The following are sample letters taken from my upcoming project with the Fractal Ensemble to be released later this year. I am using these as examples of architecture for letters between two people. Please note the commentary after each exchange.
(All contents copyright Michael Kovacs 2013)
June 2, 1996
My deepest apologies, but....
Do you remember me?
And the reply:
My Dear Friend,
DOOD! Of course I remember you?!
I’m so glad you found me in the middle of Europe! How have you been? How long has it been since we last spoke? Okay, let’s just call it too long and start from there...
What is going on with me? I’ve been here in Europe for a while trying to finish up my degree or at least get enough credits to finish it up at home in a year. When I got here I hated it but then it began to grow on me. Now I love it. I just got back from an insane trip to Semana Santa in Seville. The incense, candles, trumpets, drums, and INSANE costumes (someone should talk to them about those... hoods?)
Life here is so different from the states. people seem to know how to live. I can get use to that, ya’ know? It isn’t like it is at college in the states. People still know how to party but still get to work and have a respectable GDP.
So what is going on with you these days? How have you been? The last time we met was a party over on the North Loop , no? That was a C-R-A-Z-Y party! How they got that gazebo onto that pick up truck is beyond me! (Wait was it the other way around? Damn absinthe!) I tried to find you at the end of the night , right after Tom fell down and broke his arm from falling down the stairs. Can you believe I dated that loser? I spoke to Susan (remember her?) and she said he is still looming around town. Live and learn (or at least let’s hope so.)
So what have you been up to? How have you been? Where are you working? Still at the... okay, I forgot where you are working. TELL ME! Are you still living over by the hardware store/supermarket at the corner of Drag Queen and Homicide? Take care, okay? That section of town is strange! You can get gunned down in front of that low budget comedy improv theater just around the block from you. Not that some of those performers do not DESERVE to hospitalized after their horrible performances, but still....
Okay. Take good care and THANK YOU FOR WRITING ME!!!!!
PS: I wouldn't mind if you would write me back! (HINT WINK HINT)
And the volley:
June 23, 1996
My Dear Rena,
Hello and thank you so much for remembering me AND for writing back so fast. I got your letter on the 19th and am finally able to write you back on the only free day I have anymore: Sunday. I had to pick up a small part time job (along with my ever secure regular one) and never seem to stop being in motion.
Italy..... could you have picked a worse place to go to college, like, say Hawaii? I have never been out of the country and can only imagine what it must be like. I should go to the library after work one morning and see what books they have of your area. Is it anything like the Fellini films? The place would seem perfect for you, full of life, love, and the realm of the senses. Are you having a good time? (Knowing you, the answer would be, “Duh, yes.”) How much longer do you have to be there? When do you graduate? Alas, I know very little about architecture other than the basics. Tell me more, if you would be so kind...
As for my life, since you asked, I will tell you. My grandmother died in May. She was ailing from cancer and, believe it or not, SHE called me and told me to come out as soon as possible. Strength was that woman’s middle name. So I told my boss that I would need some time off for a family matter and flew out. I made it in time and the funeral was held soon after. I stayed with my mother for as long as I felt she needed me and flew back. The stream of habits that are my life here were awaiting me and I stepped back into the waters to be carried along.
On the flight back, I thought of you and remembered that you gave me your address the last time we saw each other, at the party.
Just so you don’t feel like you have all the fun, it has been god forsakenly hot here the past few weeks. So WE have have the sun and warmth too! Okay, granted, you have about two millennia or so of architecture, culture, and a deep Catholic culture with even deeper lustful pagan roots. We have..... Prairie Home Companion and First Ave. Face it, you may have everything else, but here we have Husker Du, the Replacements, and Prince!
Give me some more details of your life and I will write you back as soon as I can. In fact, I will drop this off at the post office at the end of Marquette Ave. tomorrow after work so that it gets to you as soon as possible.
Thank you again for writing back and remembering me.
With Hopes to hear from you soon.
Okay, so what do you notice?
The first letter was a simple request of memory and acknowledgement. There was no plea, just a simple hello.
The reply was personal and inviting, thanking the writer for taking the time to send the note and desiring more communication.
His reply was a slow exposition and a play upon their mutual knowledge of each other. It sounds like a verbal conversation between friends opening up in slow motion.
And some more...
September 3, 1996
My Dearest AMAZING Friend,
I just got your latest letter in the mail. Damn you give good letter, I mean that was some of the best letter I have ever got! I know, I’m sick, sorry. I got the cookies and the poster! THANK YOU!
Life here has been just running out of control, like a cab being driven by Helen Keller through a soccer match. Today, for example. I got up early after staying out too late, cleaned (clomping around my apartment with dirty mop water and black boots like some depressed Euro club girl) , ran to the train to go to yoga (given by a fascist masochist Stalin-esque yoga instructor) after my class three towns away......... only to have rushed to the college to find the class cancelled and then, after eating a huge breakfast, decided to not go to Pol Pot Yoga. So, I am writing you on a train back to my apartment. Some strange looking stoner chick next to me is making a bracelet of some sort. Let’s where where this goes, shall we?
