We were probably in a car, at least that’s how I remember it. It was probably 2007, although I could be off on that as well. I don’t so much have a memory as the memory of a memory.
“Sarah” and I were in my car, probably driving back to our apartment on Pleasant St. She had just read a piece I wrote about “the album of my life”; about Warren Zevon’s “The Wind” and about a girl named “Ashley” (who I knew before Sarah). Sarah was a little upset, not because of me writing about another girl, because a partner’s past is just something you have to deal with, but because I never wrote anything like that about her.
Sarah had a point. At that point we had been together for a couple of years and things were going well. But I never wrote about her. I never wrote about the good times, the new feelings, the milestones. I told her I only tend to write about things when I’m sad and needed to get things out and that she made me feel good. It was the truth, and also a good line.
Writing to girlfriends, ex-girlfriends, and the girls I never got to date didn’t start with Ashley, however. The first girl I “dated”, if you can call a relationship in high school dating, was “Wendy”. I don’t remember what year we met, but I do remember she was a couple years below me. We didn’t have cell phones, we couldn’t text and talk until all hours in the morning. What we had was instant messaging programs (ICQ and MSN Messenger) … and notes.
It’s been more than fifteen years at this point since I dated Wendy, so I don’t remember the contents of any of those notes. I remember writing some terrible poetry, but I don’t quite remember what it was (another memory of a memory). But the fact was, even for a while after we broke up, I held on to those notes. They were something I kept, not because of wanting Wendy back or missing her, but they were something physical, something to let go of. Eventually I did let go of those notes. They were burned, not because they deserved to be burned, but because it was a fitting way to close a chapter.
I eventually wrote about Sarah. I handwrote something to her comparing life to football (it was something my Dad had said) and how there are a few moments in life that make an outsize impact on our lives as a whole and how meeting her was one of those moments that had a huge impact on my life. I’m sure there was also some flowery shit in there as well.
I write for a couple of reasons. I write because sometimes there are just thoughts and emotions I have to get out of my head. Towards the end of my relationship with Sarah, it seemed like I was writing constantly, typing pieces to her that she no longer had an interest in reading. I was trying to communicate feelings I was unable to speak aloud, to try and give a shot of adrenaline to a relationship that was flatlining.
Obviously, my efforts didn’t work (looking back, I’m glad). I found the handwritten piece a while after I moved into my house and couldn’t bring myself to read it. It didn’t get a funeral pyre, it just got the shredder. The other pieces, ones I’ve found on my computer or on random flash drives were all typed. They’ve been deleted as soon as I can find them, but putting a file in the recycle bin isn’t nearly as satisfying and symbolic as burning something.
The other reason I like to write is because I love the way I weave words. I feel like I can write (or type) a thought in a manner that is way more powerful than if I were to try to verbally articulate what is going on in my head.
The new woman (I suppose at my age “woman” sounds better than “girl”, although I like saying “girl” more), “Marie”, and I have only been dating for a few weeks. It could be a flash in the plan, or it could be a raging fire (you know, one of the good ones). I’m trying to say to her directly more of what I think, but there are moments where I find it hard because, well, intelligent, pretty, silly women that have a thing for me leave me tongue-tied.
The thing is, any of our “notes” are now all digital. Whether it be the e-mails where we were first getting to know each other and figuring out if we wanted to actually meet or the texts we’ve sent back and forth, everything exists only the memory of a computer or a phone.
What troubles me, even though it shouldn’t, is that I could drop my phone into a puddle of water tomorrow and I could lose our entire text conversation. It might eventually mean nothing and I may end up deleting it myself, but that’s a call I want to make. I want to be able to decide whether I should cherish my old love notes or burn them off the face of the earth until all that’s left is a memory of a memory.