Letters by Kenny Mah

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Antarctica, or On Your 40th Birthday

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June 30, 2017

Hey you,

I wonder how you were as a child. A baby in your mother’s warm embrace. A toddler grumpily posing for a portrait, impatient for freedom, for your chance to run, for freedom.

You must have loved animals. Roosters and hens, geese and ducks. When you grew up, you will photograph all these feathered friends while they are in mid-flight; wilder cousins of the barnyard birds you harassed as a boy. You will capture with your camera egrets and kites in Kyoto, flamingoes and pelicans in Namibia, ostriches and emus alike.

You love water and you love the snow – it’s so white, if far too cold (oh! if only it wasn’t so cold!) – and so you cross the seas and the mountains in search of the highest waves and the most placid of waves. You’ve cross one continent after another off of your list: Asia, Australia, Europe, South America, Africa. Only North America is left. And no, Antarctica doesn’t count as a continent. (It’s too cold.)

You have prayed and had your fortunes read. You have scaled peaks, far higher than you’d imagine your stamina would allow. You have seen so much and survived to tell the tales. You have tasted the darkest of coffees and the most heavenly of wines. (Or is it the other way round?) You have heard laughter in a dozen tongues; more, really.

You’ve had taken pictures with friends. Posed while they took pictures of you. These photographs lie in albums, slowly gathering dust. No time to look at them again; you’re too busy having more adventures, too busy taking more pictures. Selfie sticks got invented; now you don’t even need to ask a stranger to help take your photograph.

I must confess, I must have taken liberties with the truth somewhat. I guess Antarctica does count; it is a continent, however frozen it is. (I maintain that it is too cold still.)

We’ll go to North America soon enough. Plenty of birds in the Great White North for you. There’s probably coffee too. And when that’s done, all that’s left is Antarctica. Yes, we’ll go there too. Say hi to the emperor penguins and the killer whales. Keep each other warm; together we won’t freeze.

And if you forget your selfie stick, I’ll be there to take a picture of you, of us. For years and years to come. Promise.

Yours always and always,

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