Friday, September 26, 2014

Short Story: Love Letter



Once a week I leave him a love letter. I drop it on the porch, right in the middle of the shit-colored rug that rests before the door. The envelope is embroidered with flowers and sealed with a kiss, the mark of my lips visible like the imprint of a fossil. I use my wife’s lipstick, some ruby-red stuff she hardly ever wears. I don’t think she notices. At least, she’s never said anything about it.
            I take a lot of time writing the letters, even though they’re only about two-hundred words or so. I try to keep it brief but poignant, like I have a lot of things on my mind, which I do. I try to copy my daughter’s handwriting, which is flowing and full of loops and cartwheels of the pen. She’s a teenage girl, and she’s gotten into writing letters to her friends. Some fad, I guess. My own natural style is messy and a barely legible, the scrawl of an illiterate ape, or so my wife has always said. She has trouble reading anything I’ve written, even after twenty years of marriage. To be fair, my writing is pretty terrible. Every grade school teacher I ever had chided me to work on my penmanship. Most people don’t care if your handwriting is bad. No one writes letters anymore. It’s a lost art.
            Kevin is his name. He works at a buffet five days a week, feeding the local wildlife as they saunter in, heaping great piles of mashed potatoes and spaghetti on their plates. “Put a little more gravy on it,” they ask him, and Kevin complies. I imagine the gravy boat gets refilled every ten minutes. There’s probably some guy whose entire job consists of monitoring the gravy level. It’s not that special, the gravy. I would only put it on the mashed potatoes they offer to cover up the taste. It’s vomit-colored and runny, like it just came out of someone’s nose. My wife says I have a special way of looking at things. I tell her I just call them like I see them.
            I’m watching behind a headstone as Kevin steps out of his house and picks up my letter. The joy on his wan face is palpable. He’s pale and alabaster-skinned like a creature living in a cave. The porch on which he stands is liable to collapse at any minute. The whole place, which he shares with his brothers, should be condemned. Kevin never opens the letters outside. He stares at them for a while like he’s trying to guess the contents, trying to read the mind of the writer and feel what she’s thinking. He runs his fingers along the imprint of the kiss, long skeletal fingers of bone. I guess he’s about twenty-eight or so. I don’t know that much about him.
            I met this girl yesterday coming out of a movie. She had on a green dress and black tights, and her hair was tied loosely in a bun, and her eyes were green and livid like she’d punch you or screw you if you said the right word. She saw me staring at her, and we locked eyes for a second and it was just like the movies, we just stared and stared at each other, trying to read one another’s minds. I went over and introduced myself, told her that I owned that bar right there on the corner, and would she like to have a drink? This is like at three-thirty in the afternoon. When I see movies, I see the matinee.
            So she agrees, and we go over to my bar, which is actually my cousin’s place, but for all intents and purposes, it doesn’t matter. She drinks a whiskey and a coke, and I have a couple beers, and pretty soon we’ve hit it off, like I knew we would the minute I saw her. There’s a certain excitement you receive from meeting a person for the first time that’s unrepeatable. Energy is exchanged, bright, fresh energy, vivid like primary colors, greens, blues, and reds. There isn’t any brown in it, none of the normal dullness of life. I don’t even remember what we talked about. An hour later we were fucking at her apartment. She just pulled down the tights and we went at it like a bunch of teenagers, knocking shit over and moaning. Afterwards, she wanted to go out again, but I didn’t feel like it. I never feel like it.
            This Kevin guy, I don’t ever think he’s had a date. I think he’s an actual virgin. He’s my son’s age, and they used to be friends, until my son grew up and moved away. I don’t hear much from him, my son. But Kevin I see everyday. I see him walking home from work, moving at a sloth’s pace, his eyes on the ground, counting the cracks in the sidewalk. Sometimes I want to honk my horn at him just to see if I’d get any reaction. My son used to tell me that he’d go to the store and buy a sack of potatoes and that’s what he’d eat for the rest of the month, baked potatoes. Can you imagine eating a baked potato every single day for the rest of your life? Maybe after a while it’d be like taking a shit or walking to work. Another check on the list, so to speak. I don’t know, though.
            I sign the letters “Ao” which is Japanese for green. This stems from something my son said about Kevin being in love with Japan. When I write I try to think what a teenage Japanese girl would write. I don’t know much about Japan, but I’ve learned a lot since I’ve started writing these letters. I try to keep the word romance in mind. That’s what people want, I think, from a relationship. They want to replicate that initial exchange of energies. It’s romantic to think that such an exchange can happen over again with the same person, but what the hell, I want to believe. I want Kevin to believe. I want him to find some color in his life.
            The headstones extend a good mile or two before his house. It’s an old, sunken graveyard, a place dredged up from the depths of time, filled with monuments to the past and decaying bones. I walk through it for a good while after dropping off the letters. You’d be surprised how many people leave flowers on old tombstones. There are more than you’d think.

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