[Below is an unsent letter to every female friend I’ve been secretly in love with whom I sent really long e-mails to or hand written notes to after/before I went to college/when you were studying abroad/when I moved back to Falcon in 2008/when I moved to Colorado Springs in 2010/when you moved to a coastal city once I made it back to Chicago/when you went to grad school/visited your family for Hanukkah/ moved with your significant other [sometimes another female friend I had also once liked] back home/I moved to D.C. If this sounds remotely similar to a letter I once sent in you in one of these moments then this was probably the first draft of a letter I wrote and decided not to send for one reason or another. I realized that this a recurring pattern in my life that I need to analyze…so I did…and what better way to process self-analysis than self-parody?]
To All The Friends I’ve Loved,
[There always start with some overwrought and florid metaphor for whatever I’m unhappy about in the moment. In most of these letters it is my hometown] I’m not sure if a tree makes a sound when it falls in the forest with no one to hear it but I know from experience that the speed at which it falls is in direct proportion to number of observers. Falcon is not a place for me to write. Falcon is where writers are born. It is where the bigotry and backwardness drips from the lips of neighbors destined to be characters; cold as molasses and twice as black, pumping sweet visceral into an author’s creative glands. Falcon will serve as the time capsule I use to write of time so long ago that it never really existed, at least not in the way I remember it.
In my stories I call it Mesa Valley, my Yoknapatawpha County [always includes an oblique reference to writer whom I feel an unjustifiable though visceral connection to. Sometimes I’ve only read their shortest published work but count them among my favorite authors] I write about the villains and saints of my childhood in this Mesa Valley so that the fictionalized grandiosity of the moment evokes the same emotion as the tonnage of years of microagressions and mini miracles. Put simply, the events are lies but the emotions are real. My neighbors will undoubtedly protest but I imagine my fame will soften their protest the same way their privilege softened mine. Their bigotry bit into my psyche layering trauma upon trauma [I actually had a pretty chill childhood but I thought for a while that I need to be a tortured artist to be a good artist.]
Is life so miserable? Is the darkness seeping in, encroaching on my happy moments? No, I suppose not. [almost all of these letters start the second paragraph with a refutation of the overwrought opening metaphor…insecure much?] In reality life is bland and it is that blandness that frightens me. Like Oscar Wilde “I live in terror of not being misunderstood.” [quote is purposefully out of context. In an example of hipster letter writing, it serves as an illustration of my meta awareness] Drama and vibrancy are my heroin. In their absence I fiend for the thematic like a smoker turned niciderm addict. I lust for action with all the gusto and impulsiveness of a sex addict. In the late hours of the night, when time seems to drip like a leaky faucet in a silent kitchen instead of flow, I try to figure out why this is. I have always had an overactive imagination and I have always been vicarious reader, living the lives of the characters as I read them. If you had asked my 12 year old self what I wanted to be when he grew up he would have said “a living legend.” Yet no childhood trauma or tendency could explain this burning desire of mine in its maturity [though, when I was 8 I used to scream “I’m going through a stage!” at my family when my siblings complained about my parents bending over backwards to not accommodate my latest fixation. I heard my parents discussing my habit of hiding eggs around the house and whether it was a “stag” or ealy onset mental illness one night and decided to use the phrase to justify my weirdness…jury is still out about early signs of mental illness]
There is an answer to the question. And yes, that is the short one. I’m doing fine. [you are supposed to assume the unasked question “how are you?” Man, is this guy meta or what?] Living with my parents has been interesting though not ideal. I am doing what I can to not waste way. When the monotone hum of prairie life turns into a tempest of passive, almost inert, aggression that threatens to overwhelm me I try to think of you and your adventures in [insert study abroad program, grad school, or new city her]. I imagine your [insert distinguishing feature] as you [insert activity that can I think can only be done where you are]. How is it in [insert colloquial/pretentious nickname for current location]? How is the air? What are you thinking about? What things are challenging you? Forcing you push your limits? What do you know now that you didn’t before? [still not sure where this habit of asking these sorts of questions to people became a thing that I do…constantly… but I can remember doing it as early as middle school]
I know you are probably laughing at my intensity. You mention that intensity often and each time I want to tell you how I really feel. [this when I show my insecurity in a self deprecating way. This portion is usually added to qualify previous or subsequent statements that were overly florid or ridiculous but I found too well phrased to delete.] I spend so much time trying to calm that intensity for fear of scaring you away yet sometimes restraining my love for you seems more intolerable than your absence. I want you too know, finally, that I love you fiercely. [this is the part that is ALWAYS cut out of the final draft. The unspoken longings off…ugh…I’m doing it again!] When we take our walks through [insert significant place in our friendship] I’d be convinced that my feet never touched the asphalt if hearing you about what’s one your mind this week didn’t make me feel so grounded. I love the way your mind unravels in those moments. Your thoughts are distinct and intricately laced like braided steel cables supporting intellectual bridges from Kafka and Morrison to Weber and Du Bois [I always reference Kafka but never actually read Kafka until like 6 months ago.] Sometimes I am too mesmerized by how an individual thought of yours develops that forget how your smile gives me butterflies.
