The single most important note anyone has ever written to me contained only two words. It was sketched on the plastic wrap that encased an iron-on souvenir patch for Ruta 40 through Patagonia, Argentina. The words were written in all caps and barely visible on the slippery packaging; a personal farewell on a generic tourist token. The author of the note had left his parting gift with another mutual friend to deliver to me upon my return to Buenos Aires after my own excursion through the Patagonia and Salta regions of Argentina, traveling on large portions of the same route seen stitched into the patch. The symbolism and irony both charged through my body as I read the simple words; my skin flush with the energy he had bequeathed to me through the message he knew I’d understand immediately. He was giving me a command.
Sometimes a person you spend a brief moment in time with can reach into your depths and rip out the best and worst parts of your soul and splay them out in front of you like a gutted pig’s intestines lay bare on a butcher’s table. These soul exposures make you feel uncomfortable because you have somehow allowed an uncharacteristic uncovering of your weaknesses and disclosure of your intentions, and you’ve only just learned this person’s last name. As you sit in front of him you feel familiarity, where before you felt disconnection. He knows how to reach you where you’ve failed to reach yourself, and when he speaks to you, you feel that he’s just told you your fate before you’ve even had time to catch up to your most current thought.
And when you need it the most, he sends you an epistle; a missive to your spirit from a million miles away.
Not a day goes by that I haven’t thought of that note. An intentional message to an intentional recipient, written as a whisper; sent as a secret code through an emblematic source. When there’s a question of whether to choose one ruta or another, the instructions given to me by someone who had quietly and forcefully adjusted the sails of my soul were quite clear.
Be Brave, he said.