I wonder how many letters I penned to you in that dark, cold, lonely room in the tenement house on North Lafayette Street in 1978. It was a lot. My goal was to write one a day – and at least a couple of poems a week. That was ambitious, some might say a bit on the obsessive side, even for someone as fond of writing as I was, but here’s the thing – I was obsessed . . . with you. I was always looking for new ways to describe my vision of you, how beautiful I thought you were (thus, the telltale introduction), and the way my heart felt in the few times a year we got to see each other and during the too much of the year we spent apart. I hoped that my words, like these, could somehow keep “me” in front of you across the miles, present in a permanent sort of way so that I would not be forgotten. I even fantasized about them stirring your own heart (and other parts of you as well if I’m to be honest!).
I remember balling up page after page of yellow legal paper and tossing the trash on the floor around my dimly lit writer’s desk in front of the window overlooking St. Joe’s Hospital, as I desperately and, at times, frustratingly searched for “right” words. It was the height of my perfectionism. Everything about those words, the way they were strung together, the quality of the penmanship, their preciseness, their cadence, had to be just right or I started over. I started over a lot! I would spend hours a night, sometimes into the early morning – often at the expense of my studies (don’t tell my dad!) to make certain that when I headed out the door for the long walk to campus around 5 a.m. I had a letter or a poem or both in hand ready to drop in the campus post office for its long trip across the country. Each time, I would hold my breath waiting to hear that it arrived – and hoping it hit the mark . . . your heart.
I’m not sure I ever knew your heart where those letters and poems were concerned. Whether they were something you valued or became more of an annoyance, a ritual that you would have just as soon I give up or at least suspend to give your heart some breathing room. In the end, that never really mattered to me. What mattered to me was that every day (or at least every other day) an envelope greeted you at your mailbox and let you know that somewhere in the world, there was an aspiring writer, a hopeless romantic of sorts, who thought you were beautiful, who longed for you to believe that, and who was hell bent on loving you whether you were ready to accept it or not. I’m not sure when or why I stopped making it a habit to tell you you’re beautiful. It certainly wasn’t because you stopped being beautiful. You didn’t! In fact, you’re more beautiful today than the day we met and fell in love. The writer just got careless or misappreciated the importance of those words, or both.
And he’s sorry – very sorry.