“Dear Georgia,” I write before crumpling the letter up and sending it flying over in the direction of my overflowing waste bin. It comes to land with six other misshapen letters strewn out across the carpet. I take my head in my hands and blow hot air through my nostrils. Dammit, Dammit, Dammit.
I’ve never been good with words. In school, I was put in a class for kids with learning disabilities till I was eight years old when they discovered I was fully capable, just lazy. I never bothered trying when it came to writing or reading, my mind wriggles around too much to focus.
Even now my concentration levels are jutting up and down like a tow boat in a choppy surf. And besides this fact, I still can’t work out why Georgia would bother to read this. I certainly wouldn’t.
I blow another stream of air, fighting off the urge to can the whole thing altogether. I was trying too hard, I felt stupid. A waste of time. I take my eyes from the taunting lined paper and settle them instead on the view from my apartment window.
It’s a nice day, one of the nicest we’d had in a while. It’s early spring so the temperatures chop and change in a bipolar-like fashion, not yet being able to figure out what time of the year it is. It’s a time of deliberation, an uneven weather pattern which meant I was in a sweater one day and in almost nothing the next.
Today though it had seemingly gone with the kind of weather you’d hope to get at this time of year, a warm toothy smile of fluffy white clouds and blue skies. Too nice of a day to be sitting inside, agonizing over a single letter.
“To Georgia.” Again, it was wrong. I rip it from the notepad and fling it across the room to be with its littermates. It sounds too strange, too absurd to address her like she was some distant Aunt who always sent cards around holidays and birthdays but whom you’d never actually met.
I start again, “Hello Georgia.” "Hello Georgia, it’s me, it’s Mark.” Rubbish, I scold myself, discarding yet another piece of paper from the notepad that was beginning to grow dangerously thin.
I bite the end of my pen, scrunching up my eyes. It wasn’t just the concentration that was lacking but the confidence. It seemed pointless, what difference would a darn letter make? The only thing that had kept me going so far was the thought of maybe impressing her. But maybe even that was far fetched.
So, I continued, “Hello Georgia. How are you? I’m trying that thing that people do when they’ve come into a great deal of distance and that is to write a letter like I’m back in the 19th century in the hope that you’ll read it.”
It was better than anything I had written so far, so I let my body relax into the wooden desk, resuming a comfortable position and continuing, ““Since we never really talk anymore, and you don’t reply to my texts and calls, I guess I’m trying to build a bridge of some sorts. I’m waving an invisible white flag and calling a truce.”
It sounds good, it sounds like me. The kind of thing I would say if she and I were on better terms. It was the sort of person that Georgia used to know, not the silent man she’d gotten used to over the last few years.
“I wanted to talk to you about what’s going on in my head since I never get to share anything with you anymore and I miss confiding in you. " "You know me more than anyone else. And despite me feeling sorry for you in that sense, I also feel at this point in our lives, I need to confide in someone that really knows me. I need to confide in you.”
I lift my eyes from the page again and stare out the window. I can see the waterfront reflected off the glass, high rises of the city, the office workers washed in blue. I imagine them all swimming about in their glass corporate pools, an aquarium of desk workers. I see their cheeks rounded with air, gills poking out from underneath their white collars.
It’s funny to think I used to be one of them, at least until I was released back into the ocean of unemployment. Or in other words, made redundant. “I know that I’m a screw-up.”
I almost want to scribble it out as soon as I write it, despite it being true. But I can’t. The image of the office workers in my mind makes me feel a slither of guilt, an honest admittance of responsibility. Maybe that’s really the reason why I hated writing so much, I hated how honest it makes me feel.
“But I’m not a bad person, and you used to adore me once. I remember when we first met, at that tacky diner back in the 1990’s." " You hated my haircut but liked my face. We spent a whole night talking in my car, parked up outside the old pier. That’s where we had our first kiss and the rest was history. Or at least… now it is.”
I gulp the memories back into my throat. They’re hearty and bold on the paper, but in my head, are weaseled down into the size of mothballs, stuck in a closet of thoughts I reserve for the darker times.
“We used to have great fun you and I. We were made to ruin each other’s lives, right up until the day we weren’t. I can recall the very day I felt you distance yourself from me, not by space but by mental capacity." "It was the night you came home late, your hair mused up, smelling of cheap wine and dirty cologne..."
