Chanda J. Grubbs
For the admittance essay to one of my top choice schools, I said I’d resurrect you to come to my dinner party. You and Jesus Christ and Shakespeare. After submitting it, I received the following letter:
Dear Ms. Grubbs—
Thank you for your recent application. We found your essay to be both entertaining and mildly disturbing in implication. In cases such as these, we typically encourage our applicants to try an exercise in which they write a letter directed to one of their dinner party attendees. It seems to allow them to work through some of their “perceptual passive aggressive issues.” Perhaps you would find such an exercise helpful. We regret to inform you, however, that we cannot invite you to attend our university at this time.
So it’s you and me and Jesus and Shakespeare, and we’re eating something I love, something nondenominational—like tacos. I don’t care so much about the other two being there—they’re getting casually drunk in the corner. You, I wanted for a couple reasons…mostly so I could do something real crazy like throw a drink in your face. I’ve never done something like that before but damnit Adolf, with your amazing powers of persuasion and an affinity for public speaking that was practically my high school rhetoric teacher’s wet dream. Hitler, I confess, you make me feel a little off kilter, a little ready to make a scene. You, sir, make me feel capable of being that girl, the one yelling in public, the one embarrassing strangers. So I suppose I should just say something about your name, which, quite frankly sucks and said everything about who you were and who you would become in only the way a name can and shouldn’t we all have known? Or I could criticize that mustache, ugh, that mustache! Or your height or your impotence or your horrendous fashion sense—you didn’t even look good in that shade of brown, Adolf and paired with red? Or I might demand you meet me in the schoolyard and call out: Adolf, your momma’s so ugly that even Bill Clinton wouldn’t sleep with her…but all that’s been said before. So I’ll tell you something else:
My grandfather left Germany because of you. Because of you he joined the war and fought his cousins and friends, dropped explosions like seeds from the sky. Because of you, he met my grandmother and fell in love. He wrote her letters every day, he made her salt and pepper shakers from bullet casings. Because of you he came back a decorated war hero and her parents finally agreed he was worthy to marry—even if he was a foreigner. He had his face blown apart. His face, which was of the sort that perhaps only you could truly appreciate; his face was pieced back together by the virgin hands of a surgeon in France and somehow looked the same, because his type of beauty was of the kind you didn’t have, the very kind that made you believe in the possibility for a superior race, even if you were incapable of spawning it. His face was the very face my brother would be born with some twenty years later, leaving me with the look of my father’s side of the family, the side you would have killed off. Even when cancer came on quickly, he flourished—the chemo drip taking his hair out only to replace it with a thicker, darker version of itself, his irises an almost inconceivable blue like the surprising edges at the eye of a peacock feather and made only more so by his hospital gown. And at his funeral, my mother immediately made them wipe off the make-up they’d applied to make him look more human. Because he wasn’t. His death corresponded almost disgustingly with 9/11, and made me, even as an adult tell people: I have a strange opinion about all that 9/11 stuff. Because as an American you can’t say "9/11 is irrelevant to me, it was overshadowed by something that hit me harder"—although most national tragedy was and is still irrelevant to a fifteen-year-old girl who lost her grandfather the same day.
Their love outlived him. Now, my grandmother lives alone, in their house full of his letters from the war and his shoes still lining the closet. And he visits sometimes, to get in bed with her—to tell her: I’m here because I don’t want you to be so lonely. You know I don’t even dream him anymore, Hitler. My brain can’t figure out how to reconstruct him.
I want to appeal to your sense of logic—or use some skill I learned regarding persuasive speeches. But that wouldn’t get through to you, would it? So I guess all I really mean is that I would resurrect you so I could just keep it simple and say: fuck you.
JC and Shakespeare are contemplating guacamole and asking about more beans and I’m thinking: fuck you, Hitler—because maybe, somehow you helped shape me into everything I am today.
Chanda J. Grubbs is a second year MFA candidate at the Iowa Writer's Workshop. Although she hates Iowa winters, she does enjoy good wine, good food, and good books. Her dreams for the future include single-handedly bringing back NASA, perfecting the art of the gourmet JELL-O salad, and writing a musical.