%@ Language=VBScript %>
By Tina Dunlap
This 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.
I don't usually read junk email, but I was feeling masochistic one day so I took a personality test that someone forwarded to me. One part of the test asked me to write down the names of people I associate with certain colors. Carter was green. According to the test, this means he is the person I will never forget. Hope so, 'cause I'm marrying the guy!
I don't know why I associate Carter with green. Maybe it's the 12-pack of Rolling Rock that finally brought us together one hot night in August 1993. But I like to think it's something more romantic and ethereal than that. I like to think it all began with the trees he mentions in this letter.
When we started dating, Carter lived in Urbana and I lived in the Chicago suburbs, and we wrote each other at least once a week. The envelopes I sent him were often illustrated with self-caricatures in revealing costumes promising sexual favors. But inside, the letters were more wistful than wicked. Carter's letters to me were all like this one, very tender and sweet and funny. They melted away my hard-edged cynicism and affirmed my growing affection for him. They still make me feel all mushy inside.
I was very familiar with the trees he refers to here. This was the view from his bed, or rather, the mattress on the floor next to the radiator in his bedroom in the house he shared with eight other people in Urbana (the infamous Hotel California). Actually, it wasn't even a bedroom; it was a small room adjacent to the living room, separated only by pocket doors that didn't close all the way. But it had these great bay windows that faced the front porch. When you laid on your back on the bed, your head was right under the three windows, and all you could see were the tops of the giant trees in the front yard. It was easy to forget that you were lying on a mattress on the floor next to a radiator in a ramshackle house full of people in a podunk college town.
Carter and I enjoyed this view together many lazy afternoons when I was visiting him in Urbana almost every weekend. In those first few months of our relationship, we'd spend all day in bed. And when he had to get up and go to work at the residence-hall cafeteria, I'd stay in bed and wait for him. When he'd come back from work, sometimes I'd make him take a shower to get rid of the dirty dishwater smell and sometimes I wouldn't. All we did was drink and smoke and have sex. At night we might get up to watch a movie in the living room and end up groping each other under the blanket instead. Or we might stumble out to a party and end up leaving it early so we could go back to bed.
We'd only been dating a couple of weeks when I bought him a rubber tree for his birthday. It seemed like a nice, noncommittal gift that wouldn't scare him off. (Although not long after that, we were exchanging the L-word.) And I knew he liked plants because he had a palm tree in his bedroom that he was always trying to protect from his housemate's little black cat Winston.
We have that rubber tree in our house now, eight years later. It's about eight feet tall and it wants to grow taller. It would if the ceiling wasn't so low. Its branches stretch out and curl up and its leaves press against the windows in the corner of our foyer. We also have a spider plant that Carter gave me on our first Valentine's Day together. This one plant has produced more than a dozen other spider plants. They hang from doorways and perch on shelves like spiky-haired sentinels.
I could say that these plants have survived all of these years because they are the spawns of our undying love, but the truth is that I water them every week and Carter protects them from our new feline menace, our little black cat Bela. She pees in the rubber tree and bats at the shoots hanging from the spider plants. But they are still alive and fresh and vibrant and strong.
Green, just like us.
Copyrightę2001 by Tina Dunlap.
No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system,
or transmitted, in any form by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying,
or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the publisher.