i have a 24 hour rule for thick-feeling correspondence. i wait 24 hours between writing and sending to see if feelings have shifted by the act of writing. i wait to see if what i’ve written will benefit the reader, wait to see if the content requires editing for clearer and kinder communication, wait to see if i should keep my words to myself. sometimes i send the correspondence to a different loved one than the one it was originally addressed. the following is a letter i wrote to my ex-wife yesterday that i won’t send to her but i’m posting here in honor of all the letters (mine and yours) written and never sent.
how many years has it been? (as if i haven’t counted each excruciating day; it has been five years, five months, and 26 days.) i know it’s me, not you. you’d see me if i would. you didn’t leave, i did. i drove by your house one night a few years ago. middle of the night late. lights off inside the house. a different car in the driveway. i didn’t stop, park, stalk, just drove past and then deeper and farther into the night. that’s how it’s been for me since i left you, deeper and farther into the darkness.
yes, there have been others: flings, friendships, and relationships with corresponding excitement, passion, and intimacy. hopefully, you’ve had them, too. but none resemble us or ours.
i’ve considered my options. i’m still alive. i wasn’t sure i would survive. some days i’m still not sure but i’ve learned to hang on and wait for another day. i don’t usually have to wait more than 47 days in a row before a better feeling arrives.
i moved from austin but i’m back every month. last time i landed in our hometown i realized that if i met you for the first time now, i wouldn’t fall in love with you. if i met you now, i’d recognize things i’d misperceived before. if we met now, we’re changed. you wouldn’t fall in love with me, either. i’m softer and harder, more vulnerable and more protected. i’m split wide open and closed down at the same time. my eyes are brighter and sadder. how are your eyes? i couldn’t see them in the photo you sent a couple months ago, hidden behind sunglasses.
i still write letters to you, different than this one. i write to you the way i wrote to you when i was traveling the world. i write my everyday passing thoughts, feelings, and experiences to you the way i wrote them when i believed all our life adventures would be shared.
i wonder if the empty space inside me that ripped open when i left you will ever fill again. i doubt it. the hole stretches wider over time. time doesn’t heal everything. time doesn’t heal arthritis or alzheimer’s or cancer. time worsens some things.
i wish i could tell you i’m happy. i hope that you’re happy. i know you pretend to be. when i was with you, i pretended, too. i don’t pretend anymore. i quit spending time with people who asked me to pretend, people who couldn’t breathe what is, what comes, what sits beneath.
i miss you. i don’t know who you are now, who you’ve become, who you’ve grown into. i miss knowing.
i love you always.