Your wild and frantic idiosyncratic hand gestures that increase in their assertiveness as the topic turns from history to your theory of how we constructive our identities through narratives remind me of the awkward girl I first met and not the poised woman I know now. As your passion burns through your light brown eyes I’m tempted to believe that my world has the same golden haze has its reflection in your gaze. In these moments I want to tell you that I love you. I know you would just smile and say “I know.” I know that I would have to hold your heart-wrenchingly beautiful gaze longer. I would lock my eyes with yours to add weight to my words; to tell you this was that kind of the love. The kind of love that causes me to fear that I’m losing myself in you, the terror of thinking that maybe falling so hard for you that I forget who I am sounds more like heaven than white clouds and halos. [who says that…seriously….I mean…it has a nice ring to it though…reminds me of this poem I wrote about my first “real” love]
Instead, I smile and hold my tongue. We walk miles through this city, you and I, with the secret of my love between us like a warm invisible sea. Swimming through it is the most exhausting endeavor of my life but living without it seems dry and barren in comparison. When we hug goodbye I wish I could wrap my hands around your soul instead of your waist and I pretend that my sadness is contemplation and not the awareness of the inevitability of your departure. [this would typically get re-written to something about missing you but not loving like THAT.]
[I feel like some of my friend must have suspected that I was not so secretly in love with them. Yet, I still write letters to some friends like this, long after I’m crushing on/overly-dramatically in love with them so I think most of friends probably just think its par for the course…and I guess it is par for the course. I love all my friends dearly, male or female and I’ve had a crush on like 95% of the women I’ve met who are no more than three years younger or 10 years older than me. I think if I had to put a number on it, which I don’t but will anyway, I’ve been in love with about 30% of my good female friends at some point in my life. I don’t actually think I’m using the phrase “in love” lightly here either. I have a natural tendency to love easily, deeply, quickly and fiercely. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve been with a female friend and thought “we should just get married…like… right now. Why wait.” Yet for most, the timing was off or I was too shy. By the time either changed, we had changed. But I’ve been in love with almost 1/3 of my female friends even if only for a moment and while that might seem pathetic and laughable…well…it might actually be laughable…it is not pathetic. I feel very fortunate to have befriended such amazing and beautiful women in my life.
I’ve been blessed to love women who have pushed my intellect, who have encouraged me to follow my dreams by pursuing theirs, who have shown me what it means to live by your principles, who have become teachers, and mothers, and executives and dancers and writers and organizers and PHd candidates. They are the unofficial therapist of their friends, the shoulder to cry on, fierce advocate for justice, level-headed and practical guides, the uplifting jokers and gorgeous wordsmiths of my world. I have learned and grown so much from these friendships and am so glad that we got through the infatuation, the puppy love and the romantic love to richer and more sustaining and truly platonic love with my friends. I feel that with a few of my friends our relationship has matured into something greater than any romantic love I’ve ever experienced; we’ve learned to “love each other well.” So to all the girls I’ve loved. From the playground to county fair to the main quad and whether I loved you for a conversation, a week or since the moment we first talked about our passions, I’d like to thank you teaching me, for bearing with my florid passion and intensity and, most of all, for accepting my love even if you were unaware of its true form. Know that every letter I send and note I write expresses the truth of how I feel about everything, even if only a part. Though honestly Erin, if you are reading this, my offer of marriage still totally stands. My romantic love for you is eternal and forever enriches my platonic love for you which is equally eternal. So, uh…call me, Maybe?]
With love [in all its varied forms and meanings],