When was the last time you wrote letters? I don’t mean the occasional thank you note, or postcard. I mean proper letters, back and forth, between you and another human. For me it was high school. Shoe boxes full. My dad cut off the phone calls, and we had no option but paper. She had gorgeous handwriting. Small, tight letters, the paper battered from being carted between classes and dorm rooms. The envelopes smelled of cigarettes.
I’d sit on the windowsill to write mine. Try not to be maudlin. It’s the deliberateness that makes letters different from chats. The fact that you have to think through your paragraphs. Develop a tone. And you have nothing to play against. Only your own ability to amuse or arouse or engage. It’s an art. Beyond the weight of paper, and the lines of your pen, there’s an art to the seduction of the letter. To the way it exposes your brain and heart.
I come home now, and check the mailbox without breathing. It’s thrilling. Those small rectangles with her shorthand. The crazy freaking stamps. She always forgets the apartment number but the letters get to me anyhow. And I tear them open with concentration, remind myself not to hop up and down. I unfold the paper and make myself wait. Breathe. Wait. Breathe.
I see a different kind of clever here. In her hook, in her transitions. I get to shoulder these around with me. These declarations. These sheets addressed to me.
And I get to answer them. Or incite them. Her son calls them feminist poetry. Because that’s the other thing about letters. They can be discovered, and read by anyone. That’s part of the risk. An aspect of love. The way your expression gives you away.