It started in ninth grade when my best friend and I would write each other long winded notes in our geometry classes and then hand them off to each other later in the day. When she moved, I just mailed them instead. I often still wrote them as if she was there and I'd see her later on, when really it would take days or weeks to get the letters to post and by that point most of the information was completely irrelevant. I like to think that she still cared about the trivial pursuits in the mind of a 14-year-old.
And as the months into my sophomore, post-Katrina year progressed, the letters became a way that I could word vomit things that weren't making sense in real life. Through my junior and senior years of high school, I continued to send off the letters in an irregular and untimely fashion. I never knew what she did with all of them, but I knew she'd gotten them from what we discussed in our phone conversations, emails and later Facebook messages. At some point she told me they were being stored in a box and I always pictured a box barely able to close with folded and crumpled pieces of paper sticking out of the sides. It filled me with a tiny sense of joy that they were somewhere with her after floating around the country, moving from hand to hand as they made their way to where ever she was that month.
Eventually I got bored with writing the everyday letter. So I cut them up for her to put back together, colored them, wrote upside down, wrote in different colors and started adding song lyrics on the sides, in the margins and on the envelopes. It distracted me from the world for five minutes and I was always curious if she'd ever get completely fed up with my nonsense.
Now when I dig through half unpacked boxes, flip through books from university, or rummage through an old purse, I often come across a letter I never got around to sending. Sometimes the letters are a couple of months old and sometimes they're years old. If I read through them and they're not completely melodramatic and self-loathing, I'll pen up another letter and send them off together with a disclaimer. I always find those rogue letters incredibly funny and stupid and wonderful and sometimes I want (and do) to keep them to myself, but often enough I feel guilty that they're not floating around the post service and sitting with the other hundreds of letters I've sent her.
If pushed, I could probably regurgitate all of the addresses I've posted things to, and this summer I'll get to add another when she goes abroad, but I hope I'm still harassing her with letters in 20 years when we're "adults" and not moving around so much.
But honestly it keeps me sharp.
Then there are letters to other people. I love sending them and I love pen friends, but some letters are never meant to be sent. Those letters will sit in a box or in a drawer and my hope is that they become yellow with age and forgotten-ness because while I did write them with a purpose, there was a reason the address is missing and the postage will never be placed.
And sometimes that's for the best.