Dearest Rachel –
You may not believe this, but I do have some rules that I try to adhere to with these letters I write to you. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I try to aim for about a thousand words with each letter (give or take a few hundred); enough to give you plenty of description, but not so much that it’s intimidating to try to read. Sure, we used to share far more words between us on any given day, but they were less organized than these letters have to be; more on that in a minute.
I also try to stick to a single topic, if for no other reason then the fact that I have to give each letter a title. That doesn’t happen in real life conversations. When we would chat about something, each of us would turn the conversation in other directions regularly throughout any given discussion. Our mutual stream of consciousness would meander through the words we spoke between us, creating little oxbow lakes of topics brought up and abandoned as we pursued other lines of thought. It became something of a game for us to stop at a certain point in our conversation and laugh about “how did we get here?” and attempt to wend our way upstream to find out how we got from where we started to where we ultimately wound up in our discussion. I don’t have that luxury anymore, because it’s a one-sided conversation. There’s nobody to redirect my thoughts, distract me, or bring up new lines of enquiry as I go along. Granted, it means these letters are more structured, but they also lose a fair amount of color as they go along.
There’s also, I’ve discovered, some topics I simply can’t talk about – certainly not the way you and I used to when it was just here in our bedroom between the two of us. You know what I’m talking about (or at least, you can figure it out), so I don’t need to say anything more on the subject. But, of course, that’s the problem – I want to say more on the subject, but since this is the internet, I can’t. Too many people we know are going to see this, so it’s not like I can go into any detail about our love life, for instance. And with that said, I can’t bring myself to talk completely freely about people I deal with every day, and how I really feel about them – especially when, in a number of cases, I’d not thought to give them a pseudonym at first. I have learned otherwise with the girls I talk to from the dating app, but it’s kind of too late for our circle of friends. So I have to restrain myself slightly as I go along; there are a few unpublished essays that I suppose will have to remain between you and I for now.
That’s not to say that I redact these letters heavily before sending them out. Indeed, when an idea strikes me, I have to get to putting it down in text pretty much immediately, lest the idea escape me before I can. Just like how, in our own conversations, we were saying things to each other as they came to mind, so I try to do likewise with these letters. I try to keep my editing to a minimum, although I do have to stop after every sentence or two (since Siri can’t transcribe more than that without stopping and erasing everything, much to my frustration) and go over it for spelling, punctuation, and of course, grammar. I’m sure some of my earlier letters were particularly frustrating for you to read, given your propensity to hew to certain grammatical rules.
And that’s the thing about the written word published online as opposed to an oral conversation between the two of us. We didn’t have to think about punctuation or even grammar when we talked (although I would kid you about certain words that you claimed to be ‘off limits,’ such as ‘ain’t.’ My contention was that the purpose of any given word or phrase was that it be understood – the fact that you could easily divine what I meant by ‘ain’t’ meant that it was a perfectly serviceable word; forget whether it was ‘correct English’ or not. Besides, there isn’t a single word that fills its purpose as well as it does). We didn’t have to stick to a single topic. We could share our thoughts about literally everything, no matter how touchy or risqué. And we could bounce off each other’s topics, and move onto other lines of thought at a moment’s notice, and keep up with each other as we did so.
I can’t do that anymore with these letters. And I really miss that.
There was a song that you sent me (with an assist from Ellen, if I remember correctly, as you didn’t have anything by this group in your own music collection), that really sums up our mutual thought processes and conversations. This was what you claimed you wanted out of a relationship, and I think we managed to have it. It’s definitely a sort of #NoFilter mutuality, long before such hashtags were ever a thing.
The problem with such a relationship is that, once it’s over – and it is over, there’s nothing to be said about that – it’s so much harder to find anything and anybody that’s even remotely similar. I find myself agreeing with so many of the words in the song, and coming dangerously close to changing ‘I want’ to ‘I need.’ Having had that kind of relationship with you, I don’t know what to do with myself now that I don’t have it anymore. I keep telling myself that I’m growing out of this, but I wake up on some mornings, and I sense the withdrawal symptoms. I can’t even speak freely with anyone about them, like I used to with you (not that I would ever experience such withdrawal in your presence, so I’d never be telling you anything about it in any event).
So, in a way, this letter is a little like our conversations, in that it really doesn’t end with any solutions. Just an expression of frustration about that fact. Now, if you were here, we might be able to hammer out something, and come to a conclusion – although, again, if you were here, this wouldn’t be a problem in the first place. It’s really quite the conundrum, isn’t it?
Anyway, keep an eye on me, and wish me luck. I’m going to need it, as always.