It was the mid 70’s, and I was almost a year out of high school. Plans were being made with my best friend to escape the mundane trappings of our youth. Sometime before we left, she had met an interesting boy from another part of town, and since she and I were always joined at the hip, we quickly became a frequent threesome.
He was 19, cerebral,with a compact body, and an air of mystery. Different from the boys we went to high school with, he took photographs and also spent a lot of time writing stories and making small cartoon-like drawings in pen and ink. One of the most unusual things about him was his handwriting. The letters were distinctively neat and so incredibly tiny that you almost needed a magnifying glass to read them. They had an intimate quality, as if you were invited to read something secret. Given a line up of different scripts, his would be unmistakable.
He once took a beautiful photo of me -different from any snapshot of the time-that remains one of the only images I have of myself at that age. My friend was falling in love, and he seemed equally smitten with her. Aside from that, I remember very little of him. I have a flash of a moment together in a car during winter. We were freezing, and in an attempt to share some warmth, he suddenly grabbed my hands and placed them on his naked stomach under his jacket. I remember his face barely registered the shock of the cold. To me this seemed like a bold gesture, but one that he managed to carry off with playful innocence.
My friend and I moved away soon after, as planned. They may have kept in touch for awhile, but their relationship dissolved in typical long distance fashion. Nothing was heard of him again.
About 7 years later, I came home to my apartment where I lived with my boyfriend, to find a letter waiting. As I opened it, I read the return “address” in the unmistakable script: A horse farm in Florida. He proceeded to reveal to me that he had always been in love with me, that he didn’t want to drive a wedge between my friend and I, that he carried a picture of me with him in all his travels. There were more shocking and poetic sentiments of the like I had never experienced from anyone-let alone, someone I barely knew, nor had thought about in many years. There was no postage on the letter and so clearly had been hand-delivered. I have no idea how he found me nor why he chose not to see me, but I realized I was receiving a love letter of the highest order. One in which the sender wanted nothing in return except to tell me that I had ‘reached in and grabbed him by the heart’, however unwittingly.
The footprints we leave with others, we can never fully know. That letter is one of the finest gifts I have ever received. A gift I never shared with my friend.
Black -inked marks unlined
a confession years too late
savored in parchment
San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, Mexico
Linda Laino is an artist and teacher living in Mexico. An occasional writer and poet, she enjoys playing with words as much as form and color. Finding beautiful things on the ground is a favorite pastime. Her paintings and jewelry can be viewed at her web page www.lindalaino.com and https://www.etsy.com/shop/lindalaino. Additional essays can be found athttp://www.elephantjournal.com/?s=Linda+Laino