It was yet another late night as he arrived home from his place of employment. He pulled into the first parking stall he could find in his apartment complex, gathered his things, and headed for the entrance to his apartment. His mind was numb from the long shift and, feeling overworked, he somehow made it inside, grabbed his mail and entered his apartment without giving it a single thought. Had he thought about it he probably wouldn’t have remembered the journey there. At least he felt like things were getting back to normal.
He set his things down in their proper places and begin shuffling through the small stack of envelopes he pulled from his mailbox just inside the entrance of his apartment building. Credit card offers, bills and ads, detritus created for the short attention span impulsiveness most people can’t control. He tore them up one by one and tossed them in the garbage.
Then he reached the bottom of the stack.
He didn’t recognize the return address but the handwriting on the envelope as well as the postmark told him exactly who and where it had come from. Memories of grade school flashed in his mind when he was required to get cards for everyone in his class for Valentine’s Day. There was always the simple To: and From: lines. He knew this was no Valentine but he knew instantly what he was looking at.
He held the envelope with both hands and just stared at it for a moment. He felt as if the entirety of the past month and a half had come erupting out of his chest. His began to breathe heavy and much more rapidly as the fuel from that emotional fire began to take the wind from the bellows of his diaphragm. Letter in hand, he ran outside and into the sidewalk and stopped. He bent over with his hands on his knees and tried to control the panic rising like a dark phoenix from the ashes of his recent heartbreak.
After a few moments his breathing slowed and he was able to think a little more clearly. He stayed bent over for a moment and closed his eyes.He hung his head and swallowed a few deep breaths. When his heart rate stopped firing like an automatic weapon he stood straight up again, slowly. He looked at the letter again and considered his options.
Did he want to deal with something like this so soon? Clearly, he hadn’t come as far along as he thought in healing the wounds she inflicted otherwise he wouldn’t have had to make the mad dash outside to calm his panicking nerves. He looked around to find he was alone which was typical at this time of night.
He produced a lighter from his pocket, an old relic from an old habit which he no longer indulged. He glanced from the lighter to the letter, back and forth again and again trying to decide if this was what he wanted. He ran his thumb down the lighter and struck a flame. He stared into it for a moment as if it might, perhaps, contain some sort of truth. There is nothing so purifying as the flame, he thought. As his thumb began to burn from the heat he remembered his pain and held the flame up to the envelope. He let the flame lick one end of it and held it upright so the flames would climb faster and reduce this mystery to ashes.
He felt a burning sensation in his thumb that he couldn’t ignore.
He dropped the lighter and looked in his other hand to find the envelope was still intact. He stuck his thumb in his mouth to try and ease the sting of the burn while he stared at the envelope again. He didn’t know what to do. There was a conflict arising in his head as to what he should do. Certainly, there was a purpose to the letter but did he want to know? It was times like these he wish he wasn’t alone, that there was someone who could tell him what would be best.
After a moment, his curiosity got the best of him and he opened the envelope. He pulled out its contents and began to read. He stood outside his apartment building and, under the halo of the light above the entrance, he read a letter she had written to him. After he had finished reading he considered picking up the lighter.
He eventually did pick it back up but he shoved it in his pocket and went back inside. He tossed the letter on top of his bookshelf and went to bed. Before falling asleep he pondered his situation and what he should do. Then he fell asleep, the letter as far away from him as possible.