typed, thoughtfully or thoughtlessly composed, being composed in a language by an admirer who has awaited the moment to arrive and, finding it, this admirer seizes it, taking you by surprise as you rip open each envelope at the top with a pair of heavy fabric scissors, expecting something equally as heavy to fall out, recalling another certain person who was never gentle to begin with's words, Perhaps I will send you something wet. Sorry, old boy, no. It is dry. All so very desertbone dry. Not even a crude salutation but immediately launching into an invective against your famous sister, that she wasn't really as famous as she let on to him, that she wasn't even your sister in the more cruel sense, more and more making vulgar reference to the female anatomy in any number of ways, mostly out of the sort of detachment that comes from writing about things one never knows for certain about or wishes to know—which is the point, of course. Not caring about your famous sister's anatomy. Not caring that the black boy you work with has left the eternal curse from his lips upon the crown of your head. Not caring that it has been three weeks five days since I touched your body on our sofa.

I know, one day, he will be gone, I would tell you here on the sofa.

I know the gentle man who is no longer a gentle man who now knows me—he who knows me better than you—and I will be gone.

Knowing you will know this someday yourself, without me telling you, without the gentle man who is no longer a gentle man, without him reminding you that you had a famous sister once who you knew and was better than me, better for you. You know that without me the gentle man who is no longer a gentle man will be better off for not having any anecdotes told about him, for not knowing what has become of me. Someday I will know this for myself implicitly, intensely, but not personally. You will tell me—if you do not write me—that you and I are better off without each other to remind ourselves of gentle people who are no longer gentle, who would be better off without buildings to make them gentle to the lightest anecdote of their lives to tell for the example of others, the same buildings you and I must leave if we are ever to leave each other for the afterlife reunion.

That is why I tell you about the building the gentle man who is no longer a gentle man must leave only once did once he met your famous sister. And then I will be gone with him.


Lack of reason abounds, they say in one room after the next. There is no reason for you to be in this building. There is no reason for you to talk to the people working in this building. There is no reason for you to be concerned with the gentle man who is no longer a gentle man in this building. There is no reason for you to be concerned about people who were never gentle in any building. All in ripeness, all is madness. Go home and gouge your eyeballs out, please. We'll do what we can here, which is what we have been doing up to present.

I have said there is no reason for us to be in the aberrant, self-loathing city as well but to tend to our own work, our hypothetical employment, our immutable livelihood, or, I should say, I tend to your soul often if there is indeed one, thoroughly, but not directionally, sending you on menial tasks required of an overworked social worker who must ask about so-and-so non-famous person though no one knows this person anyways, and no one will actually know since the building traffics in no real knowledge   b but various accountings of lives conspicuously rendered for never-ending perusal in the building and your continued employment. Perhaps an occasional anecdote about the black boy can be found. Sometimes I feel at a loss that I may be actually employed to do anything, much less this, and often   I remind myself the gentle man who is no longer a gentle man held far better employment than mine before he met your famous sister. Did it occur to your famous sister, her luck. Was he that shallow to fall in with her, thinking he would have her well-provided   for or have himself a gentle woman of some stature at the building he worked at, unlike yourself, unlike yourself with me—an upstate sibling rivalry in the most basic sense, to be sure, but one that precluded an immutable livelihood once Sid and Nancy had its way with you and your famous sister and its tragicomical ethos of connubial living measured out one room-stay at a time in hasty, dirty spoonfuls ringed with little bubbles of heaviest air which whispered Gary Oldman's name when they burst.

There is a different letter for you to write that takes time, a development you find strange in this day and age of latest personal technology, that anyone sends any kind of handwritten or typed letter. And yet here they are: formal, informative, but not satisfying. Letters regarding the status of the gentle man who is no longer a gentle man, what the people in the building are doing about him, the procedural etiquette now working its way through and how would we continue to receive these updates as they become available, though you and I feel there are no real updates but only the announcement of etiquette unrelated to bloody thumb-prints and the possibility, however remote, of Gary Oldman entering our immutable livelihoods as ur-friend and financial benefactor, to convince the gentle man who is no longer a gentle man to do the right thing and rescind his grasp on Sid Vicious. We can only be who we were meant to play, I imagine Gary Oldman berating him, and Sid Vicious has clearly been beyond your abilities—meager as they are—unlike myself, mate, so why don't you quit the charade [pronounced sha-rahd in the deep British inflection he has never lost] and let these nice gentle people mourn for that woman whom I met in Los Angeles outside the Gehry Museum and signed her autograph book despite that she was bleeding head to toe and a loony to boot.

We are waiting for this final letter, the release. Everything leads to the final letter from the last building we ever enter. We know there is someone who will not come out. Everything leads to the end of updates. But it is the failed etiquette that will continue longer than gentle men and gentle women themselves who insist upon it.


