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Tim Peters: A Sentimental Correspondence

September 7, 2011

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A literary infographic on love, travel, and When Harry Met Sally….

By **Tim Peters**

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For best viewing, click here to download the “A Sentimental Correspondence” PDF.

For easier reading, we have included the full text below:

A Sentimental Correspondence

I met K. in an English class Spring semester of sophomore year. It was 2006.

The class was a seminar on Gothic Fiction. It took place in a windowless room deep in the English building and was taught by a bearded old professor who would nervously clear his throat, run his fingers along the edge of the conference table, and then tilt backwards in his chair.

The first time I ever saw K., however, was in a Formal Logic class that same semester. She was in the course for a day and then dropped it, but that first Monday I arrived late and the only open seat was next to a pretty, slim, dark-haired girl, who I later learned was K.

I sat next to her and the lecture, which was also given by a bearded old professor and was also quite tedious, made her nod off and then fall asleep. She lightly snored at one point, which caused the professor to glance at her and squint with disapproval.

Several weeks went by in this English seminar before K. and I were able to speak or have any meaningful interaction. She always sat next to the same quiet, skinny boy with curly hair, who I coincidentally also had a Creative Writing class with that semester.

One day, K. and this boy, whose name was B., approached me together and asked if I wanted to contribute to the English and Rhetoric Club newsletter, which they were editing.

I was happy to do so and was also happy to have met both K. and B., who seemed much more lively, thoughtful, and stylishly dressed than the majority of my classmates.

Spring Break came and I learned that I had won a scholarship to study abroad in China for one month that summer. It was a group program led by a professor from the university and all the chosen students received the same, all-expenses-paid award.

This study abroad program was called “Learning About China” and we were going to meet on several Saturdays throughout April and May to get to know each other and to prepare for the trip.

The first Saturday meeting, I was in the classroom talking with some of the other kids when both K. and B. walked in—standing next to each other as always with a little space in-between like birds on a power line.

Both of them had won a scholarship for Learning About China.

That afternoon, once the class was over, K., B., and I got lunch at a Korean restaurant. We had a nice conversation and were on the same wavelength with how we felt about the English department (not very highly) and why we were studying abroad (to get away from Illinois).

I invited both of them to a rather large party that was going on at my house that night. They came and, while we hid out in my bedroom most of the time, we enjoyed ourselves and drank plenty and listened to a lot of music both on my computer and on my record player.

I was sexually attracted to K., but it was hardly just physical. She was at the time the most interesting and smartest and wittiest girl I had met. She liked “The Simpsons.” She liked to travel. She liked art house cinema and long, dense novels. And yet she didn’t resent her femininity the way other smart girls I knew often did.

I convinced her to sleep in my bedroom that night, even though her apartment and B.’s apartment were only a couple of blocks away.

However, her relationship with B. baffled me. They were always around each other, always did everything together, and yet they never showed affection for each other, never touched, never kissed.

The writing class that B. and I had together that semester was a very uninspiring and exasperating Creative Non-Fiction workshop taught by a grad student.

In the first story he submitted, B. revealed that his dad had committed suicide when he was a boy. In that same essay he mentioned having sex in the shower with his girlfriend, who I knew had to be K.

I liked B. quite a bit and felt like we were becoming friends. As such, without really having to try, I found myself being respectful of his relationship with K. and didn’t try to intrude or usurp or sneak my way into anything.

* * *

So, the semester ended and we were leaving for China in one week.

I was relieved to be done with the school year and to have nice weather again, as I had felt particularly glum and apathetic that semester.

My classes had been interesting and challenging… but there just felt something very empty and absurd about the whole process of reading books and writing papers and taking exams, where it felt like a very codified and silly game and not something in any way real or exciting. As a consequence I felt numb, frustrated, bored, but at the same time I was too scared to rebel or drop out or do anything but just keep going along with it.

So, this trip to China was going to be my first time outside the United States and the first time traveling without my family.

Every day was scheduled and organized, with classes in the morning taught by Chinese professors and then excursions to downtown Shanghai in the afternoon.

