if you want to talk about stereotypes (a love letter)

The first time I can remember falling in love, I was sitting on the floor of my father’s office, pounding furiously on the keys of an old typewriter my mother had pulled from the basement. There was something so beautiful about the clicking and the fresh ink on the page. There was something so authentic about not being able to fix your mistakes. It was inexplicably human. I was only six years old at the time, but I can still remember the satisfaction I got from rambling on and on about whatever nonsense was in my head that day.

The funny thing is, I can remember being six and meeting a typewriter for the first time as if it was yesterday, but I cannot remember writing my first love letter. This is something I’ve always done – sometimes I send them, but most of the time I don’t. This first letter was addressed to my middle school best friend, after she stopped talking to me. I had moved across the country, and she seemed to have thrown in the towel on our friendship. I wrote about my grief, the things that happened when she left, and the person that I was because she had been in my life. I could still see the love in the situation. I have the letter, locked in a box in my parent’s house that I hardly open, but I cannot remember writing it.

In this box are dozens of unsent letters addressed to various people. Some of the people are still in my life, and others have left. This has become somewhat of a habit of mine. I’ve always had a tender soul, but this world is not accepting of this trait. I’ve had to lock so many feelings inside this box, some never to be seen by the eyes of another. I’d like to think of them all as love letters – regardless of the contents, each one is addressed to someone I have loved in some form.

The first time I wrote her a love letter, I hadn’t gotten any sleep. She has a way of keeping me up long after she has left, even in the early hours of the morning.

It’s 5:39. I’ve slept for an hour tonight. I’m lying in a new friend’s bed, waiting for the sun to rise so I can walk home. I remember everything, but a familiar haze is covering the edges and seams of everything that happened. I don’t remember how it started, but I remember regretting leaving you behind.

I walked home at 6:55. I remember the exact time – it was September and the sun was rising later than I would’ve liked it to. I left the building, feeling the judgmental stare from the man guarding the front desk. I would’ve liked to say, “it’s not what you think,” or “fuck off,” but I was too tired to do anything and instead, I walked right past the man, out the front door, and into the morning air.

Maybe I shouldn’t take this town for granted. The world looked so incredibly beautiful in my hazy state. I took pictures of everything that morning – the creek as I walked past it, the flowers blooming, and the leaves that were just beginning to turn from green to a shade of pale yellow.

When I finally reached my apartment, I fell straight into bed and fell asleep until two in the afternoon, when my sister came into my room to ask where I had been last night, who I had been with, where I had stayed. I told her I was at a party with Calvin and Sophie, and had stayed with Sophie. I didn’t mention her.

I can’t say I see a future with you, but I can see a present. I can see you waking up next to me, rubbing your ocean-blue eyes in the morning. I can imagine how it would feel to kiss the sides of your neck and run my fingers along the small of your back. I already know how it feels to kiss you, but I want to know how it feels to kiss you when the rest of the world is silent and I want to know what you’re thinking. I want to understand the way your beautiful mind works.

My mental state died right along with the yellow leaves in September, and I fell into a bout of seasonal depression unlike anything I had experienced. I spent days in bed, unable to cope with the outside world, and nights etching black charcoal across pristine white paper. I distanced myself from everyone around me, creating a wall between myself and anything that could hurt me. I wrote letters to the people I had met, but mostly I wrote them to myself. I told myself to remember to breathe, to go to my classes, and to try to keep people close. I kept my sister, Sophie, and Calvin, but I dared not keep her. The monsters had already taken my joy; I dared not let them take her too.

In the following months, I slowly emerged from the depression, forcing myself to interact with the world. I took up dancing again. I started using color in my art after the longest time of seeing things only in black and white. I started talking to her. We became close friends as soon as I could allow her into my life. Despite all of our differences, we got along as well as any two people could. Sometimes she would send me poetry in the late hours of the night. We talked about her friends, her ex, her difficult relationship with being in college.

