Monday, September 16, 2013

He Thought She Should Know

Her new profile picture hit him like a kick in the stomach.  Not because she looked absolutely gorgeous (which, of course, she did), but because she looked so much like she did in 1978.  And in 1978 she was a huge part of his life, although she probably doesn’t remember.

He arrived at his Massachusetts boarding school in January of that year, happy to be on his own but also missing his friends from home.  The infamous Blizzard of ‘78 hit New England in February. He couldn’t believe how relentlessly cold it was.  Just walking from one building on campus to another was unbearable.  He got there in the middle of the school year and, being shy by nature, spent much of his time in the company of afternoon reruns on the black-and-white TV in his dorm’s common room.  He had no complaints though.  To him, the reruns were excellent companions.

But the best (or worst) part of any of his days came after enduring a 10 minute walk in the bitter cold to the mailroom at the Main Building.   Each tiny, gold colored mailbox had a window on the bottom, so as soon as he stepped into the room a quick glance was enough to determine whether what would follow would be a freezing, empty, lonely journey back to his dorm, or the delicious excitement of knowing that a letter.  From her.  Had arrived.

He never opened the letters at the mailroom, nor as soon as he got back to his dorm.  He always kept them in his pocket for the rest of the day, wallowing in the anticipation.  Butterflies in his stomach.  

Study period was from 8 to 10pm each evening.  During study period all students were required to sit quietly at their desks.  This was when he opened her letters, because he knew he would have plenty of time to read them, re-read them, and read them again, without interruption.  

The two of them were never more than friends.  They didn’t stay in touch after high school.  They went separate ways.  They’ve only seen each other a few times, in passing, during the past 30 years.  But during the time he spent in the Massachusetts hinterland, she was, without question, the most important person in his life.  She may never understand just how precious her letters were to him, or how much joy they brought him.  But he will never forget.  As was evident when a mere glimpse of her new picture took him back 35 years.  To those magical moments when he would walk into the mailroom.  And see a letter.  From her.