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A Stained Letter MAG
Over the past few months, I have acquired an obsession with creating things. If there is ever a time I am not accomplishing something, I get a craving to grab a pencil and draw, get a pen and write, get a knife and whittle, or anything of this sort. When I think back, I can almost define the exact point this behavior began, but I cannot discern the reason or why I feel, subconsciously, that it will better me in some way. This point in time was a period of intense happiness, stress and confusion, followed by deep sadness, loneliness – and my present obsession with accomplishment.
My archaeology class was conducting a research project in the mountains of Oregon. We were staying at a cheap hotel on the highway in a small town near the dig site. I had been put in charge of the data arrangement, and it was too much work for one student to handle. I was going to attempt it to make a good impression on my professor. One evening, I walked in the rain to a cafe in an attempt to find a quiet environment to begin formulating the introduction for this task. I sat with coffee and tried to put the words together in my notebook. My ideas refused to flow, but still I tried. A half hour into my failed attempt, a young woman walked to my table and asked if she could sit with me. I obliged and she sat and made conversation. Throughout our talk, I noticed how beautiful she was. I kept looking at her hair; it was excessively shiny. Her eyes were a deep brown and glistened in the artificial light.
“Did I ask you your name?” she said.
“No, it’s Aaron Martin. You didn’t tell me yours, either.”
“I am Elaine Robbens. Nice to meet you.” She stuck out her hand for me to shake. “What are you doing in town?”
I explained my story. While I spoke, she looked right into my eyes. Then, she told me her story. The day before, she had come back to her apartment and found her boyfriend making love to a woman on the kitchen floor. She had kicked him out, throwing his things out the third-story window. A considerable amount of obloquy immediately followed until Elaine slammed the window shut, leaving the boyfriend standing in the frigid winter air. Throughout this story, I could feel my hatred growing for her boyfriend. I was trying to discern whether I disliked the man because he was despicable or if there was a deeper reason, as Elaine explained that she was tired and wanted to go home. I left the cafe that night with her phone number and an empty sheet of notebook paper titled “Introduction.”
Back at my hotel room, I found myself invigorated, unable to sleep. I lay down in the overly springy bed with my eyes open, and I realized that the entire time I was thinking about this girl. I made up a scenario in my head where I would call her the next day, meet her somewhere and sweep her off her feet. As I pondered this, my thoughts dissolved and I floated into sleep.
When I awoke, the sun was shining through the window. The first thing that came into my head was the night before. The whole incident replayed like it was on videotape, and then I remembered my plan, almost forgotten like a dream on the edge of waking. I took a shower, brushed my teeth and dressed in relatively attractive clothing (a gray dress shirt and black slacks), all the time acting out the day in my mind. Since it was Saturday, I had no immediate tasks to complete with my research group.
Around noon, I worked up the courage to dial her number. It rang twice and the unmistakable voice of Elaine Robbens answered – a soothing, soft sound. My heart jumped once and I went into my planned routine. It worked beautifully. We were to meet at Tony’s Italian Restaurant, a small, quiet place. I left the room thinking myself brilliant for what I had accomplished.
As I walked down the road, a profound sense of joy coursed through my body. I felt the best I had ever felt. I arrived at Tony’s and sat to wait for Elaine. She appeared shortly and we had a late lunch, picking up our conversation where it had left off. The more I heard about her, the more amazing she seemed. I absorbed every detail I could and still, I needed more.
When we finished lunch, I asked if she would accompany me to my hotel room and she agreed. We split the bill, which seemed an outrageous amount. Once in my hotel room, I settled into a very uncomfortable chair and asked her if she would like a drink. She said yes quickly, so I produced a bottle of wine I had been saving in case I came across a particularly sleepless night. I poured it into two plastic cups and we started drinking and talking. My nerves loosened a little, as well as my tongue, after I finished my first cup. Gradually, my inhibitions drifted away and our conversation grew more personal and open. I began to dominate the conversation. I spoke of my project. I spoke about my writing. I spoke about my stress and frustration, all the time gulping wine. I spoke about Elaine’s boyfriend who I had grown to hate in 24 hours. I could not stop rambling. I wanted this girl to know everything about me. I probably talked for more than an hour until I realized I was sucking on an empty bottleneck. By this time we were both excessively intoxicated, and entering the final stage of drunkenness: deep spiritual discussion. We lay on the bed with liquor-induced grins on our faces, and began to speak quietly with great meaning to our words, however slurred.
“You mentioned something about writing earlier,” Elaine said.
“Yes, writing is the only way I can express myself the way I want to. My words don’t mean very much when I speak.”
“I’d like to read some of your writing someday,” she said.
“Maybe I’ll let you,” I said. “Elaine, I want to tell you something. Well, I am not very good with words, but I’ll try. I met you yesterday and I feel really good about it,” I said.
“Yes, I feel really good too. I needed someone to talk to and you are such a good ear to hear my problems. It’s really too bad that you don’t live here. I feel a strong friendship growing between us. Maybe you could give me your address and we could write. I don’t think my problems are quite over and I’d like to have someone to listen,” Elaine said.
