Some of my most wishful nostalgia comes in the form of old blue letter paper with faint ink lettering. In the most formal English, with the quirkiest colloquial turns of phrase, they are my most solid link to the past. Letters from my uncles to my grandmother, telling her about passing an exam or breaking a leg; letters from my granduncles to each other, telling each other about their daily lives, informing each other about the developments in their lives or asking for advice for things that I now know the outcomes of.
I didn’t know if they still sold them in post offices these days, but I can’t be too sure: the only kinds of post offices I’ve been to that I remember are in countries whose languages I don’t know, to buy pretty stamps (The Mona Lisa with a Louvre time stamp or a picture of Gaudi with a Park Guell time stamp) for my brother and send cursory postcards to my parents (“Hi from Lisbon!” or “The Pope and I send our fondest greetings from the Vatican City!”). I know, I keep saying “When I was in Europe” too much; but I really can’t help showing off!
So when I decided to write to you instead of sending you an email, the only kind of letter I could think of sending was on this blue piece of paper. I have never seen one that is new, so it is surprising to me how bright it is. I have also not written with an ink pen in ten years, so the flow of this is something I have not yet become used to. It blots around my punctuations, and I think I like it so far. (Do you?) I also have to think before I write down every sentence, because the reality of not being able to delete words or sentences, or move paragraphs or phrases around is a bit disconcerting. I paused just before I wrote ‘disconcerting’: I wrote it slowly, because I didn’t want to mess the spelling.
I don’t know how to go about writing this letter. It is not a love letter, and those I have become pretty adept at over the past five years. It is not an email to my friends, but those are generally not longer than three lines and sometimes don’t carry any words at all. It isn’t the kind of letter I write when I’m flirting with someone (all wordy and pontifying, all show-offy and long). To be honest, I think I’m writing this because I’m bored and want for work. I think I’m writing this because I want to know what it’s like to write to someone I have never actually corresponded with, but know intimately.
I suppose we could both pretend that we are strangers who are entirely oblivious of each other’s lives. We could play this out as if we are only exchanging smiles on trains we frequent. But I picked this blue piece of paper because I wanted this to be More. Because honestly, I’m not just saying “hello.” We say hello to each other nearly every morning. We have, for nearly seven years. I drink your cups of coffee, and sing your rain songs, and think about the things you think about. You roll your eyes at my silly things, smile at the pretty things and read the books I talk about. You’re a fan of Silverstein because I’m a fan of Silverstein. I only fell in love with Butler because you write about her in that way. And yet, we aren’t people to each other. Or we are, but in ways that are not tangible. (I’m confused though, that’s not a bad thing right?)
Sometimes, I write just for you. This is hard to explain. I imagine the kind of story you would love. I imagine its contours and lies. I imagine the kind of cleverness you would enjoy, and the kind of ingenuity that would thrill you. I imagine words that would impress you, and things that would make you feel warm. More than anything, I imagine sitting by you at a café, doing my own thing, and occasionally sharing coffee and a song. And in the things I write for you, are the things we are talking about. I imagine you sitting at your desk at work (at your desk I imagine a photo of your kid and your dog, a poster of a painting you like, and lots of colourful post-its) and reading what I’ve written for you. And then, I imagine you smiling. And sometimes, I imagine, you write just for me.
Well, I’m running out of space on this piece of paper and I still haven’t said anything of import at all. I’m writing to you to tell you that I met the same magician you wrote about six months ago, and I know this from the “curve of her smile and the shade of her lipstick, more magical than any illusions she pulled out of her hat” and “the colour of her eyes, they were blue when she smiled at me but green when she was listening although I don’t think anybody else found anything amiss about them.”
I know you looked for her everywhere since, and you haven’t heard of her or from her since. So when I met her here, more than halfway across the world, not even slightly conspicuous, just someone I was introduced to out of the blue, I could only think of you. Not immediately, regretfully. I was a bit drunk at the time. She shook my hand and left the pub, was when I noticed that her eyes had turned blue. I tried to run after her, ask her what her name was or ask her for her number, but by the time I made my way out, she was gone. Just like that. I decided just then that I would write to you, if only to let you know that we’re sisters in looking for this mysterious magician.
There is another detail that led to my making this decision. I am unsure yet if it is something my five shots of tequila made up, but through our conversation, I remember being addressed by her as “Ms. Lane”. I assure you, that is not my real name. I have only ever been referred to as “Ms. Lane” by you, and that, only once. I realized this when I was running out the pub, looking for her. I was playing the conversation I had with her over in my head, to look for anything that might link her to your magician. Twice, I thought about it, and the third time it struck me. “It was nice to meet you, Ms. Lane,” she laughed. “And you, Ma’am,” I said to her, because I didn’t remember her name. Names are stupid, fickle things, always slipping away from me when I need them. But ‘Ms. Lane’ was what she called me, though of this, I cannot be sure.
I can squeeze in a last couple of lines if I write tiny. I was so sure what you wrote about her was fictitious until I met her!! Did she really do all those things you said she did? She definitely looks like she could have! I do hope my writing to you was reassuring in some way. Looking forward to hearing from you!
A Hug and a Hello,
for Someone in my past whose life just changed Significantly.
here - it's in my head now, like a song i only half know - i can see it: a windy night and a lazy moon, warm coffee and a stolen glance, half a song and a lingering kiss. i can hear you sing to me if i strain to listen, but i forget what song it was.
i could have stayed there, being warm with you, wondering if it was really was raining all over the world.