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General

You get up and as always head into the hallway to pick up your mail. Your mail always arrives early, really early, long before you wake up. As you check your mail, you notice a letter that makes you stop in your tracks. It is a small, white envelope with a drawing of the head of a horse in the bottom left hand corner. The drawing is by hand and recognisable. To you, the image is a revealing as a name and the address of the writer. It is from him. 

He draws that little horse head on everything. It is practically his signature. He started drawing the little head of horse on school books and it developed into a habit which he seems unable to break. Perhaps it is just unwillingness on his part, it does no harm and it is actually quite a charming eccentricity. You have watched him draw it on whole piles of Christmas cards, on birthday cards and on the envelopes of hand written letters, not that there were many of them. When you were both young, he used to sign little notes to you with the drawing – no name was necessary, just this little image to tell you he was thinking of you, that he was on your side, that he cared. But you have also watched him draw it on napkins in coffee shops, on scraps of paper, on anything which will absorb the pressure of his pen or pencil; you even saw him draw it, almost unconsciously, on the back of his right hand once. You actually suspect he can draw it without looking at what his pen is doing he has drawn it so often. The design never varies. Once he reached his late teenage years the pattern was set and the horses were all identical in form and size. The odd thing was you never knew him to have any particular fondness for horses. He didn’t ride or show any interest in the equine world. There didn’t seem to be any link between him and horses – just this little design which he carries with him through life. 

Carrying the letter carefully, you walk to the kitchen and go through the motions of making the first coffee of the day. The letter stares at you from the counter top. It is daring you to open it. It is intimidating at the same time, threatening your very being if you do open it and read the contents. You hardly need to open it; you already believe with your whole being that you know what it will say. Furthermore, you do not want to read the words you know it will contain. You do not want your fears and pain to become a reality. You sip your coffee staring at the letter, caught in the balance between needing to finally know the truth and wanting the potential truth, your version of the truth, to continue uninterrupted. As you drain the coffee you pour a second mug, then a third. All the time you sit and stare at the envelope unable to take the obvious next move and open it. The tension is unbearable and unending. 

Finally, as if your brain has just responded to the influence of the caffeine, you get up and go to take a shower. As the hot water pours over your body, you think of him. You think of the good times and smile. The shared childhood laughter, university days, holidays and you recall the pranks you played on friends, attending the weddings of friends and both of you rushing headlong into the world of work, believing yourselves invincible. Then you think of the bad times and then, then you stop. This is no time to think about the bad times. This is no times to think at all. The answer is in that little white envelope hand decorated with the head of a horse. It was thin too, there was not much by way of contents waiting for you, you realised that as soon as you picked it up. The handwriting was also thin, almost spidery with elaborate curls on the tails of the letter ‘Y’. Your name contains the letter ‘Y’. He always told you ‘Yvette’ had a significant meaning and you would always prize personal independence above co-dependence. He thought you lived more in your own head than in the ‘real world’. That had been one of the last things he had said to you. He said he needed to think about that and he had said it as he walked out of the door and to all intents and purposes out of your life that night. 

The water splashed into your eyes and waking from your reverie, you turn off the shower and try to stop thinking. There is within you a strong desire to not think and to shut out the world and to run on auto-pilot. For large periods of most days, it works too. To not think about what you have lost in the recent past is your overwhelming yearning. You covet a silence within your head which he seems to think you inhabit, as if you live inside yourself by choice. It is a defence mechanism you have established, that is certainly true, but then who doesn’t have defences of various types? You have found a way of coping with the pain life has tossed casually in your direction and to do so you tend to keep yourself to yourself. He has known that for as many years as you can remember. The joys and sorrows of being childhood friends means he knows as much about you as you do. He should understand too based on this knowledge. You have lived through a war. You have lost people and places which were dear to you. So, you have strategies to help you through the turbulence of living, of being a survivor and the guilt which goes with it. When your home is bombed and you survive because you were not there, not at home even though you had promised mum you would come straight back from school, but instead had dawdled and dallied with him. You had thought he was going to be a strategy, no more than that, you thought he was going to be a partner. 

As you dress, you think only of the white envelope. He had said he would write but that was weeks ago. You had long since decided that his last stroll from your front door to his car would be the last time you would see him. You decided you would not see him again, even if he crawled back to you over broken glass. You could not tolerate this long period of nothingness. 

Feeling invigorated by the shower and slightly angered by the image of the little horse’s head you march to the kitchen and pick up the envelope. Holding it firmly you take up your letter opener and slide it into position, lifting it marginally and watching as the paper tears. Gradually the opener does its job and the envelope yields its contents to your fingers. Two thin sheets of paper, that’s what the envelope contains. The outer layer of the folded sheets was blank. He had written no more than three sides – that was it. You begin to regret opening the letter and wonder if you can slide the sheets back into their casing and leave it until later, or to another day, but you don’t. You know you have to pull yourself together and read the letter. It will be better to know. To have some sort of closure is preferable to this dithering around in the kitchen, trying not to read a simple letter from someone you used to know.

You turn the paper and unfold the letter to begin reading. You start to read the letter and your eyes fill with tears. You lean against the counter and stare; the tears refuse to be blinked away and begin to flow over your cheeks. The spidery handwriting appears blurred and fuzzy as you cry. Wiping the tears with the back of your hand does not staunch the flow and eventually you go to find paper tissues. As the tears stop you reading anyway, you allow them to flow freely and openly. A long period of pent up pain and angst, of sorrow and distress are released in this deluge. You let the sobs build up in your chest until you can hold them no longer. You sit hunched up with your arms around your legs and your face buried on your knees, shaking as the emotional release pours from you in sobbing, weeping waves. You make absolutely no effort to control the outpouring, allowing yourself to be totally overwhelmed by the process. Time passes unnoticed until eventually you fall asleep, tear stained, breathless and exhausted.

(#)

The sleep is not long but when you wake, you wonder at first where you are and why you are surrounded with damp paper tissues. Then you remember the letter. The memory jars in your consciousness and causes you to take a sharp intake of breath. Taking another deep breath you pick up the letter and begin to read. The tears do not flow this time. Exhaustion has drained your emotional reserves and you have no feelings left to convey. You are numb, the kind of numbness which comes only when you have experienced a releasing surge of emotional expressions. It is the type of numbness which comes when your body and mind can no longer dominate and control raw passions. You read the letter slowly and deliberately. Then folding it carefully, you return to the kitchen to find the envelope. Placing the letter deliberately in the envelope, once again with the blank side of paper forming a shield around the contents. You place it back on the counter and go through the ritual of making coffee. You start staring once again with new eyes, on the little head of a horse drawn so carefully on the envelope, as always in the bottom left hand corner. 

It is not the letter you had thought to receive. It is full of kindness and full of pain, brimming over with his unfailing kindness, with his pain and your pain, mingled together over the years, somehow inseparable from each other. He has taken a few short sentences to say everything he needs to communicate and you understand. He is saying goodbye. 

June 24, 2020 15:54

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2 comments

Julie Murrow
08:41 Jul 02, 2020

Oh wow. Even though the emotion continuously pours out of this story, the ending still managed to provoke an emotional reaction. I love how you took your time explaining your feelings and also, I like how the little horse is a constant feature. A bitter-sweet story. Lovely.

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18:05 Jul 02, 2020

Thank you so much, I'm so glad you enjoyed it. To be honest, felt rather emotional writing it!

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