RETURN TO SENDER
Friday 1st February 2013
Today I opened your letter. When I saw it lying on the matt in the hallway I was instantly intrigued. You see, I never receive letters, not anymore. I have nobody to write to, and nobody to write back. When I picked up your letter and stared at the stamp and return address, the elegant hand writing clear atop the creased envelope, I knew I had to open it. I tried not to, but I have tried many things. I took it into the front room and sat down on the sofa. Philip was talking on the television but I couldn’t concentrate. The only thing I could think about was your letter. I couldn’t help but wonder what was inside the envelope. I felt certain it was important, confidential, perhaps. News of births or deaths or marriages and merriment. Perhaps it was an ultrasound scan or a photo of a lost loved one settled and still inside a coffin. Perhaps it was an invitation. A ticket. Escape. I looked at it resting on the coffee table and wondered what made you write the words within. Why now? What did you need, or want, or offer? I wondered why you didn’t know that Terry no longer lived here, or perhaps he didn’t tell you, or he did and you forgot. Your identity was a mystery which weighed heavily on my mind. Perhaps you were a parent trying to reconcile. Perhaps you were a son or daughter seeking forgiveness, or finance, or fresh blessings for new beginnings. Perhaps it was bad news. Your last chance. Now, with me. My mind would not cease its considerations of the hidden scenarios and their impact and importance. The pain. The joy. The hope or broken dreams. The possibilities were endless. Or at least they should have been.
It was wrong of me to open it. I should not have done it. But life is lonely. Years ago I had a special friend to whom I used to write, but she ceased communications and the letters disappeared. I continued to write to her, but she was gone, lost to me forever. She changed her number. Moved house. Forgot about me. I tried to do the same but her face haunts me still. The horror of my history follows me incessantly and there is no end to it. Even the pills don’t work anymore. But I still write. It helps, most of the time. Perhaps that was what lay inside. Someone else’s search for solace. Perhaps there was more honesty and love within the envelope than I had ever known, and soon enough, I needed to know. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. There it was. In front of me. So close. So near to revealing all its secrets. To me. Only me. So I flipped the envelope over and noticed the lip was peeling away. It was too easy. With a flick of my finger it came loose. The envelope was open. It was too late. The deed was done.
I sat there for an hour reading your letter. Over and over again. Absorbing every sentence and letting the words filter through me. I wanted to feel every emotion expressed within. And I did. I cannot explain the immensity of my experience. It was truly extraordinary. I continued to read long into the night as the stars and moon settled above. I was unable to put it down. I didn’t want to. Soon I could remember every word without the presence of the paper and the markings of your pen. It was inside me, and when I finished, something changed. I couldn’t be sure what it was, but when I finally returned the letter to its envelope, everything was different. I was different. Later that evening, unable to sleep, I tried to decide what to do. Should I keep it or send it back. Should I try to explain or refrain. I thought about my options and the possible outcomes, but it was impossible. So here we are. For what it’s worth, I’m sorry. I hope you can forgive me. I know what I did was wrong, but your words have changed my life. Thanks to you, I am no longer lonely. Perhaps you will write back. Perhaps not. I can only hope.
The Soundtrack for Return to Sender is Crooked Still’s ‘Ain’t no Grave’.