I am moving in a month, and the unwieldy mountain of stress is identical to the literal mass of things I own.
In an attempt to get a head start on the increasing agenda of tasks I have to do, I’ve begun to sort through miscellany. Boxes I had in storage, my medicine cabinet, old make-up… I reached into my walk-in closet last night and found a small shoebox of letters I have kept for years. Since 2006, to be precise.
It took me a few hours to sift through them all—opening each envelope, inspecting the contents, skimming the hand-crafted words that took commitment and dedication.
These letters all came from a friend who was incarcerated. He and I had dated, and right after we broke up, he did a bad thing and went to jail.
We wrote each other for the entire 6 years he was locked up.
Emotions pelted me throughout the reading like a gentle rainstorm that occasionally picked up or slowed. I was caught off guard by a sentence of deep regret, or my skin blushed by a few compliments of my beauty and effervescence about which he would sometimes reminisce.
I’ve read all of these before. Some of the sentences were so familiar even after all of these years, because, for a time, I had relied so much on the comfort and happiness those paper confessions provided me.
Yet, so many little things I had forgotten. He had written, telling me that I reminded him of a girl in the 2008 Ford Edge commercial, who was lost in thought looking up at the stars with her big, brown eyes.
Or the hand-made stamps his father would carve every year for Christmas cards, and how I had succeeded in putting every other person alive to shame (except his father) with my creative cards I sent him every year for his birthday and Christmas.
Or how he remembered that I used to eat soy bologna sandwiches and never smiled with my teeth in photographs.
It was such a strange and unusual bond we created during his time away, because we both avowed to continue the practice of hand-written letters.
We’d talk about our rituals of writing, where we sat, and what our surroundings looked like as we penned long notes to each other. He’d start letters off with a gregarious greeting, punctuated with far too much excitement for his caged-in existence, musing with eloquent language about my current antics. He shared an intimate look at the inside of a penitentary, while I wrote on and on about outings, my cats, my relationship woes, and, apparently, how great my ass was looking (that came up a few times—I know, because he made sure to comment in his letters sent back).
I held a six-year time capsule that was one-sided. I only had his letters, so I had to fill in the gaps of what was going on in my own world, while he talked about his. I could infer from his commentary easily, and it was like a nicely boxed-up version of my life from the moment he went to jail until the day Rocky and I first broke up. That was the last letter from him before he was released—commenting on how sorry he was to hear about my breakup. That was in 2013.
The letters began with talk of him missing his Myspace page and texting on his phone, and galloped forward into Facebook, various tv shows that had their popularity over that time period, and onward still to mention my employment at the company for which I still work.
I remember when he was released to a half-way house and I was finally able to talk to him on the phone. He had a crappy flip phone, and we talked for over two hours that first night. I chain-smoked cloves, and we delved into everything we didn’t say in our letters.
I went to visit him at his job in West Hartford. We talked a few more times.
That was a few years ago.
He’s free and we don’t talk. Convenience and real life has stripped us of our intimate bond.
But we are Facebook friends…
He often wrote to me, expressing his gratitude for my continued devotedness to writing him, but in the last letter, he stated that I had swayed his mind on womanhood, which went beyond his expectations and even broke down the rusted barrier of his misguided trust.
And now we don’t talk.
The gentle rain of emotions pelted me a little harder right then.
I always re-read everything personal before purging it. I set aside an entire evening to remember. It was only four years later that I decided to take the shoebox down from the shelf, because I need to simplify my personal belongings before moving.
The stress and commitment of moving has caused me to remember what a great friend I have had all these years. How I was once capable of staying true to a friendship with a steadfastness that is only now seen in the few hours left I have to vacate this apartment and start fresh.
Hand-written letters may never be in our future again, but I hope he knows when he reads this that, even in silence, the bonds of friendship still lie.