B., K., and I formed sort of a clique and we would go for walks together or go to cafes and sit and write and chat.

I remember one day I was in the bathroom of my hotel room—we were all staying in a campus hotel—and the bathroom door was open and the hallway door was slightly open, too.

I was getting ready to go out and wanted to use my electric shaver and trim the top of my chest hair that was protruding from my shirt.

I ran into the bathroom and was trimming this chest hair when I noticed someone passing by in the hallway, which I could see in the reflection of the mirror.

That person was being a snoop and looked into my room and then into the bathroom and made eye contact with me as I was holding this electric shaver to my chest.

That person in the hallway was K., and as she walked away and I realized what had happened I shouted an indignant and playful, “Hey!” and she laughed and ran into her room and shut the door.

* * *

As the four-week trip was coming to an end, K., B., and I were making plans to meet up in the summer. B. lived in the suburbs of Chicago like I did, and K. lived downstate in the cornfields.

I got to sit next to K. on the thirteen-hour, non-stop plane ride home. At one point, B. got up and walked by us on his way to the bathroom. If he ever did think of me as a usurper, or as K. as drifting away from him, he didn’t show it.

K. and I talked and talked and talked, and somewhere in our conversation I suggested we write letters to each other, as a way to keep in touch, but also as a reason to write, since both of us at that time had strong and vague aspirations to become public intellectuals someday.

K. and I exchanged several letters that summer, and met up once, along with B., at the inaugural Pitchfork music festival in Chicago.

That fall semester, K., B., and I continued spending time with each other. Sometimes I was with both of them, sometimes just with B. or K.

K. and I went for walks, we had picnics on the Quad, and she came over for lunch at my fraternity house. She was also my date for the Semi-Formal dance, during which we got terrifically drunk and had a lot of fun and after which she vomited both on the bus during the ride home and into some bushes along the sidewalk after getting off the bus.

I convinced her to sleep in my bedroom that night, even though her apartment and B.’s apartment were only a couple of blocks away.

I didn’t have any definite sexual intentions that night with regards to K., but I had surely fantasized about things, emotionally messy as it all would have been.

So, not wanting to diminish the possibilities for anything, I led K. to my room, where she promptly lied down on my couch, fell asleep, and that was that.

B. called me that night soon after K. had gone to bed to say that he had had a terrible dream—a dream about what he didn’t say—and wanted to make sure that K. was OK. I said that she was fine and I went to bed.

* * *

At that time, B. and K. were both seniors and I was a junior. I was leaving to spend all of spring semester studying abroad in Granada, Spain.

Before I left, K. said she wanted to visit me for Spring Break, which I readily agreed to.

She planned her trip and came to Spain in late March to spend four days with me.

We hiked in the olive groves behind the Alhambra. We went to a beach on the Mediterranean. We went out to clubs and sat in cafes and ate picnics in the shade.

I once again had vague sexual hopes with regards to K., but didn’t get pushy with anything.

As she was getting on her bus to go back to Madrid and then the U.S., I got choked up as we hugged and said goodbye.

I was and still am incompetent at showing my emotions, and am in general a cold and abrasive and overly-critical person, but I really cared for K. and was touched that she would come to Europe to visit me, and I think my quivering voice gave that away as we departed.

* * *

K. and B. graduated and applied to teach English in Japan. K. was accepted but B. was not, and instead found a job in South Korea.

I saw both of them a couple of times the summer before they left, the summer before my senior year.

Soon after they moved away, B. wrote me a letter and said that he and K. had broken up.

I quickly wrote him back a long letter, telling him that I hoped this wasn’t going to be a moment of death for him, but that he would pick himself up and start something new in Seoul.

B. never responded to that letter. He said he was going to, and then I didn’t hear back from him for a year until he returned to the U.S. I found his silence to be painfully disappointing.

K. and I, on the other hand, continued writing generously lengthy letters to each other.

She quickly met and began dating a Frenchman who, from her description, sounded like the perfect opposite of B.

Where B. was shy and bookish, this Frenchman was gregarious and shallow.

