Tuesday, July 18, 2006

A Letter and a Story

Today is the twenty-sixth birthday of one of my friends, except that we haven't been in touch for the past seven years. Yet, I still refer to her as my friend. What is strange is that I had allowed us to fade from each other's life, that it had happened so quietly, and that I had felt almost no remorse until years later. For all I know, she might be married, living in Texas, with a houseful of kids. She could be working in Tanzania, or in Antarctica, or anywhere. Or, she could be in Inuvik – stranger things have happened. The girl I had known is gone, I realize. I'm making a resolution: I'll write a letter to her parents' house in Vancouver, in hopes of getting in touch with her. I want to make real that friendship in the present-tense. I want to fill the gaps in, learn of her loves, the places she's been, the dreams she's had – those shattered violently, those that just drifted away, and those that continue to beckon to her.

I've been writing a lot of letters lately. Some, I have sent, while others are tucked away, perhaps destined to be dug up by me years down the line. Still others, I wish I could send, but I have no way of reaching the recipients. Somehow, writing to people makes me feel as though the horrors of the world are less terrifying. I was reading a blog earlier today by a collaboration of Lebanese people, and the tears finally came. Someone once said that if you see injustice, you should act with your hand; if you can't, then you should try with your tongue. If you still can't effect change, then wish with your heart, but that is the weakest of the three. I know that my letters don't do anything in bringing peace in the Middle East, but they diminish my sense of helplessness.

Here's a letter, to a friend who will be reading this:

Dear You,

I had told you that I would write you a story, but I hope that you'll take a letter instead. I can start this letter in the style of a story: Once upon a time, there was a girl who thought that she had found the world. When she snapped her fingers, the flowers would open. When she winked, the skies would clear. One day, however, she lost her powers quite suddenly. She searched far and wide for her missing powers. When she couldn't find them, she sat by the roadside and cried. She felt so sorry for herself that she didn't even notice that the flowers had bloomed without her snapping, and the skies had cleared and a rainbow had formed. Her tears just fell and fell, till the flowers faded, and the first snow came. Her tears froze, and a stillness came over the girl. Except that the girl was no longer a girl. Through her hurt, she had grown up.

Spring came, and the girl learned to appreciate the flowers for themselves. She watched for them carefully, and waited patiently for each bud to form and announce its presence to the world. When she cried, it was for herself only half the time. The other half of the time, she cried because she had begun to see the clash of beauty and ugliness in the world. She didn't cry all the time – no. She smiled and laughed too. She smiled when the first snowdrop poked out after a long winter. She laughed at the children running free. She thought she had found the world once more.

One day, a guy with a giant magic toolbox came into town. (Yes, here we go....) He gave the children magical packets full of sprinkles that would give them pleasant dreams at night and joyous memories in the day. The girl who was no longer a girl wanted some of the sprinkles, but the guy told her that the sprinkles wouldn't work on her because they didn't work on anybody who had cried and laughed at both the good and the bad in the world. Disappointed, the girl prepared to walk away, but the guy reached out and tugged at her elbow. He held a small velvety pouch out gingerly. The girl accepted the gift. It was a magic mirror. In it, she saw herself laughing at the children, at the flowers, at the snowflakes, at all the wonders of the world. Something new, something strange welled up in her throat. At first, it was a nervous giggle, which shortly developed into a full-bellied laugh. Only this laugh was quite different from all those other ones: The girl had finally learned to laugh at herself laughing at the world. And, like the world, there was joy and sadness intermingled in that laugh. Now, she was sure that she had found the world, and that it was within that laugh.

All right, the end. So, you have your story after all.


P.S. Don't you go running scared too, like any of the other letter-recipients.


  1. Megan, you've had plenty of stories from me, so don't start with me! In fact, you're an active participant in THE most important story. (No offence, but GET BACK TO WORK! I know you're not supposed to be here in the middle of the Friday afternoon!)