Long Lost Letter

I wrote this letter 7 months ago and had forgotten it existed until now. I’m sharing it because there’s a lot in here that I don’t know if I’ve ever shared. Those that know me will likely know who this was written to but the name has been redacted anyway.

I don’t know if this is something I’ll ever shake completely.


Every Word Handwritten

PenandInkI have often wondered what it would be like to maintain a relationship through written correspondence. I had pen pals when I was younger and there was a certain magic to opening an envelope to a handwritten letter on college-ruled paper with black ink. You can see the mistakes and the scribbles where the wrong word was selected and in the permanence of of pen there are few things so unforgiving. In my case, it’s a call to slow down and concentrate, to form my words into one half of a conversation and tap into my creative side.

My writing voice is much more interesting than my speaking voice. It’s backed by the ability to carefully compose rather than spit it out on the fly.

Unfortunately, no one has the patience for this anymore because of e-mail and social media. “Connection” is just a click away now, rather than waiting days to receive a response. The anticipation is part of the magic; the wait is the great allure. But now it’s all about instant gratification, the dopamine rush of getting things now, now, now. That’s just our culture. Now.

I often long for someone who can take the time to write me a letter because she thinks I’m worth the effort but also has the capacity to compose her words artfully and spark my wild heart and imagination. It stands to reason if she can write well she can read well.

There is gratification in handwriting, even if it’s just for yourself. I don’t update here as much because I started using a notebook. It’s the might of the pen, the magic of the words filling up a page. There’s just something about every word hand written. There are websites out there for finding pen pals but it seems so impersonal. My previous pen pals were people I connected with and shared my joy in writing. Nobody I know feels this anymore.

I have been told I’m an old soul. Maybe I’m just old.

The Letter Pt. II

“Is she serious?” The paper snapped to attention in her hand with the flick of her wrist as her eyes read each line of the letter intently.

That was still the only portion of her face he had seen and, even then, under the shadows created by her hair. The familiar street lights of the park, meant for the safety of those trekking through it, showed the danger in her furrowed brow as she concentrated on reading. He had given her the letter to read after pondering it some time throughout the day. Not knowing how to contact her or where to find her, he went to the only place he knew he’d be able to find her. She stood as straight and as still as the lamp posts around them, not speaking, except for that initial outburst.

He blew the letter off for a little while because he saw no point in correspondence. What was done was done. He would muddle through it as he had in the past and live with the heartache until its most certain demise in the absence of the one who caused it. The words kept coming back to him and his memory kept coming back to him, showing him the good times and the heartwarming moments that he thought had been erased or at least coated in his anger and hatred so he couldn’t bring them back without feeling something negative. He was wrong and that made the pain that much worse; it was a constant throbbing ache in the seat of his heart that he just couldn’t shake. It would eat up his cognitive abilities so much to the point where he didn’t realize he wasn’t–

“Hey, pay attention!” He felt a few sheets of paper gently slap his face which shook him from his intent gaze.

Looking up, he saw her holding the letter folded in threes and she was slapping the pages against the palm of her left hand as if she was expecting something.

“Is she serious?” The question twisted in tone to make it sound almost rhetorical.

He looked up at her with uncertainty, sitting on the bench that he always sat on when in this part of the park. He wrung his hands a little bit and wiped them down his lap. His eyes dropped while he tried his best to think his way through this again.

“I don’t know. I guess she is. I mean, would she have written me if she wasn’t just a little bit serious about the things she said?” He felt naive, like a child asking his parents a question of which he was unsure of the answer. Part of him hated the fact that she had simply written the letter as it sent his entire world into a spiral for a moment and, in the aftermath, made things complicated again.

“Do you want my honest opinion?” Her eyes dropped to the letter.

“I don’t know. I just took it at face value and put it out of my head. If there’s more to it, I guess I’m open to a pair of fresh eyes.” He shrugged to this last sentence, indicating that he, perhaps, wasn’t sure he believed what he was saying. But he was willing to hear what this stranger-still what she thought.

“Okay. First off, it seems as if she is much more concerned with herself than she is about you. You’ll notice there’s an abundant use of first person pronouns, lots of talking about what she wanted.” She let this sink in, waiting for a rebuttal.

“Right, that’s true but if you’re writing a letter to someone about yourself and expressing your feelings isn’t it going to be common to write it that way? It wouldn’t make sense for her to make herself the object of every verb, would it.” He sneered slightly. If that was the best she could do he didn’t know why he was even bothering.

“Very good. But she also makes you the object when she talks about you. ‘I was worried about you’ and the even more telling ‘I want you to be part of my life’. What is that?” She was pacing at this point. Was she getting agitated?

“I’m not sure I follow you.”

“‘I want you to be part of my life.’ First of all, didn’t she have you in her life and then cut you out of it completely for the sake of some other guy? And why does it have to be part of her life? Why can’t she ask to be part of yours? It’s like some sort of concession for having your heart broken, like being told you can’t have what you wanted but here’s the prize for being second best, you get to be part of her life. What is that?” She’d never been this animated before. She almost seemed like she was actually mad, an odd feat from someone he’d only seen be passive and almost sage-like in her speech and advice.

“I guess it never really struck me as that way before. I didn’t even really know what it meant. I mean, in what capacity does the guy she basically traded up from work in the life of someone like that? Do I get a newsletter or something? Regular text message updates about how life is going? I just don’t know what to think about it, I just don’t.” His head sank into his hands and his eyes met the ground. A million things were swimming randomly in his mind and he couldn’t order them enough to make sense of this letter, this person, this “relationship” He was never fast at coming up with answers, so he sat there and pondered. The ghost of a girl sat down next to him, sitting straight up, her head looking down. They both let out a big sigh and there was silence except for the hum of the lights and the occasional bug being fried by them. They sat there for a few minutes without moving. The passerby might confuse them for sculpture if it weren’t for the slight breeze blowing his hair and her skirt gently.

“So, what’s your opinion? Do I respond? Do I ignore it?” He didn’t move.

“For the moment, I think I’ve lost my objectivity. For a moment, I felt your pain and confusion in this situation and now… Now, I just don’t know.” She sighed a sigh abnormally large and heavy for someone her size. He mirrored her. She patted him on the knee and leaned back on the bench.

“Maybe… Maybe we should just both sit on it for a while.” He said.

She nodded her head in agreement, looking down at her lap.

The wind picked up slightly, blowing stray leaves and paper wrappers down the sidewalk. The trees whispered to each other the secret to everything but they didn’t speak the language of the trees and so they missed it completely.

The Letter

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.

To: Him
From: Her

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.