In the days delayed leading up to the delayed leading up to the omnipotence of the building no person who was never gentle leaves, you sit and you sit and write a letter to the gentle man who is no longer a gentle man—that is, a letter you a letter you plan to give to the people in the building where is he is so they may give it to him they may give it to him in a friendly reciprocity of etiquette for the letter he gave you concerning the letter he gave you concerning your famous sister which showed he was no longer concerned he was no longer concerned with the days leading up to him entering a building he would he would never leave like Gary Oldman as Sid Vicious walking out of a building for one last for one last slice of pizza before the afterlife reunion with someone whom he thinks is Nancy whom he thinks is Nancy Spungen but will be your famous sister if nothing else can be believed nothing else can be believed about a movie most people consider to be of little cultural import.

It is difficult, however, for the gentle man who is no longer a gentle man to write letters in this building he must leave someday. He hadn't written these kind of letters at his hypothetical employment in the building with the stairwell that lead to the roof of the building where your famous sister waited before meeting you famous sister and watching Sid and Nancy over and over, having no audience for himself to narrate to while the people in this building prepare him to leave it forever, that perhaps these are very important words he is about to write for someone's entertainment or edification or both if not his own—decidedly not his own, he decides—assuming they make their way to the latest personal technology sponsored by Gary Oldman, leaving him a twinge in his leg, a contraction in his chest, a small smile in the dark he avoids waiting for someone to come along to remind him it's lights out and to tend to   cc cultivating the dream of the bloody thumb-print he will leave on the letter, he will leave, though he knows nothing about what Sid Vicious wrote in letters left in his leather jacket pockets about the world and eternity, which is a shame since it would likely help him articulate his thoughts a little better.

The sequence of dreams, nonsequentially arranged, involves variations upon the letter. At what time was it written were multiple drafts involved, did your famous sister suggest writing you a letter, and so forth. Your dreaming of the letter, however, has not provided solutions to the thumb-print and the ownership of the blood upon which it sealed the gentle man's signature. The people inside the building are not overly concerned with that since they have evidence and confession, but not a profile of his lack of etiquette. It is a shame they have to kill him, they said observing etiquette, for he has uniqueness and disguises and a self-restraint they have never seen before, not even in their wildest dreams of millions of violent alcoholics with no buildings to call their own, of a million plate-glass doors shattering in unison to the sound of dramatic classical music. Your nonsequential dreams, to be read nonsequentially, do have the value of being entertaining or edifying or both  ww   when we are in our place     watching the thin televisional voices attempt so poorly to entertain us with their new about the gentle man who is no longer a gentle man delivered with deliberate sequentiality and fear of overt confusion when that sequentiality is forced to be broken down into random unconnected events and violate the etiquette of entertainment. It all must be vaguely familiar, at forced distance. It must be polite, even when the etiquette is crude and vulgar. It would never offend us by telling us we could be entertained in other ways, such as our dreams, which hold no answers to unsolved mysteries of our existence but only pull you and I closer together to another dream being dreamt in another building where one does not walk out of while the dreamer dreams that he is Gary Oldman; and yet the gentle man who is no longer a gentle man knows exactly what you and I (not) speak of, carefully putting down his pen and paper as if they were his wayward grandchildren, and proceeds to tell us of buildings that even you and I have never heard of, where people who were never gentle who are in them follow no protocol or etiquette, where even the impulses of an aberrant, self-loathing city are negated and calmed into the unlikeliest of behaviors every gentle man and gentle woman follow. He tells us to be careful of them all, himself included, because these are buildings we cannot avoid entering another day—no more than we can avoid the afterlife reunion—where all transgressions are forgiven, where all the people who were never gentle suddenly become gentle as though they were replaced with other gentle people who can no longer recognize what is gentle anymore.


Waiting for the day to arrive he will never know, the gentle man who is longer a gentle man, in the final building he will never leave, paces in the room he will never leave until the day arrives when someone knocks on his door, telling him it is time to leave. He never receives visitors. He never writes anything. He never talks until the people in the building instruct him to talk, and even then there is little for him to say, which, he thinks, he would better off not saying that little thing there is to say.

In this room he inhabits I grant him the boon of introspection, though out of deference to your famous sister, I make sure that introspection is only connected to his sense of Gary Oldman as Sid Vicious while he mulls over his own form of withdrawal, the shakes which come from needing an extra blanket at night and from any other need connected to a certain algebra he has never known for himself in his former gentleness.

You may wonder if it occurs to him that he's in this predicament because of a movie he had watched over and over and over with your famous sister, and that an interruption provided by my possible knocking on a door in the building he lived in with your famous sister may have provided the opportunity he needed to, like, you know, snap outta it, and realize everything he needed to know about your famous sister and the potential tragicomic ethos of connubial living watching Sid and Nancy repeatedly, frequently, but not passively would engender but never provided for him in every sense of the word. It does. I also grant him a certain measure of repetition and reiteration and revision to consider how the interruption, all interruptions, may save  him from the day he will never know, if not me, specifically, of course, since he can never know or be aware of me in any capacity, not even as the lowly narrator of his annotated story which knows only one life while he remains in this building—

the problem being, he believes he had something of a life, if you will, with your famous sister, a life that commenced with the opening scene of Sid and Nancy with Sid sitting in the building and never ended with the afterlife reunion commenced in the taxi cab as it sped away while being serenaded by black boys, and that the serenade stops becoming facetious as soon as Gary Oldman as Sid Vicious enters the taxi cab made him believe he was living this life with your famous sister, but only when rewinding the videotape and playing Sid and Nancy again and playing Sid and Nancy again and playing Sid and Nancy again and playing Sid and Nancy again and never knowing the end, he realizes, because Alex Cox had created a movie that would never end in 1986 contingent on no one knocking on the door outside which would interrupt the tragicomic ethos forever of Gary Oldman as Sid Vicious sitting on the mattress and wondering what the bloody hell happened

and the more the gentle man who is no longer a gentle man paces in his room, the more certain he grows of this.

