Monday, August 27, 2007

The Letter*

She couldn't believe it. For the third time since she'd opened it she stared at the blank sheet of paper in her hand, confirming once again that there was nothing written on it. Not even a watermark when you held it up to the light. And nothing else inside the envelope either. And this was what she was supposed to have waited two days to open?

What was it supposed to mean? Was it a mistake? Had he put a blank sheet of paper into the envelope by accident? Or was it some kind of schoolboy trick - a puzzle of some sort? Or did he mean it, was he trying to tell her something? Was he trying to say that he had no feelings for her, that she'd meant nothing to him at all - a void, a blank page? Or was it supposed to mean the opposite - that some feelings were too precious, too paper-thin to be put into words. "The deepest feeling always shows itself in silence." That kind of thing. Or maybe that his going away meant that they were turning over a new leaf, starting anew?

No. Too simple, too obvious. Knowing him it probably meant something more complicated, more symbolic. Like giving her a letter was a gesture it was important to make, but leaving it blank represented the inevitable emptiness of all gestures. Something like that.

God! it was so annoying! He was always doing this, always intellectualizing the simplest things way out of proportion. He was going away, she wasn't going to see him for at least a year, if not longer. Would it have killed him to write a proper, ordinary letter, with ordinary words like love and parting and "I'll miss you". Even something as cheesy as "We'll always have Hyderabad" would have done. But no, he had to be a smart alec about it.

She could see it all so clearly now. It was a trap. He was expecting her to react this way - to be puzzled, frustrated, indignant. He wanted her to call him and ask what the hell it was supposed to mean. That way she would be the one reaching out. And then, when she did confront him, he would probably turn it back on her. Say "What do you think it means?" in that infuriating way of his. Say "It's not important what I meant, it's supposed to mean whatever you think it means. It's like a mirror, only for thought." And then he'd grin at her and listen with amusement as she proceeded to get mad.

Well, fuck him. She wasn't going to give him the satisfaction. Not this time. No sir. This time she was going to damn well hold her own. Let him wait for her to ask him. She wouldn't say anything. She would show no curiosity about it all. She wouldn't even mention it. If he asked her what she thought of the letter she would tell him she agreed. That'd fix him.

But wait. What if it really was a mistake? What if he'd really written her a moving, heartfelt letter (he was capable of that, she knew, he could write beautifully when he wanted to) and then put in a blank sheet of paper by mistake? What if he'd written her a poem? He'd think she'd read it and chosen to ignore it. He'd be heartbroken. He'd hate her. Or what if she said she agreed and he'd said something, proposed something. No, no, he wouldn't do that. But still, she couldn't take the risk, could she?

Shit. What to do now? Confronting him with the blank page while he was still here was impossible. She wasn't supposed to have opened the letter for two days yet. She couldn't afford to give him that kind of moral high ground. Why did she open the letter early anyway? If only she'd waited.

But wait, wait. What if she'd lost the letter? Without reading it? It could happen, couldn't it? But wouldn't that make it seem like she was treating the whole thing casually, that she hadn't cared about what he had to say? Hmmm. Okay, but what if, what if, her purse had got stolen on the way back from the cafe? That would be okay, wouldn't it? I mean, it wouldn't be like she was being careless with the letter per se. She'd have to get rid of the purse, of course, but... no wait, she wouldn't even have to do that. He was going away in two days, after all. She could just use her other purse till then. And besides, he was a guy. All purses look the same to them.

Okay, good. So she'd tell him her purse had got stolen and that she'd lost the letter. And she'd ask him for a copy. Or to tell her what it said. That way if he was trying to play a trick on her she'd turn the tables on him, and if it really was a mistake then she'd find out what the real letter was supposed to say. What a brainwave! She reached for the phone.

"Hi! It's me...Listen, you won't believe what happened to me on the way back home....My purse got stolen...No, really...I was just walking along and this guy came out of nowhere and just snatched it and ran...Yes, of course I reported it to the police. I've just got back from there. They don't think there's any hope of recovering it though...What?...No, no, not much money. My credit cards though, but I canceled those....What's that?...My cell phone? Oh,, no I still have was in my hand when the guy snatched my purse... Ya, I was trying to call my sister... Ya, I know, lucky huh? Ha! Ha!, so anyway, the reason I'm calling is that my purse also had the letter you gave me. You know, the one I wasn't supposed to open till you left.... Well, it's gone now... Ya, I know... I don't suppose you have a copy?... No, I thought not. listen, why don't you just tell me what it said? On the phone. I mean why wait, right. What's with all the secrecy? We're friends aren't we?...What?... No, but it's important to me... It does matter...No, come on, you wrote a letter about it, it must have been something. Why not just tell me?...No, that's okay... What's that?... Oh, oh, yes, of course...No, no, I understand. You must be really busy packing and all....I can imagine...So okay then... Do I get to see you again before you leave?... Oh, okay.... No, that's fine, let me know.... Have fun packing. Take care. And listen, stay in touch won't you?... Ya, okay....Oh, no big deal, I have too many of the damn things anyway...Ya, totally....Okay then....Bye."