I was not dating anyone at the time and not going out much either and I felt very jealous of K.’s new boyfriend.

She called me once she returned to Japan and said that she knew something was wrong and that I was probably feeling hurt.

For Valentine’s Day—and February is always my most morose and doleful month—I sent an elaborate valentine to K. that was a copy of the valentine Ralph Wiggum very pathetically and desperately gave to Lisa Simpson to try and impress her.

K. continued writing and replying to me but did not acknowledge these gestures of mine that felt to me like they were obviously romantic.

The spring of 2008 came to an end, I graduated and won a grant to teach in Argentina for a year, and K. was coming back to the U.S. to visit for two weeks.

I still was not dating anyone and now felt even more desire for K. And I felt that her relationship with the Frenchman was a travesty of what kind of person she wanted to become in life, or what kind of romantic relationship was most fitting for her.

Thinking about K. and coming up with prescriptions of how she should live her life and coming up with condemnations of what she’s done wrong was my most frequent and enjoyable hobby at the time.

And because I never actually saw the real K. and didn’t talk to her on the phone in those days, I could just speculate and speculate and speculate, and play with my ideal hypothetical version of her life the way a child plays with a doll.

K. came back to Illinois and I drove to her home downstate and then to Champaign to spend a day together. It did not go well.

First, when I was walking up to her parents’ house, her little brother began sarcastically shouting at me from behind the screen door, “Stranger Danger! Stranger Danger!”

As I was driving to her hometown, I kept imagining seeing K. again for the first time in a year and embracing her and hugging her and airing out a lot of tightly-sealed emotions.

When we did see each other again, it was in her kitchen, in the presence of her mother.

I felt stifled, K. probably felt stifled, and we just sterilely and calmly hugged one another.

As we were walking down her front lawn and to my car, I wanted to do nothing more than reach out to her, to put my arm around her, squeeze her, tell her how good it was to see her.

And sure, there would have been latent sexuality in such a gesture, but I would have meant it out of grateful friendship more than anything romantic.

But I couldn’t. I couldn’t reach out, couldn’t say anything, couldn’t get a spark with which to light up any emotion.

We got dinner in Champaign and I became curt and arrogant with K., at one point going on and on about Moby-Dick, which I had just read and which I chastised K. for not having read despite her having been an English major.

We departed the next day, and then the Frenchman came to town.

K. asked if I wanted to meet with them in Chicago, but I didn’t want to and said no. I asked her a couple of days later, and just before she was returning to Japan, if she wanted to visit me at my parents’ house in my hometown. She said she wouldn’t have enough time.

I was devastated by all of this, by how short and frustrated our visit was, by this Frenchman coming here and taking up some of K.’s precious time back home, by her not putting in much effort to visit me.

She called me once she returned to Japan and said that she knew something was wrong and that I was probably feeling hurt.

As we talked on the phone I became very emotional and upset and told her that I loved her, which I suppose at the time I meant in a somewhat Platonic way, but that was probably the easier interpretation for both of us to make of such a loaded statement.

K. tried to calm me down and said she hadn’t known how strongly I felt and that, from then on, she would know, and our friendship would be much better.

We continued writing letters as I lived at my parents’ house and saved money for my trip to South America.

B. returned home for a few months then and we spent time together and resumed our friendship. We never spoke of K.

B. had begun dating a South Korean girl and was going to return to Seoul to teach once again as I was leaving for Argentina.

That Christmas of 2008, I made a gift for K. It was an illustration of her sitting on rocks along the ocean, with a book in her lap and stacks of other books around her.

The books were all heavy, canonical, world literature stuff that I would, in an ideal life, be reading all the time and that I assumed K., in my version of her ideal life, would also be reading all the time.

I based the illustration on a photo I took of her along the Mediterranean, and I based the scene of a girl surrounded by stacks of books from the cover of Roald Dahl’s Matilda.

I sent the drawing to K. as a gift, and also as an attack at her Frenchman boyfriend, who I knew was buying her expensive things for holidays and who I assumed was a philistine incapable of the sensitive artistic syntheses of which I was capable.