I worked to plan a formal event, and had invited someone I had been seeing for a few weeks to be my date. As these things sometimes go, I was blown off and left dateless, but among friends. She was there, late, with her blonde hair and blue eyes, looking as nervous as anyone could in a room of strangers. She picked me up in her mother’s old car, moving a canteen and a softball mitt off the front seat. I told her that there wasn’t anything more stereotypical that she could’ve done. She just laughed.

That night, I brought her to my friend’s apartment, frequented by so many people. I can’t tell you exactly how it happened, but it was in the brush of my hand against hers, in the way that she danced with me. It was in her crooked smile and the way her eyes glinted as she spoke. We stayed up together until four, talking about everything that we could, until she fell asleep. Like I said, she has a way of keeping me up for hours on end. I didn’t sleep at all.

The morning was filled with our unwillingness to leave the comfort of the bed.

“Thank you for letting me stay,” she said, wrapping her arm around my waist and kissing my neck.

“Thank you for staying.”

It was the first time she had kissed me in the daylight, the first time we had touched since that first night. It was the first time that I had felt so at peace with another person in the better part of a year.

I think I fell a little in love with you last night. I know it’s too soon to be thinking like that, and I have no idea how you’re feeling of if you’ll ever feel the same way. I already know your kind heart, and the weight that you carry. I know that you talk in your sleep, and that you hadn’t ever had hot tea until you met me. Everything that you do seems beautiful to me, even the little things. The way that you hook your thumbs through your belt loops, the way that you brush your hair behind your ear. I’ve spent so long thinking that I could never connect with anyone. It’s like there’s a jar over my head like in “The Bell Jar,” and how’s that for stereotypes. But it disappears when I’m with you, so I know that because of this we can understand each other.

Remember the night that we met when we sat on the edge of that bathtub and talked? I remember you talking about engineering and math and thinking that we couldn’t be more different. I was wrong. We have so much in common that I don’t really know how to function when I’m around you, let alone tell you exactly how you make me feel, so I’m left to tell you all of the things you do that make me feel this way.­

how to find heaven without leaving the suburbs (conversations with straight men)

“Have you ever been with a girl?” he asks.

Yes. She was beautiful. She was almost holy. She looked at the world with eyes full of wonder that resembled nothing less than moonstone. We spent days sharing mittens when the snow came. Nights were spent on top of stained quilts, close, but never touching. She sang like a robin in spring, and created worlds with the touch of her index finger. She made videos of me singing to musical theatre soundtracks, and laughed at my ridiculous mannerisms. She held my hand once in the dark. When the winter came for us once again, she took her things in her father’s car and drove towards New Mexico, shedding pieces of me out the window. Interstate 25. 434. 376. Santa Fe.

 


 

“Have you ever been with a girl?” he asks.

No, but we’ve watched hundreds of films, and I’ve thought about kissing her hundreds of times. She makes my skin itch. We were never closer than a head on a shoulder or a kiss on the cheek. We never did. We never have, and I’ve danced on the edge of action with her so many times that I’m afraid she might break if I touch her. I think it’s possible to love a girl too much to kiss her.

 


 

“Have you ever been with a girl?” he asks.

Briefly, in high school. She was stony-faced but straight laced. She wore combat boots but always did her math homework. She self-identified as ‘butch’ but loved winged eyeliner. She lived her life on the in between’s, a perfect balancing act of can’s and can’t’s, should’s and shouldn’t’s. All of my fears burned up in her atmosphere. She taught me how to climb barbed wire without scratching my palms, that fear is pointless, and that there isn’t a thing that can’t be solved with rumpled sheets, cups of earl grey, and David Bowie. She forgot how to love me. She was everything, and then she was nothing.

 


 

“Have you ever been with a girl?” he asks.

On a date, once. She was bathed in swirling lights; pink, yellow, lavender. We danced in a crowded room of strangers. Her hands were smaller than mine, and when she kissed me I lost track of time. She shielded me from the eyes of strangers. We talked about her plants, her ex, her brother. There was mold growing in her lungs, destroying her from within. She took pride in becoming nothing.

 


 

“Have you ever been with a girl?” he asks.

“Yeah,” I reply.

“That’s hot.”