Classes at the university are in full swing and I am drowning in work. Still, I cannot help myself but get out there and be with my new friends. It turns out that there is a girl here from the university we went too. Her name is Holly and she is a totally badass chick. She plays guitar, loves the Indigo Girls, and is just too cool for any school. We hang out and sing whenever we can. We became best buds immediately!
Your letters! Ouch! What is going on with you Sweetie?! You must take better care of yourself. Is your job really that stressful? I am sorry about your allergies. You must try to get some sleep!
I have to ask you a question. Do you think I’m attractive? I guess I am sorta cute, but what’s been happening here is making me question reality. It seems here men are falling all over me in ways that are boggling my mind. Do I have some sort of hypnotic beam coming from my chest or something? My new boyfriend, Julian, likes me a lot, but that is in a “high school” sort of way. He’s nice and smells good, but I am trying to figure out what is going on. His friends are hitting on me, guys on the bus, etc.! Okay, fine, I am an American chick in Europe, but r-e-a-l-l-y? The men in this country are like wolves.
On a different note, I got a job tutoring some German girls in English. They are nice and the pay is decent so I have a little less to worry about financially.
Well, here’s something interesting. The kinda strange girl who was next to me on the train making the bracelet, we wound up talking and she was really nice. She even gave me me the thing she was making!
Well, as you can surmise, I am not on the train now, but back in my apartment. I need to get some studying done before I meet up with some friends and we go out into the Summer night and go dancing till we can no longer stand. So I’d better go. I miss you so much and cannot wait till I get back to see you again! Thank you so much for the letters! I LOVE THEM! (but not in that “High school sort of way” ha ha) Take care of yourself, Sweetie, and I will write more soon.
And the Volley
September 8, 1996
My Dearest Rena,
I am sitting here at the table near my window reading your letter again and again. It was awaiting me yesterday when I got back from my long Saturday.job. So now, in the sweat box that IS this studio apartment, I write you this letter.
While I suppose I could may go to the Laughing Cup Cafe and write this in an air conditioned space, I just do not feel like moving around anymore. My knees have been sore and stairs do not appeal to me very much. Maybe not the stairs, but the amount of roaches I would have to stomp as I ascended and descended the stairs. I will do my weekly cooking session later this afternoon when the temperature cools down to the melting point of lead. But now, I just need to write you. So, armed with my typewriter, radio, and pot of coffee, I am ready.
How your letter of September 3 got here so quick I have NO idea but I am not gonna complain. Postal karma? As for me giving good letter... (turns away and blushes, takes cowboy hat from head, wipes brow with back of rough weathered hand) Thank ya’ Man. We don’t get pretty women like you around here so I’m..uh... glad I could be of service to you in this town. There’s plenty more of that if you would enjoy it. Anything for a woman such as yourself. (Puts hat back on, tips brim, and leaves the emotional saloon.)
Okay, so that reminds me. You want me to tell you if you are attractive? If you wish me to answer without censorship, here you go: Duh, yes. I fear saying much more on this but here goes.
You are a very pretty woman. From the moment I met you I could see that. Even though you were on crutches trying to hobble down the stairs by the dining hall wearing a ratty Rolling Stones shirt and unwashed hair, you were stunning. When we met that time later and you were bathed, in tye dyed and no longer in need of medical appliances for mobility, I was floored. Someone that looks like me rarely gets someone like you to talk to them, much less pounce on them with a hug. ( For the record, your hair smelled good.)
As for the men around you desiring you at all turns? Well, all I can say is: Duh, yes.
You are an attractive American girl in Italy! You are exotic to them like .... Pearl Jam and Twinkies and, I don't know Marlboro cigarettes and hot dogs?!?! But you may have to suck it up and deal with your attractiveness. Sorry, but you did ask....
And of my life here? Work. And Work. I go food shopping sometimes when I am not working. And on my way to work I will stop off at the library. Monday mornings I drop off your letter at the post office on my way to work. Did I mention I work? Okay, fine, I do not work that much but I have been running around trying to help out my friend Frank during the days before I go into work.
Oh yes, I have to tell you about a book I just bought. It is called “The Pugilist at Rest” by a guy named Thom Jones. (NO! NOT THE SINGER! THAT IS T-O-M Jones!) I heard some guy read his story “A White Horse” on a public radio show one Sunday and I was blown away. Stunning work. You have to get it. The stories deal with the Vietnam war, boxer dogs, Schopenhauer, Jaguar cars, and epilepsy. Please get his book if you can.