K. received the gift and said she loved it. It was followed a couple of days later by a letter I wrote her in which I accused her of being an indulgent and lazy American, and of freeriding the English language and not adequately participating in the Japanese society she was living in.

She didn’t like that at all, and the good will I had earned from the drawing was immediately poisoned by what I wrote in that venomous little paragraph.

* * *

Before I left for Argentina, I spent a month in Montreal to study French and to travel. I wrote a letter to K. and wrote part of it in French, a language she had studied in college. I did so to show off what I was learning and to take another stab at her boyfriend.

I know I did care very much for K. and that there was something special between us, but it was like the closer I got to her the more entitled I felt to jerk her around…

In that letter, I said that maybe getting upset with each other sometimes can be a good thing and that being competitive can bring out the best in us.

K. wrote back, also partly in French, and said that she wants to be my friend and not a competitor. When I read that I brushed it aside and reassured myself by thinking something like, “Oh, she doesn’t know what she really wants.”

* * *

I returned home for a couple weeks in order to get ready for Argentina and for what felt like the beginning of something momentous in my life.

I wrote a letter to K. the night before I left. It was surely the first time in my life that I cried while writing something.

The letter was just one sheet of paper, front and back. It was the shortest thing I had written her but I wanted it to be the most important, the most sincere.

In that letter I tried to listen to what K. had been telling me, to hear her when she said she didn’t want to compete with me, that she had good reasons for the life she was living in Japan with her French boyfriend, and that if I’m going to be her friend I need to be a lot nicer and a lot more sympathetic with her.

I think for those fifteen minutes or so while writing that letter, I was being sympathetic and considerate and generous, and it was very painful for me to do so. It felt like I was having to jump out of my boat—the boat being my comfortable little dinghy of everyday selfishness—and swim out into the ocean of feeling and openness and empathy.

K. very much liked that letter and said she felt like a burden had been lifted. In hindsight, I think I immediately swam right back for my dinghy, climbed aboard, and resumed the proud and aloof position from before. I wasn’t ready to be out drifting in those waves of generosity and sacrifice and love.

K. soon moved to France with her boyfriend and we continued writing, often using email, as the mail delivery between France and Argentina was slow.

I was reading some Kurt Vonnegut at the time and in one piece about science fiction writers he said, “They meet often, comfort and praise one another, exchange single-spaced letters of 20 pages and more, booze it up affectionately and one way or another have a million heart-throbs and laughs.”

All I saw in that sentence was the part about the “letters of 20 pages and more.” Just reading a description of such a thing made it suddenly a possibility for me to aspire to.

At the time I was also discovering David Foster Wallace and was very caught up with his writing, which was both about trying to escape from the prison of one’s own mind, and also about writing in a furiously complex and long-winded way.

So I began writing longer letters to K., partly to see if I had it in me to do so and to push myself harder, partly to continue trying to impress her with how talented I thought myself to be.

I did have some romantic luck at the end of my time in Argentina, but I didn’t forget K. Writing to her made my Argentine girlfriend S. jealous, so I wrote to K. in secret.

Right before I left Argentina, I wrote K. by hand an exhaustive, so-what-did-this-experience-all-mean-to-me letter that was 24 pages long. I kept it hidden inside a book so that S. wouldn’t see it until I could mail it.

K. and I also began consistently talking on Skype and chatting in Gmail. However, many of our chats or conversations would descend to bickering, to trying to prove a point or to be right about something.

And I was often just trying to arrogantly tell her about what interesting things I had just accomplished during my travels through a more economically precarious part of the world than the prosperous First World places she traveled to.

I know I did care very much for K. and that there was something special between us, but it was like the closer I got to her the more entitled I felt to jerk her around and make her feel bad in order to feel better about who I was and how I was living.

I found myself confused by our relationship. At that point, being almost two years out of college, I had seen several friendships of mine wither and fall apart.

I wondered to myself why K. kept writing back to me, since so many other people—and other people who were also aspiring writers or intellectuals—just stopped replying to my letters and emails.

