I knew a woman once named Paige who never kept cards or letters. Never. She told me at what was probably the first ever Minnesota Women’s Blogger Meetup in the Spring of 2001. I remember being appalled at such a notion.
“You just throw them away?” I’m sure I said.
“Yeah,” she probably said. “I just don’t need all those reminders of the person I used to be sitting around.”
All these years, what she said has stuck with me. When she first said it, I dismissed it as the musings of the bitter or recently-heartbroken. With each passing year, I understood it more.
Yesterday, I lived it.
If you aren’t careful cleaning can be fraught with emotional landmines, and sometimes when you least expect it, a heartbreaker grenade will blow up right in your face. Hell, if you’re like me, it doesn’t even have to be cleaning that brings the dead letters back to life.
Last week, I promised Max a sketchbook. Ever since we went to the Graphic Novel and Comic Book Writing Conference at The Loft, he’s been obsessed with creating his own web comic. So far, from what I’ve seen, it features re-enacting something Max and I have done featuring dialogue I’ve actually said (minus the swearing).
So yesterday while he was up in the Fortress of Solitude scanning in his first two pages, I made him drag out a big, black sktechbook and bring it down to me. I had been using it (for all of three or four pages) as a journal, apparently a book journal. In the pages, I found a receipt for a copy of Infinite Jest sent to me by Orange Tim, the man who prodded me into creating a blog lo those 10 years ago (I missed celebrating a decade of iwilldare.com ownership on June 24th), a photocopy of a Dave Eggers’ essay called “I Never Fucked Anybody,” and a letter.
The letter was not from Orange Tim. The letter was not dated and it was signed, but the signature was illegible and meaningless to me at this point.
I read it. Twice.
In it the letter writer goes on and on about how he’s never written a letter to a girl he wasn’t crazy in love with but he was writing to me anyway (smooth, right? Here’s a tip men, there is no reason to ever tell a woman that you don’t love her, unless you’re divorcing her. Otherwise, shut it.). He talked about wearing suits and how it made him feel like James Bond and it made his bosses nervous. He wrote about furniture and his apartment. He finished with talking about how excited he was to meet me — to see my facial expressions and hear my laugh. Then he signed it. Love, Adam, or Joseph, or Tom, or Jim, or Simon, or Alan.
I can’t tell.
Who is this man? What role did he play in my life. I have no idea. i wonder if we ever did meet (back at the turn of the century when I was one of a very few women blogging, men would often beg to fly to Minneapolis to meet me). I wonder if he broke my heart or if I broke his or if everything fizzled out quietly.
I don’t remember a thing and that seems sadder then if he had broken my heart or nothing ever happened. It was an emotional time bomb I didn’t see coming. After I read the letter a third time, and Max had asked me what was the matter why the letter made me so sad, even though I hadn’t said a word, I got up and threw it in the garbage.
Perhaps I would have kept it if it had been a reminder of the person I used to be, or even reminded me of a person I used to know. Instead it just reminded me of how people can flit in and out of our lives with very little impact, and that’s just too sad a thought to keep around.