11/05/2012 11:28 am ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

Treasure Box

Dear Waldo,

I have done a horrible thing. It's such a horrible thing that I can't tell anybody. Nobody but me knows I did it. I did not break a law or anything like that, and I did not physically hurt anybody, but still what I did makes me feel horrible about myself and I cannot get it out of my head. If I were a religious person I would go to confession, but I'm not, and so I don't know what to do with this horrible thing in my head. I'm hoping you can help me.


Dear Anonymous,

I am going to pretend that absolutely every moment of my life has been made into a sixty-five year long unreleased film called Here's Waldo. And now I'm going to edit out of that film every minute in which I was sure that no one was watching me, that I was alone. And now I'm going take the highlights of that footage I edited out and splice them together into a short film entitled Waldo When No One Is Looking. And then I'm going to ask you to sit down and watch it with me. Would you dim the lights please Anonymous?

Okay. Here we go. This opening sequence shows me at various ages, starting at around three weeks old and ending a few minutes ago, picking my nose and eating it. I know it's disgusting but it's something I do sometimes when I believe no one is looking.

This next segment, the farting portion of the show, could have gone on for hours and hours Anonymous, and so I've chosen just a few highlights: me in the tub watching the bubbles; me in bed, fluffing the covers, sniffing out my work; me focused on the second hand of my watch, ready to start timing; me slowly backing away, backing away from people with an odd look on my face.

The upbeat background music in this next sequence is meant to suggest the party environment from which the footage has been taken. As you can see, again and again and again throughout the years, I'm at some gathering and I pretend to have to go to the bathroom. But what I'm really doing is getting away from the hard labor of socializing--See? See? Every time I close the bathroom door I go into this dramatic exhaling slump of relief. Alone at last. As it turns out, a lot from this segment could have been included in the earlier segment on farting.

Next comes the crying portion of the show, me over the years finding a place to be alone so I can blubber away. Down by the pond. Up in my room. Look--you can see I even went into a church one night to do it and I remember clearly what that one was about: Girls at the party liked Carl Wirtanen so much more than they liked me.

And of course, a tastefully edited masturbation sequence which I've speeded up for comic relief so you can see me age from eleven to last Tuesday.

And here's the Looking-At-Myself-In-The-Mirror segment, me checking out my reflection over the years, pulling back my shoulders, flexing small muscles, experimenting with smiles, fiddling with my hair, trying to get a profile look at my nose, slumping with despair.

And now the final segment. I'm around seven here I think. I'm standing in the kitchen of the house where I lived then. Nobody is home for some reason. Just me. Me and a big white bunny. I can't remember the name of the big white bunny, but I know the big white bunny belonged to my brother Jimbo. I didn't have a bunny. And now I'm taking my brother's bunny out of the cage and I'm throwing him up and I'm letting him land on the floor. And I'm picking him back up again and throwing him up and I'm letting him land on the floor again. And, as you can see, I do it one more time before putting my brother Jimbo's big white bunny back into the cage, and off I go.

There. That's the end of the movie. But please don't turn on the lights yet Anonymous. Let me tell you what happened next. My mom and my dad and my brothers came home and somebody noticed that something was not right with my brother Jimbo's big white bunny. My brother Jimbo's big white bunny could not move his hind legs. When you picked him up they just dangled. And after a few days of this my father got a shoe box and a rag, and he put my brother Jimbo's big white bunny into the shoe box and he poured some chloroform onto the rag and then he put the rag into the shoe box with my brother Jimbo's big white bunny and he put the top back onto the box and he held it tightly, tightly until everything stopped moving.

Okay, Anonymous, you may turn on the lights now so I may deliver my big lecture to you. Are you ready? We have a Public Self and we have a Private Self. They will always be two separate things. Our greatest mischief comes when we think no one is watching. The Private Self is your Water, your animal, the stuff you were born with. The Public Self is your Gumbo, the meat and potatoes and spices that your life has tossed into your pot.

My Water tossed my brother Jimbo's bunny high into the air, again and again.

My Gumbo told me to tell no one.

And so what am I to do with this? I've tried to throw the whole thing into the garbage and forget about it. Didn't work. The stink is still on my hands. I've tried to reconstruct the memory so that the bunny was old and dying anyway, or that I'm forgetting about an accomplice, but I know it's not true. I cannot be fooled. I've apologized for it, but that felt too easy, too thin.

And then, I don't know why, I thought about The Treasure Box I had as a kid, probably some crummy cigar box I glued crap onto in art class. At first I put into it any interesting thing I had found--a butterfly wing, a heart-shaped good-luck stone, an ocean-smoothed piece of glass. But as I got older I became more selective. I put fewer things into the box because my notion of what was truly special tightened. If it was going to make its way into my Treasure Box, it had better be a true treasure, something which had a way of burrowing deep--a long awaited love letter; a certain photo; a letter of acceptance; a good idea written down; a ring worn by my mother.

And so now, Anonymous, I'm going to tell you something that might seem corny but I don't care: In my opinion we all have a Treasure Box in our heads. It's where we store our essence. The greatest of our great pleasures. The proudest of our proud moments. The memories of our loves. The greatest of our great sorrows. Lovely odd fragments that will not go away. The You you love.

And so, why not place into that same Treasure Box the most horrible of our horrors? The things you want no one to know about yourself. Your weaknesses. Your insecurities. Your embarrassments. Your doubts. Your self-imposed agonies. Your useless self-loathing.

That's where I decided to put the killing of my brother Jimbo's big white rabbit.

Anonymous, answer honestly: Which has done a better job of sharpening your focus on the difference between Good and Bad--the Good things you have done, or the Bad things you have done? Or, to put it another way, in your effort to behave well, which has been the most effective instructor--the Good you have done or the Bad you have done?

At worst it's a toss-up. And so, Anonymous, that horrible thing you did that broke no laws and hurt no one but yourself? I recommend that you try not to do that sort of thing again, toss it into your Treasure Box, and move on.

Your Fan,

Waldo Mellon