K. claimed she did so out of a sense of duty for friendship, but that reason smelled to me as being over-idealistic and a gloss of what she really felt.

She didn’t seem particularly loyal to any other friends, and there were male friends of mine who in many ways were very loyal and sacrificing people, but yet just did not have it in them to keep up a written correspondence.

* * *

I came home from South America in December of 2009. I sent to K. a sort of intellectual care package, containing a letter, a few books, including two by David Foster Wallace, some arty knick knacks I picked up in Argentina, and copies of several films I’d discovered in the past year.

It was funny because I had the idea for the care package back in September or October of that year, but at that time the package seemed only to come from a very mean-spirited and manipulative corner of myself, as if I was going to send the package just to prove to her how erudite and refined my taste in things was.

I acknowledged that and felt like it would be better to send nothing than to send something spitefully, and so I forgot about it.

But then I came home, it was Christmas time, I was feeling generous, and I sent the exact same package anyway, but this time seemingly out of the noble and loving corner of myself.

K. seemed to enjoy this confession of mine, but her only response was that she was heading off to Paris for a vacation with a new French boy that she had just met.

I was leaving in late January to travel to South Africa for five weeks. Just after Christmas, I was speaking to K. on the phone and she said she wasn’t doing well and starting to feel out of sorts.

I asked if she wanted to come travel with me while I was in South Africa. She said she’d think about it.

I got to Cape Town and she said she was going to try and come. Exotic sexual visions sprouted into my head like weeds through a parking lot.

All of a sudden, however, K. began to not reply to my emails about the trip. This silence was totally unlike her and I suspected something was wrong.

She finally called me while I was at a hostel in the Karoo desert and said that she had broken up with her boyfriend, and that she still would like to come to Africa to spend time with me.

In the three years I had known K. at that point, I had never once been in her presence when she was single, when she wasn’t romantically obligated to someone else.

She was about to buy her plane ticket when I remembered this ridiculous bureaucratic rule about entering South Africa and needing two blank, facing pages in one’s passport book in order to be admitted.

I urgently emailed K. to tell her to check her passport and make sure.

She called me a few hours later, as I was visiting a national park in the desert and was at a spot called “The Point of Desolation.” She said she didn’t have enough open space in her passport book, and she couldn’t come.

K. and I spoke on the phone several days later and I very unsubtly asked why she had never thought of me as a potential boyfriend and why we couldn’t date, now that she was single.

She didn’t like that question and replied with a cutting remark to the effect that I had been part of that large pool of unqualified male losers at our university and that while I was “not ugly,” I wasn’t much better, sexual attraction-wise.

* * *

I returned to the suburbs of Chicago more obsessed with K. than ever before, and also more unsure than ever before of where my life was going or what I should be doing with myself.

K. seemed to me like the answer to that question. She could be my destination and my purpose.

She sent me in the mail a portrait that she painted of me, also based off a photo from our visit in Spain. It was the first time anyone had ever depicted me artistically.

She wrote me a David Foster Wallace-inspired Pop Quiz about our friendship, in which she restated how ambivalent she feels about me, and how often she feels turned off and frigid by the harsh, overly-critical things that I say.

I wrote K. back a much, much longer Pop Quiz of my own and basically said that, while I did have my suspicions about her motives—and was somewhat beginning to regard her as a Barbara Stanwyck femme fatale-type character, as a seductress who sinks her fangs into men and extracts what they have to offer and then disposes of their withered husks once she’s taken all there is to take—I did also feel like there was nothing else so meaningful to me in my life as my relationship with K., and that if there was one person on the planet Earth I would be willing to give myself to, to sacrifice myself for, and to get into a frighteningly indefinite long-term sexual relationship with, it would be her.

K. seemed to enjoy this confession of mine, but her only response was that she was heading off to Paris for a vacation with a new French boy that she had just met.

This made me want her even more intensely, and I wrote her more emails and drew more pictures for her and sent her another care package containing copies of Letters to a Young Poet and a sampler of David Foster Wallace writings that I edited and bound together.

