By: Diane L. Merkel
Just above a Geico bill and below a Chase credit card statement rested a white envelope. It was addressed to Leo in handwriting that was not unfamiliar to him; handwriting which debuted on the back cover of his high school yearbook and would, years later, fall upon countless letters and birthday cards, Christmas and Valentine’s cards; some of which nestled themselves between all sorts of odds and ends in the top drawer of the hutch, also known as the ‘junk draw.’ He did not save these cards for any sentimental reason; he saved them just because. He poked his pointer finger into the unsealed end of the flap and slid his finger across to the other side in three short, choppy motions. He pulled out a rectangle of looseleaf papers neatly folded into thirds. Leo unfolded the papers as he sat down at his dining room table. It was a letter. It went something like this:
I can’t even imagine the expression on your face as you sit down to read this. Actually, I can imagine it. Your brows are furrowed as your eyes shift from left to right like an old fashioned typewriter; your chin is cupped into the palm of your hand as your three-day-old beard pricks your fingertips. Yes, I can imagine your face. I can imagine it because I know it so well.
It’s been almost a year now since I’ve heard from you. I guess you believed me when I said I didn’t want you to contact me anymore. I really didn’t think you’d listen. I figured you’d resurface after three months, as you so often did, to check in to see how I’m doing, maybe even tell me that you missed me and all the great times we had together. You would ask me if I wanted to meet up. I would say okay… and then you would be gone again. Well, at least until three months later. So many times I wanted to tell you that there was nothing about this that was okay, but I was afraid. I was afraid that if I told you how I really felt, you would run. What difference does that make now? You ran anyway.
You probably know me better than anyone, Leo, yet you probably do not know me well enough to know that I lied to you. I lied to you every time I pretended I was fine. I lied to you every time I acted like I was your friend each time you came around. You weren’t my friend anymore. I hated you, and I hated when you came around, because every time you did, I had to relive you leaving again. You had no idea I lied, because in your head, everything was fine. And, yes, I even lied to you when I said that I had had enough and that I wanted you to leave me alone. Maybe it sounds masochistic, but I wanted to hear from you, even though it hurt me a little more every time I did. I am not crazy. I am not here to implore you to take me back nor to rehash everything I already said when you first left. I know you have moved on, Leo. Whether it is with someone else or not, I don’t know, but moving on doesn’t mean having someone else. It means not having the person you once had…and being okay with that. So here’s my truth, I am not okay…but I know I will be. In time.
You changed your mind. Does that give me the right to be angry with you? Does that allow me to call you an asshole? You changed your mind. People do it all the time. I’ve done it all the time, but no one does it quite like you did. They say when you’re upset to think about something happy. I never believed that until I tried it. Do you know what I thought about every time I wanted to tell you to ‘fuck off’? Remember that first night you came to get me in your red pick up truck? God, how I miss that truck. When I think of it, it makes me think of when everything was good. When we would park and talk until we forgot that time existed. How you would make me laugh until my sides felt like they were ripping open, and my stomach burned like I had just done a thousand sit-ups. I laughed so hard I couldn’t speak. I couldn’t even get the words out to tell you to stop. Finding stale French fries in between the seats from all those late night food runs. Knocking over empty coffee cups as I wrap my legs around your waist. The dashboard pushing back against the soles of my bare feet. The way my naked back stuck to the leather; the sound of my skin peeling off the seat as you pull me in closer. A trace of sweat lingers on the cushion that my body once touched. You raise the hairs on the nape of my neck as your hand rides over the bumps of my spine; my fingers swirl in the silkiness of the tear-drop shaped scar on your inner thigh. I clutch your skin as I struggle to catch my breath, but it feels like my breathing has stopped for that moment. Like the world has stopped for that moment. Well, at least for me. How was I supposed to know that it didn’t for you? I’m sorry. I’m digressing. Sometimes I wonder if you still had that pickup truck, if maybe you would still have me.
I just don’t know. Those were the only words you could mutter when I asked you why; when I asked you what went wrong. I just don’t know. That’s all you kept saying, like a programmed robot. I wanted to shake you in hopes that some other words would come out of your mouth. Maybe you really didn’t know.
I still miss you sometimes, like now as I write this letter. I probably won’t even send this. People say it’s therapeutic to write a letter to someone who has hurt you, and then just rip it up. Maybe I will do that and then maybe I might even piece it back together, who knows.
I’m sure you’re wondering why I’m even writing this letter after so much time has passed. I’m kind of not even sure myself. To tell you that I wish you well and that I hope you find what you are looking for? To tell you that you hurt me? To tell you I’m fine and that I have forgiven you? To get a reaction, a response from you? To keep you from forgetting me? Maybe all of the above. Or maybe, I’m much like you, Leo, because why I’m writing this letter to you….honestly, I just don’t know.
Leo folded the papers back into their original rectangle and slid them into the envelope. The palm of his hand cupped his chin as his fingers scraped the stubble of his three day old beard. He walked over to the hutch, opened the top draw, and placed the envelope inside. He looked at her name in the upper left corner of the envelope before pushing the draw closed. He wasn’t saving the letter for any sentimental reason, he told himself. He was saving it just because.