With words. Write me letters and emails that are so unbelievably good that I can’t help but fall so hard for you. Tell me things about you that not many people know. I like secrets -- and I'm pretty good at keeping them. Tell me random things. Tell me your feelings – your feelings about me, your feelings about life. Really talk to me. Be descriptive – use big words in the correct context AND spelled correctly. Nerd, party of one – your table is ready…yeah, that’s me.
I have a cedar chest at home that holds all of my important tangible memories. I have a large box of every note that Beth wrote me when we were in 7th grade. I have a ton of notes from Becki and Kendra from when we were trying to stay awake in 11th grade English (a.k.a “the class where time stood still”). I have programs from when I played Chava in “Fiddler on the Roof” in 11th grade, with a note printed in the back from my parents (they bought ad space) wishing me a happy 17th birthday. I have my first teddy bear that my dad brought to the hospital when I was born. I have a box of love letters.
It seems like no one writes love letters anymore. In fact, hardly anyone even writes letters at all. But these letters are from the summer before my senior year of high school, the summer before my freshman year in college, and the summer before my sophomore year in college. It was the mid-90s – we weren’t big on email just yet.
They were from a boy named Justin. He was a tall, dark haired boy from Nebraska. He had a gorgeous tenor voice. He was a big jerk. When he moved to Lakewood and joined our show choir junior year of high school, I did not like him one bit. He was cocky and arrogant and it seemed that NOTHING could possibly measure up to his beloved Nebraska. He came from a small school where he was a big fish, to this big school where nobody knew him and most people didn’t even know he existed. But after his initial really bad impression on us, he slowly began infiltrating our tight knit group. He lived in a big house, and so eventually, every weekend there would be 10 or so of us at Justin’s, eating them out of house and home, listening to music until all hours, playing games, making out, staying the night. When spring came, the parties included the pool in his backyard and afternoons of sunning ourselves by said pool once school was out. Justin eased up and began to let us in – he realized that his Nebraska friends were good, but shocker! Somehow in all the resistance to us, we had become his best friends (and vice versa). And we realized that underneath the cocky exterior beat the heart of an incurable romantic with an enormous capacity for love.
I say we, but I guess I mean me. Justin and I got along for the most part, but when we clashed – we’d clear a room in no time flat, because everyone wanted to escape the inevitable fiery combustion. I kept a little bit of distance between us, because there was another girl in our group who was IN LOVE with him, and I didn’t want to step on that. He had no interest in her, but for some reason, I attracted him like a magnet. He asked me to prom about 40 times – I kept saying no. It bruised his inflated ego, because he’d never experienced that before – a girl? Turning him down? Impossible! And so we’d fight and make up and fight and make up and fight and then kiss. What? I can’t remember when it happened, but it did. Probably one of those late nights hanging out at his dad’s house, talking the deep talk that you so often do in high school. And when it happened, I think I told him that that was it – it was just a kiss and wouldn’t happen again because I didn’t want to hurt my friend. Which of course made me ever so much more attractive to him because now we were competing. I wasn’t going to give in, and he wasn’t going to give up – it was on now. He clearly underestimated me.
This is still all in the course of one year. We finally managed to come to an understanding and let down enough to create a friendship. And we did this just in time for him to leave for the summer. He spent every summer working on a ranch somewhere in Nebraska. And that’s when the letters began.
He told me he had a lot of time to think out there in the fields all day and that maybe he’d been too hard on me. That maybe the things that irritated him so much about me did so because they were the things that irritated him about himself. That we clashed so hard because we were so much alike. That maybe I made him so mad because he liked me so much. Once we got past the initial apologies, he would talk about the other stuff he thought about. His honesty was amazing – he told me things about what he was scared of and what he wanted from life and what the stars looked like when he was in his sleeping bag at night. I wrote him back, and I got a letter from him every week for three months. He went back to his school in Nebraska for his senior year, but he spent most of his time that year in Colorado. With his best friends.
I fell in love with that Justin. The Justin of the letters. And when he came back? He was that Justin with me. We never dated, but we loved each other THE MOST. We always joked about how we’d end up getting married one day. We eventually went our separate ways, but always stayed in touch.
I went to his wedding a few years ago. My mom made me go – I didn’t want to. It was so silly, but I didn’t want to see him marry someone else. I didn't think I could bear it. I sat in the church before the wedding, bawling. I saw Justin looking so handsome in his tuxedo, standing at the front of the church. His bride started walking down the aisle, and when I saw the look in his eyes as he looked at her, I stopped crying. I recognized that look and I knew that she was his world now -- and that's how it should be.
Things are different. Times have changed. But I will always have the box of letters to remind me that once? Someone great adored me and told me all about it. And with those words he made me fall in love with him. Simple, right?