He fails to explain this growing certainty to the people in the building. He knows this much, at least, that they would never believe him about anything—much like how you will never really believe me about anything—never see his mouth moving while he and they wait for the another day they will never know to arrive


when it arrives may have a sound a sound which interrupts him from the nothing he's doing, waiting for the nothing outside his door to interrupt him, to call him out from the auspices of your famous sister, knowing only there is a door to be knocked upon, calling him back out into the hallway where anecdotal experience is born, a call unto perpetuity thinking he would care to rejoin the world of gentle people and partake of their etiquette, perhaps even knock on doors himself to call these other people out and say to them, Hello, you've never met me but I'm as gentle as you are, so let's go make anecdotes together before the afterlife reunion—only, he can see, the confusion on their faces since they have never seen Sid and Nancy nor are aware of its cultural significance, even when put into context of Gary Oldman's long, successful acting career, nor likely have been violent alcoholics themselves or come from violent alcoholic families or have had a sibling try to drown them in a bathtub of scalding water

at that slinking away from them,

escape always looks easy, it may occur to him, when the other person knows there is no one else to return to, which he doesn't

standing in his room heading to the door the only door available to him the only door he could possibly walk through but won't, not until the day he doesn't know arrives, calling him by a name he's long forgotten by now because your famous sister never had occasion to actually ask him about it, but he will tell the people in this building his name now, at night, drawing his hand up to gently rap, knocking his

knocking on the other side of a door, the inside knocking which knocks a door of the door upon the inside knock, another door where there is no knocking either inside or outside, a door's knock coming from inside a knocker where no door is in front but a knocking instead outside on a door in another building where, inside, knocking doors cause the door itself to appear for not only the knocker knocking but the building itself, the inside itself created from the knocking which all knockers need to enter (or ask to enter—which is all they can ever really do), regardless of whether they stand inside or outside doors of their choosing, thinking themselves inside when they hear the knock so there is no outside but the inside coming from their knock being created upon the door, pointing themselves to an inside where there are no doors finally because there are no buildings finally but only the absence of knocking for a door coming inside, a knock on the knocking, a knock inside the knocking which creates a door for another to knock upon so that the inside knocking can be another building outside where there are no doors to knock upon


The day can only come as it does when the gentle man who is no longer a gentle man is gone. They say. You and I are the only ones who are notified of this. There are no friends. No family. No subscription plan will ever be satisfied. You will never be satisfied for having not seen him before.

The letter says, in its own furthermore which you ignore along with myself, that he has stayed in the building, any building, long enough for anyone's satisfaction of the duration and duress of the stay, but now no longer welcome to stay another day, having no more information to purse and peruse, having no more etiquette they themselves can impart on, having all questions answered  except those regarding the intrinsic nature of your famous sister which cannot be answered by Sid and Nancy since Gary Oldman is unavailable for comment in and is currently en-route to shooting a commercial for the latest personal technology and won't be making statements anytime soon, especially because the people in the building have no need to talk to him or anyone connected to Sid and Nancy, such as the gentle man who is no longer a gentle man. Who is no longer here.

Until the day comes that the words of the gentle man who is no longer a gentle man have a growing interest in the public-at-large, many of them lonely from the absence of ur-friends in their life, and they ask, Where are these words of the gentle man who is no longer a gentle man, why have we not seen them, we have good money to spend on these words, money we have earned through countless hours of subjecting ourselves to etiquette in a building—sometimes many buildings—and we want to know we want to know we want to knowewantoknowewant . . . whatever it is was the gentle man who is no longer a gentle man wanted in his life. Since it was not your famous sister—which, I may say, he had, though it is likely she kept him and prodded him and rolled herself into a tight ball on his lap as the video repeated and the drinks were poured and she told him during the boring interludes of the movie about what she hoped for herself upstate which, she confessed, was not a gentle man but a long series of signatures as a possible video installation project to ultimately sell to the Gehry Museum in Los Angeles so that the building would finally exist and that she could walk through the doors like Gary Oldman as Sid Vicious, videotaped (but not recorded) by someone she hadn't quite decided on yet—maybe him, he has steady hands—and then add a supplemental making-of video to enhance the experience of endless names, all of them famous and would-be famous, all of them from her autograph book started in Los Angeles you refuse to burn.

Except for the one. The name she would keep for herself. Even keep from him next to her, who I see nodding off just as the bobbies raid the party boat for the ten-thousandth time and two people who are never gentle and never will be meander away unscathed on the dock, shoulder to shoulder, oblivious to it all and all and breathing it in yet again.