Epistolary, Minus the Novel

I cannot, in good conscious, call myself a ditz. I can, however, use many synonyms thereof: scatterbrained, silly, foolish, brainless, capricious, etc. Because I did a thing. Not quite bad enough to be called stupid or negligent, but kind of dumb. Let’s take it back to the beginning.

Maybe it started when I learned to communicate with the world. But that couldn’t be it because I was a painfully shy little girl. (Don’t worry, that didn’t last long. Though my disdain for strangers hasn’t at all diminished.) Or perhaps it was when I learned to read and write in 1995? No, it must have been much later. Surely, it was 2001 when my mother got a job at the local library. Maybe it was an on-going thing, my grandmother faithfully writing me letters throughout my childhood, fostering my love of correspondence. Which explains why, after I stopped writing to my friend sophomore year of college, I have ever since have wanted a new pen pal. Whatever it was, the result is this:

Kristen moved to Portland. One of my best friends moved 3000 miles away and while that was painful, I was happy for her. It was exciting! And I saw an opportunity. I finally had someone I could write letters to again! So a couple weeks ago, I started doing just that. I pestered her and pestered her until she gave me her new address and I started writing letters.

Let me just say, I’m not the best letter-writer. There are a combination of factors: I kind of insist on writing in cursive, I’m not very punctual, and, well, to be honest, there’s not much going on in my life worth writing about. But letters have a kind of magic to them – there’s a reason #4, Privet Drive, Little Whinging, Surrrey was filled with scores upon scores of letters instead of the Dursley’s house phone ringing off the hook. There’s something inherently personal about letter writing. They prove that more thought and care has been taken than any other form of communication I can think of. (Except perhaps semaphore. That takes some serious commitment.) Letters are tangible; they have a life to them. They are keepsakes and memories. And it’s a lot more fun to mail your friend weird cut-out news articles than it is to forward it to them via a bit.ly on twitter. Trust me.

[I once mailed my friend Anne a care package that included, among other things, a news clipping about a bear that, after sniffing peanut butter on the steering wheel of a car, got trapped in the drivers seat and rode the car into a ravine. A shallow ravine. More of a ditch, really. Or maybe it drove into a tree? Either way: the bear got into a car accident whilst in the car.]

So, when I have time to kill or when I have something to say, I sit down and write Kristen a letter. I did so a fortnight ago while waiting for a friend so that we could get dinner after work. I sat myself down in a Starbucks, pulled out a pilfered legal pad, and wrote. And when it was time to meet my friend, I absentmindedly tucked the letter into my purse and carried on with my night.

Which would have been fine. It would have been fine except for the fact that I tucked the letter beneath the cover of the book in my purse. The book that was already woefully overdue from the library.

See, here’s the thing. My mother works at the local library back home. Which is great for any number of reasons. For me, it means my library requests are delivered directly to me. It is a library where books can be renewed ad infinitum. And a library at which, for a beautiful decade, I never, ever had to worry about late fees. Which means that I absolutely got into the habit of not worrying about late fees.

So a fortnight ago I had Amanda drop me off at the library, for no other reason than we had possession of her mother’s car that day. I went inside with no other agenda than to return my woefully overdue books, pay my fine, and pick up whatever it was I had on the holdshelf. (A really good haul, actually: Season 1, volume 1 of Everwood; Mo’ Meta Blues by Questlove; The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater.) And then I scurried home to hang out with friends. I put it out of my mind, content to watch the perfect double-feature of Bring It On and Pitch Perfect before muting the Bama vs. LSU game and watching a whopping 2.5 hours of Brotherhood 2.0 on my laptop.

Out of sight, out of mind I guess. Which is why it took a day for me to realize that, d’oh!, I had absolutely slipped Kristen’s letter into one of the books that I had returned to the library. But our library is closed on Sundays, so it was a waiting game. But then it was closed on Monday as well, for Veteran’s Day. I would have been bothered, except for the fact that the library being closed meant there was no way the book I had left the letter in had been checked out or shipped off to another patron or branch.

So, Tuesday after work I marched myself to the library and made a beeline to the stacks, intent on emerging victorious, Kristen’s letter safe in my clutches. But when I got to the shelf, the copy of the book (The Age of Miracles, which I didn’t get more than 20 pages into) I picked up didn’t have my letter. It did, however, have a reminder for some woman’s (I’m assuming it was a woman’s) OB/GYN appointment. I slipped it back on the shelf and went up to the circulation desk.

The guy working was the most helpful. Every other time I’ve been into the library I’ve had an elderly woman helping me, but this time it was a middle-aged dude. I explained my predicament, and told him how the book was from this branch but not currently on the shelf and he dug around in the back and FOUND IT. He returned with the letter. I thanked him profusely and may have done a happy dance. I left with a smile and a few more DVDs.

So today, at long last, Kristen’s letter was mailed. It’s already been through quite the adventure. I hope it has a good transcontinental journey as well.

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