writing exercise #25: a letter, a room

Prompt: Write a letter and in it, describe a room.

Dearest,

Strange to write a letter. Even figuring out the correct salutation stumped me for a solid 10 minutes.

If I were using the chat, I’d just say, “Hey,” and launch immediately into whatever stunningly interesting thing – “The maintenance guy just stopped in to check the sprinkler system and when he climbed up on the ladder, dude! His crotch was eye-level and oh, wow, who would have thought he had such a package? I’ll never be able to look him in the eye again!”

If I were on Facebook, I’d just post something funny on your timeline. A video of walrus babies or an excerpt from SNL. I wouldn’t need to add something about the link because you would know. You would know.

If I could text you, I’d just tell Siri to say, “Miss you love you so fun here but miss you.” And she’d probably translate it to, “Mission you of fun rarebit miss you,” and then I’d yell at her, I mean, it, and stop to type it all out myself, adding a smiley face to cover my annoyance, even though you’d have no clue I was annoyed. And then I’d regret not sending you Siri’s version, because it would have made you laugh.

But here I am, hundreds of miles from you and at least 12 from any sort of wifi. If it were 10, maybe I’d hike to the café, trudge along the river bar, lug the laptop up the trail through the redwoods, order a grilled cheese (on sourdough, natch) and Skype you up. But 12 seems too much. Which is the point. I’m supposed to be experiencing “away.” To disconnect.

But you remain on my mind, of course, and so here I am, writing you an actual letter. I’ll have to beg a stamp from the visitor center and I’m still unsure how to find your zip code, but at least I know the house number and street. 1234 Huckleberry. Good thing we joked about it so often. The numbers, so simple, like a sample address, one you’d see on an online form, where they’re showing you, “Here, put your address here.” And “Huckleberry”? Neither of us had ever seen a huckleberry bush – I didn’t even know huckleberries grew on bushes until I arrived here and on the table was a laminated brochure of local flora and fauna and, hey, huckleberries! I’m too late, though. They peaked last month, according to the ranger.

God, I love your house. The afternoon light slanting in the windows. The stone floors with the radiant heat. The built-in shelves and a kitchen so functional I constantly marveled at the designer’s ability to predict exactly what I would need exactly when and have it there waiting. Cooking dinner at my own place never satisfied afterwards.

But the library, that’s what I loved best. Who has a library? A person who would appreciate the novelty of a letter, I suppose – will you even think to check the mail? Do people still check the mail? Oh, I could spend hours in that room. Days. The rest of my life. The books, obviously. Your taste and mine overlap like those circles you learn about in school (I remember the circles, but not what they are called). You have more nonfiction than I care to read, a little heavy on the conspiracy theories and what I think of as outdated politics, but your taste in fiction thrills me. You are not afraid to let Ann Patchett and Thomas Pynchon share a shelf. You have all the Harry Potters and also Haruki Murakami, an incomplete collection since you mostly purchase used. The Bone People, one I couldn’t stop reading, odd and disturbing and different, next to Gilbert Grape, which I also couldn’t stop reading, less odd, perfectly disconcerting and scarily relatable. And here I am, falling back on adverbs and adjectives, the sluts of the English language you used to say before I scolded you for slut-shaming. But the point is, all four walls, floor-to-ceiling with books. Here I am in a cabin, also four walls, but the only reading material the aforementioned brochure, a Sibley guide to birds and a history of the local native peoples.

Instead of books, I have windows. The wall facing the river is almost all glass, a sliding door flanked by full-length windows on either side. The two walls on either side are also mostly glass, although lesser windows interspersed with wood planks. Framed photos of the river hang between the windows – you can see the theme here. Oh, and the northerly wall has a bathroom door. Happily, being away and disconnected does not require sacrificing modern plumbing.

The fourth wall is the kitchen area. Fridge, sink, stove, counter. Pretty basic.  The website – and I am rather surprised I was able to book online given the lack of wifi, but perhaps they have a secret, guarded source in the visitor center – promised “cooking utensils, pots and pans provided,” but these people have clearly never heard of Calphalon cookware. I have one wooden spoon, one metal spatula, one badly scarred two-quart pot and a non-stick skillet so wounded with scratches that it screams “Use me, get cancer!”

I know, I know, I’m a snob. But one must have standards when it comes to food. And sex. And literature. I know you feel the same, which is why I… like you.

In the center of the cabin is the futon. I flatten it at night, but return it to the couch position during the day. Why, I don’t know. It’s not like I’m expecting guests. I could leave it as a bed, but some part of me – the part with tendencies toward OCD – demands I differentiate between the cabin as nighttime bedroom and daytime living room. And so I pull off the red plaid comforter – I’m sure I’ve seen this in your LL Bean catalog – and fold up the matching flannel sheets. Without them, the futon is simply green, a forest green, of course, against dark wood, not redwood, maybe not real wood, actually, now that I look closely, but darkish and pretty all the same.

The coffee and end table are definitely redwood, matched and solid, sporting, respectively, the books and brochure, and a lamp that gives off exactly not quite enough light to read by.

I miss you.

Perhaps I’ll be home by the time this letter arrives at your house. I have no idea how long mail takes. Have I ever mailed a letter? Thank yous to the grandparents when I was a child, I suppose, but as an adult? I can’t think of a time.

The floor here is also wood, with well-tread area rugs, a green one and one of colors braided together into a collage predominantly blue.

I’ve set a bottle of whisky – Redemption, of course, the one we share, the reason I’m here – on the end table, but I’ve yet to take a drink. The sunset makes the amber glow. I wonder if I’ll sleep tonight. It’s a different kind of alone here, no mindless online browsing, just a couple books to keep my mind from thoughts of you. Except books remind me of you. I want to text you every perfect sentence I happen upon.

Writing by hand tires me. My fingers ache and I hate that I can’t go back and edit cleanly. Given the option, I’d always erase the cheesy parts. I might not even start with “Dearest.” You are, of course, but it’s silly to say so now, from here, this place you’ve sent me in hopes distance would be enough.

It’s not, not yet.

But by the time you get this letter, things will have changed. Who knows? Perhaps I’ll have moved on to skipping rocks at river’s edge, free of worry, free of words, pleased to count the number of times the perfect stone bounces across the water before sinking.

Love,

Me

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