That summer of 2010, as she began seeing this new Frenchman, K. and I began writing longer and longer emails to each other, some of them 8, 10, 12 single-spaced pages long.

There seemed to be some momentum to all of it. We were talking on Skype frequently. I told her, once again, that I loved her.

This time she smiled when I said it, and she eventually responded, “I love you, too.”

When I suggested she not be dating anyone else at the moment and maybe just spend more time in solitude, she became indignant and explained to me how great and rejuvenating it feels to have an orgasm and that I shouldn’t be trying to control her sex life.

At the farm, K. and I were forced to sleep together on a lumpy, concave mattress on the floor of a rustic cabin. It did not go well and involved hurt feelings and me almost being punched in the face.

She was going to come back to the U.S. to visit in August. I hadn’t seen her face-to-face in two years, and hadn’t spent more than a few hours with her in three years.

At the time, it was unclear if she was going to be able to renew her French visa, and it felt like that situation – having to leave France—was making her more open to considering some sort of possibility with me, but if she were to get her visa renewed, then she would stay with the new French boy.

K. and I were making all sorts of vague plans. To start a magazine together. To move to West Africa. I was beholden in those days to everything regarding K. and a future with her.

If she ignored an email or came late to a Skype date, I became hysterically upset.

I told anyone I could about the situation with her, and I received opposite advice from everybody. Some people told me to, “Drop it like it’s hot,” and forget about her immediately. Other people told me to buy a ticket for France and pack my bags.

I did consider that scenario of the transatlantic-drop-in, but I felt like it would not have gone well.

* * *

K. came home to visit in late July, just a couple of days after my birthday, which she had forgotten, despite having sent her a gift only a couple weeks before for her birthday and having laid on the path of our emails several obvious reminders that my birthday was approaching. I did that out of the fear that she would forget and it would be embarrassing for the both of us.

Normally, I do not care much for birthdays, but only a few weeks earlier she had written to me in an email about how sad it is when the person you most care for ignores or neglects your birthday.

So K. visited my hometown. We talked for hours and hours and hours. We went out for dinner. We cooked breakfast. We played chess and I showed her all the new Chris Ware comics I had gotten that summer. I made us watch on a laptop When Harry Met Sally… as we lied on a bed together and drank red wine.

After we finished the movie, I exasperatingly asked K. what was going to happen to us. She said she didn’t know.

She did say she had been informed that she would be able to obtain a teaching job in France for the upcoming school year and, therefore, renew her visa.

With our last couple of days, K. and I drove to Michigan to visit a professor friend of mine that I had spent time with in South Africa, as well as to visit another friend of mine that I had met in Argentina who was living on an organic farm outside Ann Arbor.

At the farm, K. and I were forced to sleep together on a lumpy, concave mattress on the floor of a rustic cabin. It did not go well and involved hurt feelings and me almost being punched in the face.

The day before, I had been telling K. about this professor friend of mine in Ann Arbor, how he was once a playwright in New York City and wrote, “Tennessee Williams-type plays about people arguing with each other in their underwear.”

K. liked that description and it made her laugh and she exclaimed, “That’s life! Arguing with people in your underwear!”

The morning after the long night on the lumpy, concave mattress I said to K. how we had had an argument in our underwear the night before.

“I wasn’t in my underwear,” she replied (she had been wearing yoga pants and a t-shirt).

K. and I then drove to the dunes along Lake Michigan and sat on the beach, hiked up the hills, and played more chess.

Our conversation was tense but still, as always, interesting and thoughtful and honest.

We were both taking many photos of one another, which to a neutral bystander probably looked like we were just a young couple admiring each other. But it was probably more out of an instinct to record something that was about to disappear.

As we were driving back to the suburbs, K. said how when she had been dating B.—who at that point in 2010 was back in Seoul and once again out not replying to my emails—B. had said that the only girl he could envision me being attracted to and dating was… K. herself.

That night I told myself it was over with her and that I better just move on with things and let my feelings dry and harden and crumble away.

