letters in the mail

image by jacme31 via flickr

Oooh oooh I got me a letter, the first from Stephen Elliott.

Like a schoolgirl I tucked it in my pocket (well, actually in my ipad case, but pocket sounds better) and absconded up to my little haven in the attic to read it. The letter was quintessential S.E., written with honest rambling eloquence, confessional with bits of tender wisdom woven in.

He spoke of getting letters while abroad (or at least of waiting for them), of checking the American Express office, of poste restante and I remembered aerogrammes, whose onion-skin-thin blue self-folding missives I would send from here and there. I kept in far better touch then than I do now, despite the fact that technology makes it so much easier, click click click. Before autocorrect and with the permanence of ink came actually a greater freedom, for one just wrote, and what resulted was real, not contrived, a snapshot of a moment in one’s mind offered on a platter to a loved one, a friend…

A letter. How long has it been since I’ve received one? Or written one? This one, from a stranger (although in an odd way he makes himself feel like an old friend, albeit an irreverent and incongruous one for a woman like me). Three pages typed, not written. Yet it was that same frisson of seeing it there on the counter, of holding it, or turning it to see the little touch he mentioned some lucky envelopes might have, a drawing or a note, or in my case a lipsticky kiss sealing its back. I assume it was from a volunteer letter stuffer, not from him, although who knows, knowing SE). So much fun, this letter-receiving stuff, a thoroughly retro yet incredibly modern idea.

Speaking of his girlfriend, he wrote:

“Of course she fell in love with me touring Europe, a letter marked poste restant waiting for her in every town. That’s how it used to be. Ask Nelson Algren, or Rilke, or any of them, the way to a woman’s heart was through the mail.”

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