It’s waiting for me on top of my computer when I come out of my room freshly showered and dressed. I ran longer and harder today and I’m still buoyed from the cool wind and racing pulse. The long white envelope blinking my name in blue chicken scratch, a surprisingly familiar hand to decipher when all the vowels blur into one another. Is this an A or an O? Maybe an E or a U. It reminds me of hastily scribbled directions I tried to follow to be helpful:
“I think it says turn left on Hall but it could be Holl or maybe Hell.”
“What? Let me see… uh. I think that might be a—I don’t remember.”
Neither of us able to decode his writing, we laughed and drove blindly, trusting in the serendipitous knack of adventure. Though, the fates have never been particularly kind to us. I guess this is what Faith is.
I take the letter to my room and lay on my bed holding it to the light of the window. I finger the edges and then tear it open, surreptitiously, like it might disappear or someone might snatch it from me unread. It’s not exactly a love letter, though some might call it that. One page front to back and my first reaction is, “more, please,” ever the insatiable reader of his words. No, not a love letter, exactly.
I read it once stumbling over the staccato of his pen. I begin to read it again and then stop at the first paragraph and hold it to my chest, my heart beating through the paper. I remember the postcards I sent from Europe, each mailed with a ghost, stamped with the outline of my lips. Here he is. Here he always is in writing. I fold him up delicately and maybe I blink away a tear or two. I place him between the pages of my book, fifty pages past the pressed tulip, at the beginning of a new chapter, and a hundred or so pages from the end. A Student of Weather by Elizabeth Hay. I haven’t read it yet.
I feel like a student of my own storms. I have yet to pinpoint the equation, the list of variables that combine to create this moving of clouds. I can’t quite predict it. I never know what the skies will look like tomorrow, whether it will be clear or overcast. If it might rain again.
I challenged him. I told him he didn’t know me, this me that I keep so close to the chest, the me I protect and keep pristine, untouched. This is his answer, I suppose. It’s not a love letter. Not quite a love letter. It’s better. It’s a map, directions to the me that he has come to know in all my twists and turns. It’s no secret that I’ve gone astray, of all people he would detect this the most. It’s been dark here in the woods, making friends with all the creatures of the night, curling into trees for rest, cold but unwilling to find my way back, to keep on walking. His words are a bread crumb path. He is an invisible presence, taking my hand, pulling me to my feet. Walking a ways with me until I’m no longer scared, until I can go it alone.
Most days I didn’t even acknowledge that he was there. I kept my eyes on my feet trying to avoid the pitfalls. I looked ahead or to the sky but never by my side. These days I smile real smiles. I feel the sun on my face through the leaves and I thought that perhaps because I didn’t need him anymore, didn’t need him to pull me along, to point out that rock or that tree stump—that he wasn’t there any longer. I didn’t look because I never look. I keep looking ahead because I’m not quite to the treeline yet. Though, even if he isn’t holding my hand anymore, I know he’s still there. A few steps behind, maybe. Keeping one eye on me.
I imagine a conversation as the sun goes down and I braid my wet hair:
“So, maybe all this time I knew you, afterall.”
“Yes. Yes, maybe you did. But, shhh. Let’s keep that between you and me.”
“It is. All of it. Everything. It’s always between you and me.”
Alan Pownall – Colourful Day