The next day I brought K. to the train station and as we waited on the bench I tried to scoot close to her and put my arm around her to have a nice moment before departing.

She was repulsed and scooted away and said that, no, I couldn’t touch her.

We had a quick and bitter fight on the platform as the train was coming. She tried to hug me and I stood there without reacting. She got on-board, I turned away without saying goodbye, and I strode to my car. I got in and cried and cried and cried.

* * *

After K. left, I was reading some William Blake and one of the “Proverbs of Hell” really felt appropriate and consoling.

It was: “The busy bee has no time for sorrow.”

How many people ever write letters by hand to each other, much less lengthy and honest and thoughtful letters…?

I felt like it was either move forward and work, or sit and writhe and regret and die.

I had been trying off and on for the past year to publish and write professionally, but I had put it aside while writing so much to K. that summer.

I looked up different competitions and sent out pitches to websites and magazines.

I got my first big break in September, to write a column about being a caddie at a golf course in the suburbs, which was an idea I had described to K. at that dinner we had in Champaign during which I was ranting to her about Moby-Dick.

K. and I are still friends on Facebook, though I did take her off my Gchat. I know she would be jealous to see that I was writing this column and that I had won a modicum of professional publishing success.

K. did write me one more letter while she was still at home in Illinois, just before she flew back to France.

It was single-spaced, hand-written, and several pages long, trying to end things better than what happened on the train platform and to have a last, hopeful word about everything.

I read the letter a couple of times, and wrote K. an email saying I got it and to please not write me again. That if she is in a dire situation, she can contact me, but to not do so otherwise. That I needed to let my desire for her shrivel up and die, if possible, before we could be in touch again and resume our friendship.

At the moment, almost a year has passed since our last email. It pains me to see her status updates on Facebook, but at the same time I feel little urge to be writing to her and I do not want to begin desiring her again.

At the close of one of the last letters I wrote her, I asked if, with time, we’d end up more like Mrs. Dalloway and Peter Walsh, or Harry and Sally, or Heloise and Abelard. I said, no, we’d just be Tim and K. That’s who we’d be.

In When Harry Met Sally…, years pass between the encounters of Harry and Sally, and it’s not until they’re in their thirties that they’re romantically ready for one another.

I can’t envision my life as a thiry-something adult. I often grope through each day as if in a grim apocalyptic twilight, and I feel like I can’t look far into the future. But yet, most likely, I will someday be a middle-aged adult.

I don’t know what will become of K. and me or when, if ever, we will write each other again or see each other again. We are probably both still too eagerly and selfishly clutching to an idealized sense of who we each are right now.

If we can become less picky with life and more modest with our expectations, we would probably get along much better and be willing to look past what annoys us about the other.

Even though I have had satisfying sexual relationships with other women, they have all so far been very brief and I never felt such intense feelings for so long as what I felt for K.

At the moment, I look back at much of what happened and cringe and think that it brought out the worst in us, or me at least me, and writing letters to her was just a platform for my vanity and my competitiveness, and that she too was deviously using these letters to betray the men she was dating at the moment.

But that’s the jaded view of things. How many people ever write letters by hand to each other, much less lengthy and honest and thoughtful letters, and do so despite being continents apart and hardly ever seeing each other in person?

There’s something to that, and as I said, of the dozens of correspondences I’ve tried to start with various males and females, K. is the only person who kept writing back to me, and writing back with passion and persistence.

Though I’m reluctant to admit it because I’m still resentful about what happened, I know that I was very lucky and blessed to have met K. and that what we did with all those letters was special and rare and worth remembering.

And perhaps, contrary to what I may feel at the moment, that our four years of writing was maybe just the first chapter in something much longer and much greater.

________________________________________________________________________

Tim Peters is a columnist for McSweeney’s Internet Tendency and was a Fulbright fellow in Argentina, in 2009. His work has appeared in The Point Magazine, and at The Rumpus, Inside Higher Ed, and the PBS NewsHour online. He is currently writing a novel composed of infographics, other chapters of which can be found at his website.

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