Wednesday, June 24, 2009

thanks for showing me your swiss army knife

What to do with the boxes, my friend wonders, the old photos and graduation tassels and ticket stubs, the stuffed animals from my high school boyfriend. So many things to keep.

A couple of years ago my mother dropped off a humidor of old letters to me, I say. I glanced at a few, shuddered to remember how lonely I was as a teenager, and recycled the rest unread so I wouldn’t have to think about that anymore. Dan tried to dissuade me but I have no regrets. If the love letters could have sorted themselves out, I might have saved them, but smiling about the gushiness of my gay boyfriend from ’91 wasn’t worth going through the rest.

She considers. I don’t think I have any love letters, just the teddy bears and hand-me-down bongs.

I’m shocked, and surprised that I’m shocked. She dated athletes, nice boys all, but perhaps less likely than the tortured artists I coveted to write her poetry. Plus I had summer-camp boyfriends back when long distance calls were expensive, and I started using e-mail obsessively as soon as college began; we were writing to each other anyway so paeans of joy were no great stretch. Even the perpetually stoned potter left haikus about my feet on my whiteboard freshman year. (The limericks, well, they don’t count.)

But I hadn’t known that I considered such words to be a standard part of even a fleeting relationship. I don’t remember anyone before Dan giving me tangible gifts. My friend has a collection of jewelry and toys from birthdays and Christmases; she’d have been hurt if a boyfriend had failed to provide her with such. I got sonnets, and just now realized how much I took them for granted. To all my exes out there: thank you for skipping the heart-shaped magnets.

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