Shit! He sounded so upset about it. Like he'd actually said something important in the letter. And he's not going to tell her what it was. He's going to go away in two days and never tell her what it was. Oh shit! shit! shit!

*In response to this.


Chevalier said...

nice twist to the old teenager trick (old trick of all teenagers? or 19 year-olds' trick?) of making 'blank' calls to people they have crushes on....

Chevalier said...

Unless it was one of those inks that only reveal themselves with a chemical reaction - heat, alkaline liquid/acid...or maybe a salt solution: tears? She had to cry over the blank page, tears of frustration, for his words to reluctantly form and be discovered.....

Anonymous said...

ah, credit to you for making the thought process and the phone convo real.
the string of thoughts going through her mind is so in sync with how generally woman think about what-to-do-next and its consequences.

just wonder if a man would have thought 'all those tiny things through' if he had received the blank letter.

Anonymous said...

Invisible ink.

She discovers this weeks after he's left.

Oldest trick in the book. They had talked about it once -- they had both once owned the same, black magic box of tricks that you can buy at any store. Complete with a plastic wand with silver paper streaming out one end.

Lemon juice. An empty fountain pen. Words scribbled with such meaning at the time.

Outside, the sound of children coming home in groups. Hand in hand.

Anonymous said...

Oh, I totally loved this one! Really, guys can be so infuriating some times! :D


Space Bar said...

Wait. You mean even if she carried around a pink purse it would look the same to him? And this is the guy who asks solicitous questions about her purse even if it is the last thing he does?

Suki said...

Nice one... and lots and lots of possibilities!
(lemon juice hit me first, though!)

Falstaff said...

chevalier: You know, I hadn't considered the tear activated ink idea. Good one.

anon1: Thanks. I don't know whether 'a man' would have thought through all those tiny details. I know I would.

anon2: "Outside, the sound of children coming home in groups. Hand in hand."

:-). Like chickens coming to roost?

N: Thanks. And true. Though it's hardly a male prerogative.

space bar: Well, a pink purse he would probably have noticed. I was thinking more of black / brown purses in different styles. Why would you want to date someone who carries around a pink purse anyway?

And the solicitous question is totally because she called him up to talk about it. Guys may not notice purses, but they're smart enough (at least after a relationship or two) to pretend to pay attention if they think the woman cares. It's like new hairstyles. You always compliment them, even though you'd never have noticed the change if she hadn't told you.

suki: Thanks

Gammafunction said...

one word:simply mind blowing!
any connection with the blasts in hyderabad?
and I have seen ppl in your fiction pieces never have names....only pronouns...why is that?

DoZ said...

Good one. And did Hyderabad pop up simply because it's the last city you read about? That was the only discordant note...

Falstaff said...

gammafunction: Thanks. The lack of names is mostly because I'm too lazy to come up with them (it sounds easy, I know, but knowing me I would end up obsessing about what name to give a character for hours). Plus I think names are constraining in that they suggest a certain geographic / social setting, which means I would feel the need to tweak the characters accordingly. I just don't have the enthusiasm for that.

doz: The choice of Hyderabad is random, frankly - Ctrl+H whatever name you'd prefer.

Anonymous said...

":-). Like chickens coming to roost?"

Exactly. :)

Anita =)

Anonymous said...

Yes, that's true too. Though my original comment is in terms of communication*. As in your story, guys tend to communicate in a very non-communicative way; which can be really maddening at times.


[* But then I guess, the guys would have a similar grouse too.]

Anonymous said...

Interesting ... is pretty much all I have to say. It disturbs me knowing that I am one of those people who would think exactly like this ( and have as a matter of fact). I find it upsetting because I am beginning to really hate the way you are putting my thoughts on paper :)

Ab said...

omg... now that was something.... interesting!
though i got a lil confused by those ast few sentences of thoughts of hers