In Which We Open The Manila Folder

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Dear Derek

by LINDA EDDINGS

I got the letters back today, in a manila folder. It looked like he had been collecting them; at least, like they were given care.

The first one was about how I could not shake the feeling I was better off without him, but by the end of the letter, thematically, I wasn’t so sure if that was the case. There was the note of apologia – an apology always smells to me like sulphur and the inside of a camping tent. With that said, there was no actual sorry, just the idea that something negative had taken place between us, that had not been accounted for completely and would not for some time. He left my apartment before I woke completely. I begged him to stay and forced him to go. A girl on the street played hopscotch with her sister. I bought a pregnancy test, but I didn’t mention that until the third letter.

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installation by katja novitskova

The second one was all about regret. I wrote it in a Starbucks, the one near his place where I always hated to go. It is not stalking to revisit these old places, right? I had already met someone else by the time of this letter, but I was not one hundred percent sure about him. It felt weird to write to him and pursue this other romance, but it is best to be practical about such things. He was, I wrote, never the type of human being I could count on completely. But I still missed him and wanted him back, so I listed all the things I missed about him: that cinnamon smell to his clothes, the way he pressed his cock against me while I slept, how he never once overstayed his welcome.

The third one was in pieces. After I write a letter, all the feeling I put into it is drained from me. I walk around like a skeleton, which is all we are anyway. Ask any x-ray technician. In this epitaph I listed all the problems I thought he and I had. They included a struggle to communicate, a reluctance to bring our true emotions out for fear of hurting the ones closest to us, various issues with trust brought on by the existence of his ex-girlfriend. I wonder – did she write him letters? He deleted all his e-mails, so she must have, in order to leave something permanent in the place we both know.

katja

The fourth one is hardest for me to read. I am a mess by then, barely able to wake or sleep. Stuck between those two poles, I ache for his physical presence. In life it is not enough to be betrayed; we must know the meaning of the betrayal. I ask him all about his new girlfriend, who he posts about incessantly. She is substantially younger than I am, with a different hair color. Worst of all she has a positive mental outlook.

By the time of the fifth letter they have broken up, and I am reassured by this, potentially gratified by this. It has opened up a world of new possibilities for me. Then again, when you want something as much as I do, actually getting it would come as such a complete shock to the system that it might destroy me all over again. Reading back these particular words fills me with delight: I am legitimately impressed at how delusional I become given the right circumstances. “I know you don’t love me,” I almost write, but hold back. Could saying something make it true?

Linda Eddings is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in New York. You can find an archive of her writing on This Recording here.

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