My least favorite question to be asked is, “what do you do for work?” It's almost as cringe worthy as bringing up the weather.
“Why do you care?” I ask, my veins pumping with hot blood and surging with hatred. “So we can pretend that what I do for a living is interesting?”
I shouldn't be so angry, after all, these people are only trying to get to know me. I’ve certainly been guilty of asking the question myself and there have been countless opportunities to which I have seized the moment to comment on the hovering cumulonimbus and questioning when we would see the radiant sun again. When my anger has passed and the demonic grin fades from my face I say, “lets just say I write a lot of emails. Tons of emails and stare at a computer screen for forty hours a week. It's the most treacherous thing on the planet.”
There was a time when I was in love with technology and believed that there was nothing but positivity that could possibly come from it and all the amazing potential it could bring to modernity. The speed at which things moved seemed to never be fast enough for me. But the last ten years I’ve grown to despise the world and its swiftness. We have lost something in the instantaneous. In our haste we have lost our romance.
For three years I’ve been writing letters. It’s something almost no one does anymore. And yet I’ve managed to find like minded people on the very place I've begun to despise…The internet. I found the group on a forum for writers under the thread, For The Love of The Letter. Reading the comments and posts I soon discovered a community of new friends who were writing and sharing their letters with one another. Diving into the world of letter writing has now created a perception of living two alternate lives. One where I exist in a highly digital reality of emojis (the modern day hieroglyphics) and mundane strings of questions, facts, and to-dos. And this other world of slow emotionally rich letter writing, full of anticipation and excitement.
When I think of letter writing I imagine the transferring of the human mind into the ink of a pen that sinks into the bleached pulp… It is the transfer of thought, of feelings, of desire. The pressure of the pen against the paper creates the grooves of words, of place, of time. It is something tangible, made of human production. The paper, the pen, tools with texture and topography made of science and born of human need. And while the need is less often sought in the world of the quick and instant, it is sometimes all that it takes to fall in love.
Alyssa had the most amazing letters. The way her pen dug so deeply into the paper like she was building trenches to fill with her thought and emotion with ink black and lovely.
I have never seen her in person. I only know her words. But I imagine her in this idyllic way. And I worry that my fantasies will never match up to reality… but when I close my eyes I imagine that her hair goes just below her shoulders. It's brown, perhaps with streaks of blonde highlights. Her eyes are this magnificent brown with glints of gold like they were made of tiny suns. her lips are full and when I kiss them I'm overtaken, her coy teasing of my tongue with hers until mine is lured and captured by her sucking lips.
Her letters come with scattered kisses amongst the pages. Where the letter folds upon itself is always sealed with a kiss. We have discussed meeting physically but we both enjoy the erotic excitement of finding each others letters in the post.
Do you think something will be lost? Will we be disappointed when our in-person chemistry isn’t like our letters? Would you be disappointed seeing me for real?
It’s through her handwritten words that I imagine her. And while I may never feel her physically, my eyes can read the transfer of her mind onto the page. I can feel her hands when I trace the indentation of where her pen pressed into the paper. I can smell her scent when I bring my face close to where her hand had previously been, dragging the pen against the pulp, digging words for me.
I don’t think we can ever meet. I don’t think we can ever speak on the phone. Nothing, but write, write, write…
I imagine her throughout my days. The way she looks, the way she smells, the way she might taste…
There will never be anyone I could meet in person who would ever compare to you. Do you realize that we may never touch? Like physical touch... Ever. Can I tell you something?… I love you.
She exists in the alternate universe of the slow letter. Our physical selves are elsewhere and to bridge the two realities is to lose them both. The letters would stop and the mystery would end. The intrigue, the passionate entanglement of our slow back and forth like the push and pull of our bodies over space and time… I can't lose that feeling, I can’t give it up. I won’t.
Until one day in early September when I received a letter from Alyssa that had no kisses.
I’ve been so transfixed with you for so long. I’ve cherished every letter I’ve ever received from you and I will always love them. But I've met someone. Someone in my physical reality. I want you to find someone, Armen. Someone in the physical reality where you are. I will always love you. I hope that you can understand.
Pain can happen in an instant. It's like an electrical surge. It's of the reality of the physical, of the fast and sudden and it can happen with no hope of prevention or preparation. Yet my response to her words will be slow. I'll need time to allow my thoughts to incubate and form like a dust cloud from the ruined. As it settles to the earth I will pick up the pieces and assemble them with my tools. Then It will take two to three days before she reads it.
I’m still writing letters. My exchange with Alyssa has ended and I'll always remember her as that love never fully realized. My focus now is how to write better letters. There is so much to be gained by better communication, the kind that is slow and tactile.
Now when people ask what it is that I do I simply say that I write. I write long and meaningful letters to friends and lovers across the globe. I have discovered a slower pace. One that inches along but carries a weight that cannot be moved any more quickly. I write. I write. I write.