column is devoted to love letters, hate mail,
and other correspondence from guys that I've
saved over the years. Names have not
been changed to protect the innocent.
Iíve been exposed.
I had just finished
my column for the last issue when I got an email
from the publisher. It was sent by one of my
ex-boyfriendsóin fact, the very one I had chosen
as the subject of my column. He had stumbled
upon this site somehow, and he was asking the
publisher to forward his email address to me
and a couple other contributors he knew.
The email itself
was benign, but its effect on me was profound.
Iíve been writing these columns under the delusion
that the subjects wonít ever read them. Thatís
why I havenít bothered to change their names.
Thatís why Iíve written things about them that
I would never write to them or say to them personally.
But that email made me feel like I do in that
dream of mineóthe one in which Iím walking around
in public naked, not totally oblivious like that
infamous emperor, just hoping no one notices.
And, ultimately, someone does.
So I scrambled
for my clothes. I scrapped the column and wrote
another one about a different guy. In retrospect,
I think I chose this particular guy because the
way I felt when I thought about him paralleled
the way I felt when I got that email. It was
hard to write that new column knowing that this
guy might just as easily find it and read it
as the other guy did. And it was harder to scrap
my original column knowing that I was doing it
out of shame and fear. But it was hardest of
all to resurrect that column for this issue knowing
that the other guy would probably read it. In
fact, I knew heíd read it, so I rewrote it to
address him personally:
Joe, I still have
all of your letters. There must be hundreds of
them. Theyíre in a large cardboard box in my
basement, separate from all the other letters
Iíve saved. This is partly because of their sheer
volume, and partly because of some lingering
sentimental value. This box has remained sealed
during the course of several movesófrom my apartment
in Oak Park, to the first apartment I shared
with Carter, to our second apartment, to the
house we live in now.
When I opened
the box to find the letter I wanted to write
about, it was right on top. It was the last letter
you wrote me, the letter you slipped under my
bedroom door at the Oak Park apartment, the apartment
I shared with my college roommate, the roommate
you started dating after I broke up with you
and started dating Carter, the guy who was everything
you could never be and who meant so much to me
that even a false, flippant insinuation that
I had done him wrong was enough to send me into
a tearful rage, a rage that you could not soothe
with your hands and your mouth because I was
not yours anymore and my bedroom door was between
us anyway, and so you wrote this letter.
I donít blame
you for saying what you did, but I know it was
more out of jealousy than out of any ďrespectĒ
you may have had for my relationship with Carter.
When you and I were together, I played the drunken
fool with lots of other guysómost of the time
behind your back, so Iím sure it was disturbing
to have it in your face that night, to watch
me dancing a little too close to that guy who
was not Carter, who was not you. I donít blame
you for calling me a whore.
But I do blame
you for making it impossible for us to salvage
anything good from what we had together. Itís
really sad, because we shared so muchóback in
high school when we were young and stupid, and
then all those years later when we found each
other again, New Yearís Day. I was your fraulein,
I was your little bird. You showed me how to
play in the dark. You turned me on to Leonard
Cohen and Tori Amos and PJ Harvey. You made me
read Sandman comics and watch Godzilla movies.
You encouraged me to keep writing and creating
and dreaming. You taught me how to love.
I stopped being
angry with you a long time ago, but I never thought
about trying to reconcile with you. You moved
out west and got married, I got married, you
got divorced, and itís all too complicated now.
I did think about asking if you want your letters
back, but I canít give them up just yet. That
must mean somethingóIím not sure whatóbut now
I know where to find you if I want to.