There is something quite beautiful about a love letter. The outpourings of one person’s heart for another, captured in fragile script, scrawled nervously across the page.
A love letter is precious. The vulnerability of the writer that just aches on paper. You can’t do this with a text or an email. Or a dick pic. A proper love letter has to be handwritten on paper, and then delivered mysteriously.
I once found a love letter by accident. It was years after a relationship had finished. Wedged in the pages of a book I’d borrowed from him and never returned was this exquisite letter written for me that only found its way to me long after the writer had left. At least I assume it was written for me. It was addressed to ‘Maggie’ but I think that was just his dyslexia.
I remember the first love letter I ever received. ‘My name is William Sommerfeld. I wear white. I have seen you on the bus. If you don’t go with me you can get fucked.’ I was 11 years old. I didn’t know William Sommerfeld but I had seen a long-haired boy in white t-shirt and shorts riding up beside the bus on his purple dragster. Once when he licked his lips at me I shook my head at him in disgust, he gave me the finger. A boy had never done that to me before. I was affronted. I had no idea that this was his way of saying ‘I like you. I really like you. Enough to write a note.’
That clearly was William Sommerfeld. The first boy who bothered to pen me a love letter. I wondered where he wanted to go with me? I couldn’t imagine it would be anywhere very good. We lived in a dusty country town in regional Queensland. Where could we go? The creek? The servo? The abandoned cheese factory? I could barely imagine what would happen to a girl who went to a place like that with a boy called William Sommerfeld. I didn’t get the feeling that he’d want to watch the clouds, or talk about Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre (which I must have read eight times by then), nor was I going to show him the secret spot deep in the bush that I had found, with the most incredible clay deposit. I didn’t think he’d be interested in dangling his feet in the cool water, kicking out at the yabbies as we chatted and made clay pots. I didn’t want to go anywhere with William Sommerfeld – so I took up his last option and got fucked.
Even at 11 I found this a rather threatening way to win my heart. I was a deep-thinking strangely complex girl who lived in a fantasy world where I quietly pondered a life that existed beyond my stale surrounds. He was the first of many disappointments in love. Although I liked his name. William Sommerfeld just seemed like the kind of character name I read in my books. It fitted well with the misanthropes I was already attracted to at 11. Men like Mr Rochester and Heathcliff.
That’s what happens I guess when you have a violent alcoholic father who ends up dead. It gives you a taste for the gothic. If William truly loved me he would have fought for me. He didn’t. He just spent a good week writing rude things about me on the back of my bus and flipping me the bird.
In the end his letter-writing skills finally won him a girlfriend. I know because when he was riding past my bus giving me the finger there was a girl wedged on his dragster joining in. How romantic, the two of them bound together by their mutual hatred of me!
Sadly I lost my favourite letter. It was from a Greek boy who spoke English as a second language. It was full of spelling errors but it was wildly erotic and clear that he’d been reading Anais Nin. He described every part of my body with ecstatic longing and detail. Including my nose, about which he said something about how ‘I could launch ships’.
I couldn’t stop laughing. In his attempt to flatter me with metaphors he’d told me I had a big nose. I kind of loved that most of all. One of my now-dead boyfriends once sent me a postcard that read: ‘Weather is Here Wish You were Beautiful’. I loved that too. I won’t tell you how he died. But it was an ‘accident’.
Thursday is Valentine’s Day. Don’t buy flowers or chocolate. Do something incredibly beautiful and amazing. Write someone you adore a love letter. It doesn’t have to be romantic. It could be for a friend, or a lonely old lady in your street. It might be your child, or your mother. It might be your partner. Or perhaps your secret love. It costs nothing but your time. Just grab a pen and write. Happy Valentine’s Day.