"...You got into bed beside me in this tiny apartment and didn’t say a word. Just rolled over to face the wall. And by morning when I woke, you were already gone.”
All of a sudden, I felt the urge to stop. To put the pen down and discard the letter. To go outside and enjoy the day. But I knew, deep down I couldn’t stop. The pen rests heavy in my hands as I hold it over the page. I had opened the can of worms inside my head and now my weighted hands longed for the freedom that only a finished letter could bring.
“After that we became each other’s hauntings, both knowing it was over but refusing to let the other know. We simply walked around it, living out a life that was made for one but as two. I started to resent you as I knew you resented me. I started to drink, you started to drink. I started to sleep on the couch and you’d stay late at work. We fought and then we didn’t. We gave up and it ended..."
"...You stopped haunting me.” I blink at the words that next comes to mind, printing them on the page before I can stop myself, “I miss you.”
I stop and stare at the three words. They surprise me. It had never occurred to me that I miss her. I stay up late watching TV by myself and fall asleep on the couch surrounded by beer bottles. I look for jobs and scratch my head a lot. I play XBOX and smoke cigarettes out the window.
I go out late at night and drink and walk past the old pier on the way home. But I never find myself missing her. Maybe on the nights that I wake up on the couch feeling disoriented, wondering why no one had tossed a blanket over me did I feel a pang, but I drown it out quickly by closing my eyes and falling back into a deep alcohol-induced sleep.
No, this letter is the first real time I had ever thought let alone write word for word, “I miss you.” It seemed almost like a betrayal of myself, I know she’d never be inclined to say the same about me. But despite me not being able to pinpoint the exact moments in which I had missed her, there was honestly to my words.
I start to feel that maybe this letter is my rebellion against her silent closed mind, her pursed lips and frowns.
“I know that might not mean anything to you, but I mean them and I think they’ll always be a part of me that’ll miss you, or at least the you that was happy with me. " "But hey, I know I’m not nearly enough for you anymore. I’m all bad haircut now, nothing left you like about me except perhaps my absence.”
I feel myself railing off into a pessimistic flutter so I pause and retrace my steps.
“It’s not all your fault, a lot of it was me. I was lazy with you Georgia. I let everything fly, didn’t make enough effort. In fact, I think this is as much effort as I’ve made in years. " "I hope you can see that I’m trying, I’m really trying Georgia. I wish I could make things better between us… but I’m not sure I can. I don’t think it’ll ever be the same.”
My pen is only getting heavier with every word, my chest starting to feel the same. The last sentence kills me. I’m not a highly emotional person, sometimes I believe that I’m too lazy even to cry. But now the tears prick at my eyes. I hate them, I hate the swelling feeling of doubt in my mind, she doesn’t care, she doesn’t care now, it’s too late.
“I’m the one who let you go, I’m the one who was too lazy to keep you, too lazy to even look at you. I left you all alone in our relationship and I don’t think I can tell you how sorry I am for that.” A rogue and incriminating tear hits the paper, creating a brown damp spot that spreads out and reveals the wooded desk beneath, “I’m so sorry Georgia.”
I try to catch my breath, wiping away at the dampness of my cheeks with my sleeves. In my head, there is a war being waged, the guilt, the resistance and the underlying flush of emotion towards her raging. Do I send this letter off to no man’s land? Or do I give it to her in a white envelope and hope she calls peace?
Or I could leave, walk to the beach, stop at all the little ice cream stores and watch the sun go in after a long day. I could let the waves soothe the warmth of my skin and then let my walk home be occupied by the soft warm night where the sun has heated the pavement to still be lukewarm under my feet.
I try to picture this, closing my eyes, but I’m taken back to the 90’s where a gorgeous girl is sitting beside me in my muscle car, telling me about her dreams and kissing me till the sun comes up. My eyes wander back to the paper, like there I will find the image of that night stamped out between the lines.
But there’s nothing but my messy scrawl and the damp spots from my tears, all that distant memory has come to be.
“I want us to try again one day, at being friends or at least being us, an understanding that we used to come too. I think that meant more to me than all the rest, the bond that I know can only be found in you. You were my companion for so long and now I’m just starting to realize how hard it is to let you go, but I think that maybe I could try…in the hopes that one day you will write back to me and say...."
