The boy I love isn’t a writer. That’s not the reason he hasn’t written to me, but it’s true. At first, I hoped the letter would come written in pen like they used to, then typed up in an email like they still do, then jotted in a Facebook message with a “sent from mobile” icon next to it that meant he couldn’t even take the time to open his computer. But since I’m a writer (and an impatient one at that), I thought instead of incessantly checking mailboxes and inboxes, I’d try my hand at it already. This is the letter I’ve been waiting for.
Hey. I’m writing to say I’m sorry. I called to say I’m sorry, a couple weeks ago, but you answered in this chipper voice with an overly formal, comprehensive salutation that meant you had deleted my number from your contacts and didn’t recognize the area code and probably thought I was your company’s new client or some guy trying to buy your couch on Craigslist. Or maybe you thought I was a telemarketer and you were just in the mood to talk to somebody new. I remember you used to get in those moods. But I’m not new, and I sensed you wouldn’t have wanted to talk to me. So I hung up. And I’m sorry about that, too.
My mom told me once when I was too young to appreciate it that, in this life, I’d be wrong more often than right, disappointed more often than surprised, torn open more often than lifted up, embarrassed more often than proud. She told me to get used to it early on, and to familiarize myself with the way “I’m sorry” felt rolling off my tongue, each syllable an unpopped kernel of corn that, if held onto too stubbornly, would crack my teeth. So I’ve learned to pour apologies like liquid butter—indiscriminately, all over everything—even though I know it rarely has any substance, that it’ll make you sick without filling you up.
You said something once that I can’t let go: that you could tell exactly how much you loved a guy by how many words you had to write about him to survive after it was over. What number are you on? I’m on 277, the contents of this letter so far. That probably doesn’t seem like very much to you, but remember this isn’t easy for me; remember I usually stop at two—or at least the same two over and over and over again.
I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry.
I’m sorry I never read your writing or asked you the right questions. I’m sorry I expressed my sentiments to you in double negatives: It’s not that I didn’t like you; it’s not that I don’t still care about you. The way your tornado of hair managed to drape itself across my face every morning, even if we’d fallen asleep angry on separate sides of the bed… The way that auburn-brown was painted fire-engine-red by the streaks of sunlight that came through the blinds… The way its tangled mess tickled my nose until I sneezed myself awake or got stuck in my eyes until I blinked myself awake… I admit those moments meant something to me.
I loved getting to know your skin as well as I did. That’s 562. We wore each other in like shoes: the material pushed down by the pads of our heels, given room to rise and meet our arches and the spaces between our toes. It was uncomfortable at first, nostalgic, slow, and uncertain, with the bedroom lights off and the covers carefully arranged. My eyes had to adjust to find your tattoos, the landmarks I always used. Then we got into a rhythm. We discovered that the “runner’s high” everyone talks about might not be bullshit after all. We ran marathons. I loved being privy to the secret places your sweat pools: in the bends of your elbows and the backs of your knees. I loved biting your jutting hips and pressing thumbprints into the nearly symmetrical dips of your lower back. I loved that we never said “love”—or made it, for that matter.
I tossed you around like a ragdoll, pushed you up against distorted hotel mirrors, opened the moonroof so we wouldn’t fog up the windows. I bought you packs of cigarettes you never asked for, took you to the ocean to fly kites without wind, packed a Tupperware full of pasta salad and two forks. I’m sorrier for the second sequence than the first. If my sorries were leaves, there wouldn’t be redwoods tall enough. If my sorries were bones, there wouldn’t be graveyards deep enough. 791.
Because the thing is… I loved your hair against my face, big and disorienting and impossible to ignore, like a small, desperate animal. But I loved hers, too. I don’t know how to explain it. It’s like I spent my whole life ordering sandwiches without mayo, since it’s widely acknowledged that mayo is pretty much the worst thing you could ever put in your body. But then one day I forgot to ask them to hold the mayo and when I bit into that sandwich, it changed my life. I’m not saying that she’s mayo and you’re not mayo. That would be stupid. I don’t know what I’m saying.
I just know that I’m sorry. What else can I say? I finally joined the baseball rec league I was telling you about, the one that practices in that abandoned field all the way out in La Habra. They had me playing catcher for the first few scrimmages and I blew out my knee, the same one that was always acting up in college. When the swelling didn’t go down, I had to have the fluids drained. And though my doctor would probably say this isn’t anatomically correct—that his turkey baster of a needle sucked up nothing more than the blood and thick, translucent non-blood building up in the grooves of the joint—I swear I saw everything, right down to the marrow. And it looked pathetic. So when I say I’m sorry to my very core, you can believe me.
Well, I’m all out. At least I broke 1,000. That’s got to be a record. Even if it’s not, I hope it counts for something. And if it doesn’t, I’ll write you again.