That’s not to say, I wouldn’t love to meet the women those girls, who wrote those love letters, have become.
If indeed they are still with us. I’m coming up to my middle forties. That some of these people might be dead is not just morbidly convenient ending to the story (closure and all that, a concept I really despise) but thoroughly possible.
One particular love-of-my-life (and I’m not trying to be glib, there really is no other way to describe what this particular girl meant to me when I was eighteen. It’s a pity that words like “love-of-my-life” and “heartbreak” are thwarted by their contemporary saturation in irony), I try to imagine her alive today and I just can’t — I really don’t know if she made it. She was very troubled and suicidal when I knew her. I don’t expect her to search me out (but because of the possible re-namings that come with possible marriage, it is far more likely that the woman can successfully seek out a man than vice versa) but I know people, who know people she should have kept in touch with or got in-touch with by now. And no one has seen or heard anything of her in over 20 years.
Back when I was first confessing and convincing lovers of my love I was certain that you never stopped loving people, once you really, genuinely, mutually fall in love with someone. It was something I kept going on about at the time. It’s a Rubicon crossed; you make an absolute connection. It’s not a question of degrees – I love her more than him. You can stop getting along with your lover, grow apart or stop liking them altogether but you can’t stop loving them.
As acrimonious and even physically dangerous for me the relationship with the suicidal girl got to be and the resulting anger and resentment… I really want to know that she’s okay. It’s not just a curiosity; it’s a bit of an ache. Not an invasive mid-life crisis nostalgia fired obsession. Honestly, no. I stopped liking her for good reason, and I can’t imagine that the personality path she chose in those formative years having altered enough to make her likeable to me, considering the personality path I went down. But I wish I had the privilege to know that she made it or mourn her loss.
Vanity, vanity, vanity….
What right do I lay claim to know Suicide Girl’s or any other lost loves fate?
What vanity to assume that once loved is always loved? Who says that my affections and curiosities is at all reciprocated. And isn’t unrequited love just a blatant manifestation of vanity?
It’s as much a vanity as religious practice is. And I tend to hold to it with as much fervour.
But of course reading old love letters as an indulgence in vanity is as complete as you can get. The Olympic marathon, the Mount Everest climb, the Carnegie Hall recital, the Nobel Prize, Solo Exhibition at the Tate of vanity.
First of all, if you ever need a boost to your self-esteem, an epistle of ardour to you, is pretty much a sure-fire prescription.
It’s not only the compliments, the drawings, the double entendre’s but the undeniable physical manifestation of a need to connect and communicate. “please… write back,” “Please, write soon…” “fast…” “a lot…” “I can’t wait…” “I run to the post box… etc. etc.” Also makes you think… oh shit…. Did I?
Write back, I mean. I wasn’t a shit…. Was I? How much of a shit?
Which is one of many reasons why the physical postal service should not cease to be, if only for the function of love letter writing. Your vainglorious imagination can reconstruct the space left by your answers, which is far safer in hindsight.
You don’t want your “sent” items preserved – this is far too much information. You don’t want a conversation in verbatim with all its undeniability. And you don’t want hard evidence of how unworthy your spotty, flabby, unpoetic (well… a part from the shirt, of course) past self was that was the recipient of all this passion. You can construct your John Donnish responses, imagine whole epistles of iambs, metaphors that would make the nightingales sing….
Right, see, exactly. You really don’t want to read what you wrote.
Part of my anti-etext bias is no doubt because of my current process of break-up and divorce – so much “in;” so much “sent,” so many “drafts.” Makes me wish Gmail had an actually attainable archive limit, forcing me to purge.
It’s all still there. Preserved under the pretext that all exhibits and evidence must be ready at hand until all appeals are exhausted. I find myself forwarding texts the Leaver has sent to my email just to preserve them, just in case, it comes down to some future legal fight over competency. And it’s also evidence for myself. That has helped sometimes when I’ve asked myself not rhetorically – “that thing that happened four years ago… did things really get that crazy?” then I look at the preserved emails…. so I can answer back “yes, yes they did.” Maybe 4 years from now I’ll need evidence of just how nutty my current situation, oft-times, descends to reassure me that my responses were appropriate.
And there is an awful lot there in the In and Draft and Sent — just ask General Petraeus… Leaving no space for imagination, no blanks to fill. That much information turns archaeology into forensic investigation. Imagination is the stuff of love, documentation the stuff of litigation.
The Leaver sketched too. She pressed relics, and quoted poetry and sealed promises with calligraphied flourishes. And not just lifetimes ago, but mere months before she told me that she had to leave.
Is re-reading that healing? I don’t know.
But it is a landmark passed, to feel pain, acknowledge, wish, lament and… just be there with that for a bit.
Then put it away and preserve it, for the next time you need a restoration of faith and so relive a love that has not quite passed.