"....‘Hello Michael, it’s me. It’s Georgia,’ and things will be upright in the world.” It was finished, “I hope you end up reading this and maybe it’ll help you in some way to forgive me so we can have some peace towards all of this and offer a way between the distance that has come between us. Yours always, Michael xxx.” I put down my pen and sat back in my chair for a moment.
The paper sat across from me, two whole pages of my messy handwriting. A couple of minutes go by where I sit and stare at what I had written. I’m not able to decide whether it’s good or bad, but at least it was something, it was honest. Honest than I’d been in a long time.
I finally begin to move, shifting my bones as though I hadn’t in years. I pull out a desk drawer and find a loose envelope rattling around inside. As carefully as I can, I fold the two pieces of paper in half and slide them into the envelope. Then I take my tongue to the flap and stick it down with my hands. I flip it over and on the front, I scrawl, “Georgia.”
Just as I close my desk drawer, there is a tapping at my apartment door. I scrunch up my eyebrows, patting down my shirt as I make my way to the door, wondering who on earth would be bothering to pay me a visit on a nice day as today. I open the door and feel my cheeks grow hot at the person standing in the hallway outside.
My stare dawdles on her until she gives me a look of annoyance, indication that I was lingering over her like a bad smell. She pushes past me and into the apartment, “I’ve brought them.” I blink over my shoulder at her before coming to my senses and closing the front door, “You’ve brought what?”
“The divorce papers,” She tells me, looking around in disgust at my apartment. My eyes follow her’s around the room, over the empty beer bottles lined up on the kitchen counter, the dirty laundry covering the carpet, the scrunched-up letters thrown in frustrated.
I feel my cheeks grow even warmer, embarrassed. She steps over a week old Chinese food carton, furrowing her nose at the smell, “I want them done by Monday if you can manage that.”
She says it all in a distant tone, not a single syllable in a different pitch at the words they form around. I blink at the monotone of her voice, the sinking feeling returning to my stomach. I am a fool, a complete and utter fool. “Are you alright?” she raises a pointed eyebrow at me, sensing my hesitation, “are you going to be ok getting this done?”
I swallow mightily, gazing over at the divorce papers sitting atop the letter I had spent all morning writing. Yes, it should all be fine.” I decide not to protest. Why should I? It was over, it would be pointless to refuse. Emotionally for her, the papers had long ago been signed. My shoulders slump into a subdued compliance, “You’ll have them by Monday.”
She looks around the room again, then nods at me, “Just sign on the dotted line Michael, that’s all you have to do.” She goes then to exit the room, and I feel in her wake the weight of so many years weigh upon me like she’d transferred it all upon my shoulders.
She wanted me to put an end to it. Just as she reaches the door, some realization sparks in me. It dawns on me that yet again I was speechlessly going to let her distance herself from me, to let her go. “Georgia!”
I dive at my desk, driving the divorce documents apart and retrieving the letter from underneath. Georgia had paused in the door, questioning me with confused eyes. I go to her and place the letter in her hand. She looks at it in surprise, surprised to see her name in my handwriting staring up at her, “What is this?”
“I want you to have it,” I tell her, taking a deep breath, “Just some things I’ve neglected to say.” She looks up at me and our eyes lock. The motion speaks to me in a way like it used to do, I can almost transcribe what she’s thinking. There’s sadness there, and surprise. But something else, a sharpness to the pupil that I can’t work out.
I wonder in that instant if it really is little too late. She doesn’t say another word, clutching the letter tighter in her hand and walking out the door. She closes it behind her with a firm click, leaving me alone in the tiny apartment.
I quickly go to the window to watch her get into her car. I have a perfect view of the street from there and I watch as the top of her head pops out onto the pavement. She fumbles around in her bag for her keys, still clutching the letter in the other hand. She finds them and fishes them out, moving to get into her car.
But she stops as her hand wraps around the door handle. She pauses there for a brief second before turning back onto the pavement. She looks down at the paper in her hands, rereading her name over and over again.
Then she walks over to one of the street bins and discards it. She gets in her car and drives away leaving me standing by the window, watching her go. My heart drops like lead into my stomach as she turns the corner, waves of searing memories pressing into me from all sides. I know she’s never coming back.
I grab my pen and sign on the dotted line of the divorce papers. It had been such a nice day. Too nice a day to stay inside writing a letter.