Reading gives us a place to go when we have to stay where we are.
Today is a slouchy sort of day, the type of day when the heat slumps over on you like a drunk person who falls asleep next to you on a train. Not that I’ve ever had a drunk person fall asleep on my shoulder. But somewhere, years ago, someone did fall asleep on me, and I imagine the heat to feel something like that weight and also the caution with which I sat still so as not to wake him.
I’m reading more lately, learning words like outsize and tumid, words that are large and swollen, words you can use to describe a sex scene if you want to put a literary spin on it. I read as a sort of shield, a way of lying to myself that I’m actually working on my writing by seeing what other people have written. I tell myself that I’m contributing to society by reading books, by slowly eating my way through them the way I’d want someone to devour something, anything, that I wrote.
I write here because I don’t have anyone to write letters to. If I could have any little thing right now, I think I would choose to have someone with whom to exchange letters, someone with whom I could exchange book reviews and scraps of poetry, postcards and drafts of short stories. I fantasize that I will miraculously turn into a person of letters (whatever that means) simply by writing this nonexistent writer friend of mine over and over again for decades on end. In my mind, this person is someone whose brilliance is underestimated, someone whose work I would read with delight, exclaiming over all the sections in which I could see myself.
It’s silly, isn’t it? To wish for someone to write letters to when no one writes letters anymore. We blog. We text. We email every now and then when we can’t get away with sending a series of texts. But we hardly ever, practically never, get out a piece of paper and a pen and sit down and write someone a letter. It used to be that I could recognize my friends’ handwriting. Now I rarely know what any of their handwriting looks like. If I close my eyes, I can still recall Amy’s bubbly letters, Christina’s blocky text, Ethan’s messy script. I’m not in touch with any of them anymore, but I still remember the way their writing looked on a page.
When I hold a pen now, my hand cramps up. I have been unused to writing by hand, everything being letters on a screen. But on this humid day, I want nothing more than to go down to the end of the driveway and look into my box and find a letter from a friend. I want to curl up in front of the air conditioner with a glass of sweet tea and savour each paragraph that my friend wrote. Alas, no friends of mine write letters. The box, when I checked it, was full of junk mail and magazines, and I remain very much not a lady of letters.