I wrote down my address on a piece of scrap paper and she did the same.
“That’s not really what I was trying to get out, Elaine. It’s something a little deeper than that. I have had a craving to see you all day.”
“Please, Aaron, don’t say it, please.”
“What I have been feeling is more than friendship, I hope.”
“Aaron, no, I’m not ready for another relationship. Please, don’t say it.”
“Elaine, I think I am falling in love with you,” I said.
“No, no, I don’t want to hear this,” she was walking toward the door. “I’m sorry, I just can’t say the same thing.” She opened the door and left, leaving me sitting in my hotel room, desperately trying to discern what to do, and what I had done wrong. My day ended exactly as it had begun: wanting her beside me, thinking of when we would see each other again. A sense of loneliness settled over the room.
I left town the next week, having never heard from her again.
I never finished the research paper. When my professor asked what I had accomplished, I presented a single piece of paper with “Introduction” on the top, covered with random scribbles. The assignment was taken out of my hands, leaving me with a simpler task.
A week after I returned to my apartment, I was reading a book when my mail slot opened and a white envelope slid in. I noticed the return address and eagerly tore it open, tearing the letter in the process. Elaine wrote that she was sorry and did not want me to be angry. She hoped I could forgive her because I was one of the best friends she’d ever had. At the time I thought it quite ridiculous that she considered me one of her best friends. We had known each other for only one day, barely time to establish a deep friendship. Then I realized how hypocritical I was. I told Elaine I loved her that second day, and I still did. I picked up my pen and started to write.
Elaine and I wrote for a long time. In those letters, I found Elaine more amazing than I had thought. She had lived her life in the forests of Oregon. Her father had been a successful writer and thinker, so she had an easy childhood, financially. When she was a teenager, she grew tired of getting everything she wanted and started a business making clothes. She rented an apartment and supported herself. All she wanted from life was simplicity and serenity, a cozy home in the woods with a garden and frilly drapes. It was an ironically possible dream for a girl like Elaine. Almost every one of her letters contained a reference to this life. I wrote of my love for Elaine. I mentioned it, unfettered, at the end of every letter. There was never a reaction from her.
Elaine needed someone to listen to her problems and dreams – and I was that person. She did not love me, and I soon realized I was only the outlet for her subconscious, but still I grew more attached every day. I depended on those letters for happiness. When I woke in the morning, the first thing I thought of was whether a letter would slide through my mail slot. It became my life to read Elaine’s curvy, schoolgirl-like penmanship, and to respond by proclaiming my love for her.
After six weeks of this game of tag, I received a letter explaining that Elaine had gotten back together with her boyfriend. I read the letter again, disbelieving. This perplexed and saddened me, so I wrote some questions to send to Elaine.
Her reply came, with no explanation, but more about her life history. The next letter I wrote would be my last. I digressed into a philosophical state. I spoke of love in a poetic way, delving deeper into the mind. The letter ended with a full page of my proclamation of love, the reasons behind it and my deepest feelings. I sealed the envelope, frightened and anxious for the reply.
That night, and the next two, I was restless. Perhaps it was the thunderstorm that put me in a jittery mood, but I believe it was something much more important. I woke on the fourth day after only two hours of sleep. Tired, I laid down on the couch and switched on the television, but my eyes stared straight up, not seeing, and my ears shut off. I stared for an hour. A familiar sound knocked me out of my trance and I looked with unbelieving hesitation at the television. A picture of Elaine hovered in the corner as the newscaster spoke.
“The identity of the driver killed in the fatal crash on Highway 58 yesterday has been confirmed as that of Elaine Robbens, an Oakridge citizen. The daughter of the esteemed writer, William Robbens, was killed when another car swerved into the oncoming lane, causing a head-on collision. Her family is mourning her death.” I stared with my mouth open. Then I was in the bathroom without realizing I had ever gotten up, vomiting into the sink. I splashed water on my face. Leaving the water running, I stumbled into the living room again and fell, face first, injuring my nose on the floor. Then my squeaky mail slot opened and one envelope slithered in like a snake. Mechanically, my hand picked it up. Slowly, I ripped it open and started to read.
Aaron, I was wrong. What I was feeling about you was deeper than friendship. Today, I packed some things and left Leonard. By the time you read this, I may already be there. I am coming to see you, Aaron. I need a place to sleep and I know you are kind enough to find some room for me. I hope you can forgive me for what I have done to you, and I think I’m in love with you. I’ll see you soon.– Elaine
Some blood from my nose dripped onto the white paper and glowed. Disgusted and startled, I dropped the letter to the floor and wept. Something I had never had escaped me. Two dreams had been destroyed and I cried uncontrollably. What I lost was everything I ever had, and the blood pooled up on the floor as it dripped from my face, a vermilion puddle of thick syrup.
A week ago, I burned that stained letter. The fire took away the evidence, but left the pain. It has been five months since I sat in the cafe with her, and I have just begun to focus on one project. My obsession continues, still an enigma. It may be an advance in my mental processes, or a breakdown of my soul. Obsession supports me, drifting from room to room in my apartment, pointless, mindless, endless forever.