While rummaging around the basement a few days ago, I found myself wrist-deep in the contents of a dusty old suitcase that hadn’t been opened for quite some time. It was the smallest and only surviving case in a three-piece set of Amelia Earhart luggage my parents bought for me when I set off to college in September 1948. You wouldn’t want to use it as a suitcase these days. It’s heavy (for its size) and has no roller wheels. But it has remained useful over the years as a sort of storage box.
Indeed, when I managed to pry its two closures open, it was jammed full of yellowing correspondence from the time when people sent each other real letters on real paper — sometimes even handwritten — which were then folded into real envelopes with postage stamps on them. These were letters that took at least two or three days to reach their destination, and sometimes longer. You had to be patient. Or else pace impatiently, until the mailman arrived.
We may revisit the interesting question of why I hang on to all this stuff in another post, after I’ve figured it out myself. However, this post is not about that. It’s about the folded piece of paper on top of one of the bundles of letters in the suitcase. The rubber band holding the bundle together had dried out and it snapped when I picked up the bundle. The top piece of paper slipped to the floor. It was just asking to be read! How could I not unfold it and take it over to a good light?
Long story short, it was a plea/demand straight from the gonads — its author being a young man I had met and in due time kissed, again and again, during the previous summer. Unfortunately, he was now in a college twenty-five hours away from mine by train, racked by uncertainty as to my feelings. He wasn’t quite as young as I was, but nearly — and was definitely hotter to trot. (At least when writing about it.) Apparently, I was taking my time — too much time, as he saw it — in committing the degree of my desire to paper.
Having just reread his typed expression of angst for the first time in nearly sixty-six years, I like it much more than I did when I first received it. I even now like the not-so-surreptitious suggestion that I was being a bitch. [“Bright EYE WET nose can be taught all manner of tricks”] I probably was. I sobbed at parting in Grand Central Station, but otherwise would go just so far, and no farther.
Nonetheless, I must have liked it enough, despite the jab, for him soon to become an important person in my early life, the one referred to elsewhere in this blog as “first serious boyfriend.” And I like it so much now I thought other people might like to read it too. I know he wouldn’t mind, if he were still alive. He’d smile. Maybe you will, too.
[Note: I’d re-type it to make it easier for you to read, but I can’t reproduce the e.e. cummings style without a typewriter roller, and I no longer have a typewriter — not even in my rat pack basement.]
[Second note: although e.e. cummings was cutting-edge stuff to the 1948 college crowd, his poetic style, emulated here, may not have aged well. On the other hand, the feelings expressed have no pull date. Some kinds of H-U-R-TZ never go away.]