When I emptied the mailbox Friday I immediately recognized the handwriting (the stamp from Spain was a bit of a giveaway also) and instantly I became curious as to why Nath would send me a letter. Making my way up to my apartment apprehension started kicking in and by the time I was inside the letter had become some sort of explosive device. Be extremely cautious. Open only in a secure environment. In the end the rational in me decided that a) Had she wanted to harm me she would do it face to face, b) There was no ticking sound and c) Only upon reading I would know its content. So I opened it.
Never ever will I regret receiving this letter. In fact it rendered me speechless for a day and I still have trouble finding words (even on a keyboard).
In a PS she wrote “I know you’ll want to write about this letter on your blog or on FB and you have my permission to do so. If you want to use the entire letter or just extracts don’t hesitate. If you don’t want to use it that would be your choice also. I know that either way you will protect me beyond a point I need protection from.”
So in a time of e-mails and text messages my partner in love went ‘old school’ on me and send me a handwritten love letter. I could describe its content as I would have done had she not given me permission to use it but I do not think I could do it justice that way. So I (tried to) translate(d) parts of it. Not only for you to read but also for myself to understand her words even better. So here goes….
You are probably unaware but August 21st marks the 30th anniversary of the first day we spoke. I know you won’t feel guilty about not remembering the date but to be honest I didn’t either until I read some old diaries a few months ago. Ever since, I have been thinking about a way to celebrate this, what turned out to be monumental, day in our lives. In the end I decided to write this letter and for the last couple of weeks I have been working on it. Deciding to go to Spain this week wasn’t part of the plan but in a way it strengthens the power of this letter. And on top of that your FB post about me leaving suddenly on Monday only confirmed everything I had already written.
I will never forget that first encounter. We knew of each other’s existence from previous years but we never had been in the same class. That 2nd day of the new school year I walked into the English classroom and there were no empty benches left. Just my luck that the only empty seats meant I would be sharing with a boy for the entire year. (note: Our classrooms had no single seaters in those days. All benches were double seaters) I walked up to you and asked if I could sit next to you. I will never forget the somewhat irritated look on your face about me invading your personal space and your quick look around to see if you or I had other options. You must have concluded I was a bearable option because your enthusiastic “Okay” still warms me to this day (sarcasm). You didn’t talk to me for the first 15 minutes but then all of a sudden you said: “Okay, if we are going to sit next to each other for a whole year I better introduce myself. I’m René.” “I’m Nathalie” I responded hoping for an actual conversation. “Yes I know” were your last words for that day.
The reason that this is such a clear memory for me is that even today you would react the same way. You hate it when your personal (or private) space is invaded but at the same time you will always assess the situation and let it happen when you feel the harm that is done to you is less than the good that is done to the other. And for that I can not help but love you.
After that first day our relation got more normal. In passing you in the hallways you would nod to acknowledge my existence and during the English classes we would actually have conversations. Not like those between friends but certainly not like those between enemies. I remember telling a friend, who asked about you, that as far as I knew you had no interest in me or girls in general. You never made an attempt to get to know me although during the year I caught you trying to get a glimpse of my breasts on several occasions. To this day I still catch you now and then. And for that I can not help but love you.
In three weeks it will be 18 years since we became a couple and I will never forget that first night. Both victims from this set-up I remember very clear how you didn’t go into predator mode once it became clear that I would be sleeping in your home. You gave me the impression that I was just a woman that was going to sleep in your home as if this was a normal thing. Sex didn’t seem to be in your mind. And it gave me a feeling of safety. Sure we had shared a desk in a classroom a decade earlier but to spend the night with you, a stranger by then, wouldn’t have been my first choice. (…..)
Today I know that this is a normal thing. Women (yes plural) sleep in your home and you do not expect anything back. You are not opposed to the idea, as we ourselves have shown, but you do not expect it. You do good and whatever happens happens. I needed time to understand and accept that but you have shown me that a good heart can be just a good heart. And for that I can not help but love you.
You introduced me to Hanneke. I must correct myself. You told me that your ex-girlfriend and soulmate would stay with you for two weeks. And that she only was your ex because she emigrated not because the love ended. Nice way to make a girl feel insecure. But I now know that you felt our relationship was strong enough to be that honest about it. Many men would have tried to hide it and play it day by day. (…..) As a result we three shared experiences that I cherish till today. (…..) Today I as well call Hanneke one of my best friends. And for that I can not help but love you.
You’ve written numerous stories, blog entries or facebook updates in which I played a role or leading part and yet there have been occasions where I asked myself “Who is that woman?” You wrote very explicit stories and also very loving stories but you have always protected me or my identity. Of course there have been occasions where I asked myself if you should have shared that story with the world but because you went out of your way to protect me I never have felt the urge to ask you to delete anything. I know that you don’t feel as if you went out of your way but that it comes naturally to you but I feel you did. And for that I can not help but love you.
Over the years I’ve learned that you will show your true love for me not only in conventional ways. Sure you share kisses, set up a romantic dinners or stroke my arm on occasions where I don’t expect it but the true way of how you show your love for me is that you do not neglect me. I will admit that It took me time to recognize the pattern and that is isn’t the easiest way of receiving that love but after 30 years you still listen to what I have to say and challenge what I have said. Friends have said on occasions that you did not say much whereas I know that right then you questioned everything and made me aware of the dangers. It can become ridiculous sometimes but at the same time it is extremely funny.
I’ll never forget that during a dinner with friends you, in the middle of a discussion about politics, suddenly interrupted with “But what if the tree has no leaves.” The others must have thought you had lost your marbles (discussions are ongoing if they exist and this letter is in no way acknowledgement for their existence) whilst I knew you just nudged me of a path of thinking you believed to be dangerous. And for that I can not help but love you.
I never wanted children and marriage wasn’t high on my wish list either but I’ve always seen myself living together with my man in the same home. (…..) I don’t know how things would have been had we lived under the same roof but I do know that it would have been tough to reach what we have reached. I’m now a person I never expected to be and I’m very happy I am. I know you will say that it was all my own doing but I needed you (or someone like you) to have the freedom and security to take the risks and develop into who I am today. And for that I can not help but love you.
She wrote another PS on the letter saying there are some things wrong with me also but that she didn’t include them because she was afraid of running out of paper. I’m thinking that when you use nine (9!) pages celebrating me and/or us you could have found space to fit a little flaw in, don’t you think?
My own PS: I hope I translated it in the true meaning of her words. I know I tried.