A Monthly Column
By Lucinda de Leeuw
Let us write letters
You know how you sometimes want to say a whole bunch of words to someone, but in the age of chats and emojis and gifs, you end up thinking all your words might be overkill?
You’re sitting in bed, mulling over thoughts while somebody else can casually snapchat their feelings with a bomb filter to boot. One sentence and a fire hashtag and the weight is lifted. I, however, am not the savviest social media user. I practice my usage occasionally, and in a very lowkey, minimalist, and unrevealing way. The tidbits I share aren’t a thread of life events that amalgamate into the story of my life. If you catch on, you can pick up on references I make, or things I like or do not like. I also post about major happenings in my life, but it’s never obvious.
The thing I rarely share on my social media is emotion.
And sometimes I need an outlet that is not confrontational. Or for all the world (or my 15 followers, to be exact) to see. So, what do I do with all these thoughts and words and pent-up sentiments?
I write letters that I never send out.
Until recently, I had forgotten about this method of dealing that does not actually involve having to speak my emotions into the open and feeling the intensity of their outpouring. Or sometimes, you want to say something to someone that you do not see anymore (for whatever reason). Or the words are better left unsaid, but you want to say them anyway.
I recently had memories of a certain person who was once a big part of my romantic development. I subsequently remembered a letter I wrote him—which he won’t ever read. The letter was triggered by a quote I read on Tumblr at the time. It served as a prompt and an outlet. It was therapeutic and more necessary than I had realised.
I now share that letter with you, dear Odd Mag reader. I’m ready to broadcast my sensibilities to an audience of strangers. Who knows who sits among you… Let me not digress.
Perhaps my letter, this leap of honesty, will lend you an idea of ways to let go of hang-ups. Or things you wish to say, but can’t. It’s old school, but it is effective (and a fun exercise!).
I hope to read yours, too.
Until next time,
It has been four years since we last spoke.
I was reluctant to walk over to you on that September day—some call it intuition, some the grace of the gods—thing is, I knew it would be our last goodbye. I wonder now, could you separate the bravery from the pain in my eyes? Could you tell I needed you to fight fire into that moment? I stood in the doorway, with a pleading heart and a spoiled spirit. Goodbyes are only final when they depart as death—I was not ready to let this love die.
The day was perfect out. I won’t forget. Winter had packed up its last and the gods were basking upon us a salvation that none deserved. Inside I was crying. I wanted a balm to turn this pain aside. I wanted to sacrifice this pride for speech. I wanted my love to be stronger, to appear as fierce as I had felt it. I was done resisting. I wanted love and time on my side. Instead, I could not breathe. Inside I was collapsing. I had come undone and my feet could meet no ground and I kept falling—my heart would never give the same way again. I was spilling and all the world could see me aching.
Four years are a long time to spend being nostalgic, Dear John. Four years are a long time to spend nursing a broken, always-longing heart. For all this time I held the knowledge that your love was never mine to claim. It was like paying a lease on an apartment that was never up for rent. It was a love costly; I wasn’t very brave and neither were you. I’ll let you know I’ve turned down real chances at forever for some faint thing that had always been an indefinite maybe. No returns on my hours spent reminiscing, or my affections spun, or my attempts at reconciling this race. This ride void of joy: I’ve only had my memory, my capacity to long, and the sting to my nose of your skin’s scent hanging heavy on the air. Saudade steady threading my being. Four years on a ride destined to never to ride out to the end.
You could never know.
You took my sensibilities apart. Your baritone was the kindest thing to me. You were an instrument to this muslin cloth. You fine-tuned me and I’ve never been the same since. Washed in all your wonder, this fabric forgets its warrior ways. Structures impenetrable kept you and me good neighbours when we were intentional lovers. You should have struck louder, I should have spun tighter. We could have weaved and we would have won. I’d have held on forever. I wonder now, do you still play as thick and warm as during me? Have your eyes blushed its brilliant brown since? I want these loose threads to come together again, never to tear at the wind again—to be two hands deliberate and holding onto the music.
This aching is all the love I have to give.
I saw you one Tuesday evening. It was March twenty-twelve at a four-way traffic intersection; I was headed straight and you were going to take a right turn. From across the eyes and miles and cars and lights I latched onto your smile, it didn’t look as vibrant as I remember, but you were laughing and this gladdened me. Just as you took your turn it then became my turn to go; my headspace grew hazy; I held on tightly to the wheel and said a quiet prayer as I pressed the pedal.
I remember how clumsy you were around me. Your tall and towering self almost visibly melting into the spaces between us. You spilled into the gaping crevices that we yearned to fill. I’d laugh at your embarrassment. Always unassuming in my presence, your usual ambition and perfection reduced to an unravelling portrait before me. I never felt like myself during you, either. We are two ghosts who know an intolerable love. I’m a lone ghost most days; a ghost always ricocheting between emotions that spill tears from my eyes. (Only you can quiet me.) You creep into my solitude on nights when I am especially needing—spooked, I become too afraid to fall back to sleep. The pink of your kiss, the large of your hands, the fullness you gave…these are what keep me begging. I want to put my back into this love so you would really know. I am mad at you for never calling.
But you don’t care. Anyway, I doubt that I can love you the same.
While I’m rebuilding, you’re always breaking things. To love and to leave is to love carelessly. In your wake, I’ve tossed and turned and toiled long and hard. This love had me labour, carefully so, to gather all my pieces and words that once spun turnstiles around me when you made like a dustbowl storm just as I was on the brink of my confessions. I wish you had seen me clean up and try to make decent the destruction—I was courageous and brave, and beautiful in all my tears.
I might grow old into my longing. I am okay with that. I’ve never waited on anyone, please acknowledge that and recognise this for what it is. I consider, too, that perhaps this space is better off without you. It would be healthy for me to finally grow an aversion to things that break. Threadbare wounds don’t know how to heal and I cannot trust that you won’t bring the pain again.
I cannot promise that I won’t crumble to dust at your touch.
I cannot promise that I would not want this ever again.
I cannot promise that I will not break like the very first time.
I cannot promise you strength and song, not when you love as carelessly as you do.
I cannot sign this off and not let you know that should you come knocking, and I don’t answer, it’s not that my love is not ready to receive, because it is. I am happy that you came. I had been expecting you. I want to leap into you. I want to bargain this faith—only, I won’t.
I wanted you to know,
“I’m still writing about you and you haven’t read a word.”
— Travis Grandt*
*(this letter — a leap of honesty for me — started off as a free-write prompted by the Thought Catalog piece; linked here.)