The letter inside bore the same handwriting, same blue ink, same penmanship, same color paper. I didn’t recognize it. It read as follows:
I remember you, but you probably wouldn’t remember me, even if I told you. In fact, I’m not going to tell you, but you knew me. We worked together a few times. You may have even considered me your friend.
I’ve missed you and I’ve been thinking about you quite a bit lately. You don’t know how special you were to me, how special you became to me during the time that you knew me. I don’t think you would have noticed the way I admired you, because I kept it to myself. I never told you--or anyone--how I felt.
You’re probably wondering why I wrote to you. In truth, something happened recently, something profound on a personal level, that changed my way of thinking about the world, about myself. I didn’t “find God” or anything like that. Suffice to say that each of us learns lessons in different ways, and arrives at stages of realization at different times. I think you once told me that the difference between knowledge and wisdom is that one is gained through learning and the other through experience: one can teach knowledge; one must earn wisdom. I’ve earned some. So, fully cognizant that I’m invoking a trite and oversimplified self-actualization paradigm, I’m turning over a new leaf--and one thing I’ve resolved to do is admit my feelings and act on them. There’s the long-winded rationale behind the letter.
Please don’t conclude from my recent insight that you’re not the only one getting a letter like this in the mail. It doesn’t matter if you believe me or not, because I know I’m telling the truth. Sure, other people were special to me, but you were my treasure. Your consideration, your confident and assured manner, self-deprecating wit, creativity and unquenchable curiosity are only some of the qualities that so endeared you to me. I’m just ashamed that I couldn’t tell you this before you left. You deserve the best from life, because you give it your best.
When I put the letter down, I discovered my hands were shaking. I remember taking a step back from the counter and breathing deeply a couple times, then reading it again without picking it up. I had no idea who would write this to me. Maybe it was a joke, but I really doubt anyone who knew me to the depth displayed in the letter would have a sense of humor sick enough to do that to me. Maybe this was meant to be malicious, because whoever wrote this must know that I wouldn’t be able to stop thinking about who might have sent it.
I poured a drink and sat on the couch. The letter stayed on the counter where I left it. Who was it? I couldn’t think of anything else. I worked with this person. I’ve worked with hundreds of people: students, professors, colleagues, co-workers. Whoever it was couldn’t tell me before I left. Before I left where? Reno? Los Angeles? School? Christ, this is going to drive me insane. Who the fuck writes a letter like that? Who the fuck doesn’t sign a letter like that? Someone feels that way and won’t tell me who they are? Some weird fucking way to act on your feelings.
I tried to calm myself down. The letter was flattering, beautiful, touching, intimate almost. It made my hands shake, and nothing makes my hands shake. I mean, not many people that are in relationships have someone who knows them that well, or who can articulate themselves in that way. Or maybe I’ve never been in a relationship with someone who’s known me that well, and this reaction is some kind of despair for that, some kind of sense of hopelessness that the author of this letter could feel this way about me and convey this sense of familiarity with me that I’ve yearned for while simultaneously denying me the same sense. Fuck, what gender is the author, at least? Days later, I showed it to a female friend, who commented that “emotionally stable dudes wouldn't write this, but it is definitely within the reach of a perfectly sane female.” Jesus, what if it’s not a romantic thing at all? I confess that these days it would be damn good to have a friend, even a platonic one, like that. But still, why not sign?
What if the letter’s not for me? I mean, it’s addressed and written to me, but not signed. What if it’s just a cathartic for the author, on his/her road to self-discovery, and my obsessive and ultimately useless questioning just an unfortunate side effect? Does my lauded “consideration” encompass self-sacrificial psychological torture in the spirit of helping someone else realize a goal? Why can’t I be the type of person to conclude “so be it” and tear the thing up, or at least have a greater sense of self-discipline or a lesser sense of self-importance so as not to be tempted, as I am, repeatedly, to read the damn thing again, and again, and again.