When I was in standard 4, I used to walk alongside a guy in my class to his bicycle. I used to wait next to him while he undid his lock and then we’d walk together as he pushed his bike to the gate where my mom would be fetching me. Inevitably (and daily) she was late, and all the time from class to bike rack to the gate – we’d talk. About what? Well, we were in standard 4 and its unlikely the conversation was deep and meaningful, even though in my memory it was.
One day, he took extra long fiddling with his lock and when he stood up he was holding a blue envelope. A letter. For me. To read later. We had walked and talked every day for months, but today he was giving me a letter to tell me something that he couldn’t tell me in person.
The letter, was (quite predictably in this 12 year old’s story) that he liked me. I wrote him a letter back to tell him I felt the same. And then every day, we continued to walk together. From the school building, to his bike, and finally to the gate.
I’m still friends with him (on facebook at least) and while he probably doesn’t remember this part of our history (or in fact that there is even an ‘our history’ to speak of) and while I’m not about to remind him, anyone who has paid attention lately will know that the notion of me recalling this story or writing a blog post about love letters is not foreign at all.
These days, Ive been thinking a lot about love letters.
In high school, I used to write a letter to my best (guy) friend. Admittedly I was in love with him. He wasn’t with me. I used to wedge them between the metal and the wood under the desk in Maths class, where I knew he’d find them. I loved Maths. (Well, I actually did really love maths). Those letters never revealed my feelings. But, he knew what they were. And I, I looked forward to Maths to receiving his response. Maths was every day. Thats almost a letter every other day. Folded carefully, written meticulously. Honest and real. And hidden under a desk. (I was recently asked what if someone else had found our letters, as it turns out – I wasn’t the only one writing letters and sticking them under the desk as ingenious an idea thought it was – others were doing it too. The truth is, I hadn’t really thought about it at all. I just trusted that he would be the only one finding them).
These days, we don’t write letters. We type them. On whatsapp, on SMS, on skype, on email. We edit, we correct. We press send once perfect. Carefully crafted sentences. Everything is editable before sending. Sometimes things are even editable after sending (awesome Skype function). Everything is deletable after reading. Gone. No record of it. Nothing real. Nothing to haul out and relive. No truths that live on on paper. Nothing to treasure. No record of the feelings in that moment when you were writing. Its now all perfect sentence construction, to say it in the “right” way. And then, to be disposed of. Like a lot of things these days. Disposable love.
I once gave a Valentine’s card to a guy I was on-off seeing in std 8. It was more off than on, and we both knew that, but nevertheless, a V-day card was due and so I bought one. And had to write in it. I wrote in pencil at first because I knew what I said, would need to be edited. And it was. I hand delivered a card that said something rather basic. (probably along the lines of “have a good one”… definitely more off than on clearly) and left it at that. Unfortunately, editing with a pencil and eraser is nowhere near as effective as the backspace key on a mac or iphone. He worked out how to read what was written before (it wasn’t difficult), that truth in the moment when I wrote the card. It turns out it was the best thing that he read the first version, the real thoughts I had written. Granted, there may have been a dramatic case of his solo vocal singing “I’m a creep” to me at a party in a bid to win me back (how??) but the case was sealed. We were over.
Having a recently read two books* written in a time before my std 4 crush, my best guy friend or my std 8 ex and I exchanged letters, where the time dictated that letters were the only reality of communicating with ones you loved, I have started to crave the days of handwritten notes of love, or of banter. Just letters that are honest. With lines of words crossed or tippexed out (that you can still read when you turn over the paper, unless they super smart and tippex the back too) – where the doodling is purposeful of hearts or flowers or even if it’s absent minded – it’s in pen and it’s permanent. One that is folded, almost origami style or written with a multiple of colours (granted those mostly came from other girls).
Its 2015 and we’re all just in such a rush. We need to say it, so we say it fast. We want to forget it, we delete it. We take things back as easily as we say them. We’ve shortened our words to speed up our life and how quickly we can tell someone something. A quick text while driving, a double “xx” at the end of your message to sign off that means little (first hand experience when you send this accidentally to your boss or receive it from a colleague).
Take the challenge and write a letter to someone. Say something that isn’t disposable.
*The two books I read:
1. The last letter to your lover: “A spell-binding and intoxicating love story” to quote the write-up… and, it is.
2. Letters from Home: Falling in love, with nothing but letters between them. There is so much honesty in words. Sometimes they’re all you have, and they’re enough to fall in love over.
** I’m a creep soloist has fallen off the radar completely while std 4 crush and best (guy) friend are still happily filling up my facebook feed with their photos of their children and girlfriends/fiances/wives. They probably don’t write letters any more either.