Oh lord! What time is it? I am sorry but I have to get running. I am running out of coffee and they are playing a live concert of a Beethoven symphony on the radio soon and I need to unplug my phone, lay down on my futon and listen to it with my eyes closed. I may pass on cooking tonight all together.
Don’t worry, even though he was German, I shall be thinking of you in Italy and using that as a soundtrack.
The streets outside are calm and the sun is almost set. Thank you so much for your wonderful letter. I will write more next Sunday, I promise.
With all my gratitude and friendship,
Much later on in the correspondence, things grow deeper and this letter is written:
My dearest friend,
I just received your two letters and CDs in the mail. They were awaiting me at my old address in the northern part of town. As I read your words, the sun is just beginning to set upon the hills that border the village and the sky beams with yellow and violet.
Thank you for writing me as you do, as we have shared so much during our time apart, it seems as though our trust is genuine and special. It always makes me feel good to know that there is someone out there who cares about my life.
I've just awoken from a nap because I spent the whole night on a hoot going to clubs. I showered and came down to the tiny terrace bar, one of two which flank my building door. The one I've always frequented is filled with families, tiny four year old girls in pink and purple print cloth and exquisite 1920's hair bobs, scrounging about in the dirt together while their grandparents expertly let the world go by as their beers glow topaz. Moms with leather jackets, plucked eyebrows, smoking. Older women with sweaters on their shoulders soothing the inevitably ruffled feathers of the pink printed dolls. Slick black haired men in jeans, sunglasses and white espadrilles giggle laughing babies. Inside the two bars from my outside vantage point, I hear the stereo roar as the Rome soccer team makes a goal.
The other bar is the scary one filled with the young harder people who are known as "the heavies." Both men and women have long feathered hair, tight pants, black shirts, and interesting necklaces in their open buttoned chests, leather jackets and fringed boots. Then, on the other side are the night brood, the wild ones. Every night they gather and listen to tapes and drink liters of beer with a dog or two, leaning on a fence that faces the garden. Of course the bar group is more splendid and scruffy in their low class finery. But the wild children were the first I saw months ago from my fourth floor window. They gathered like dried leaves in the windy late winter nights, and disappeared before dawn.
Their circle kept its back towards me the nights I waited outside for Herman. I watched them, envious, dreaming of the Lost Boys, wanting to pass the beer bottle around and be accepted into their ring of arrogance and ease with each other. The long hair, the occasional horseplay, the generosity... I guess we'd have little in common. It was more glamorous from four flights up.
My favorite character has just appeared: a baby about ten months old, Maria. Her mother is the only local I've talked to who doesn't own a bar or a shop. She is often in the hands of Lucia and Paolo, the bar owner's kids. They are delightfully bright and extroverted. The baby laughs and laughs when I play with her. As she sits on someone's lap, she chews on a pack of Dianas. You know she is going to be wonderful when she is older.
I love you. Your subtlety and irony, even when you are down is dear to me. I'm sorry you've been in so much pain lately. I'm helpless except to reach across the Atlantic with an embrace. And remember, you make me laugh like no one else can.
Well, I must leave you now. The sun has almost completely set and places the cafe under the gentle blessing of the night sky. The bartender has just lit the candle on the table, reminding me that I do not know when I shall return to your shores. My life here is full, but I cannot call it home. I miss you every day but I know that I must be here for now and look for your words to travel across the oceans and rest in my hands. I shall never abandon you in my friendship and your heart shall for ever remain in mine. I'm not one to make promises, but I know this is one I'll keep.
The night has fallen and I shall walk to my lover's house with memories of us on my every breath. We may drift in time and in space, but I never want to imagine us being without each other.
May the universe cradle you in her arms, and may the wisteria of dreams hang over your head.
Blessings, health, and sweet laughter.
I love you always......
You can see here that the language and intensity has changed. This is some time down the line. The conversation is thicker, richer, more intimate. However, it is not forced. Both people write about the same amount.
Always keep in mind to never sound like anyone else in your writing. Be yourself. If you wish to improve your writing style, a creative writing course may help, but how one transcribes their inner voice is as unique as each person. The author Hunter S Thompson re typed the classic novel “The Great Gatsby” before he attempted writing so he could “feel what it was like to write a great novel” So, you could also re-copy paragraphs you like from books, descriptions, observations, turns of phrase.
To quote Christopher Hitchens used to say that when he was a writing teacher he would tell his class, “Anyone who can talk can write.” Then, after a pause, he would have their souls fall by asking, “How many people in this class believe they can really TALK?” One must always strive to find one’s own voice and I cannot think of a more natural place than the personal letter.
Finally, I hate to bring it up again, but must state that the letter is a conversation and has all the same mercurial states. Sometimes letters are just letters. Sometimes someone is just not that into you. Sometimes you are disappointed, very very disappointed. Other times, a letter can rescue you from the bottom of a deep depression, have a deep impact on someone’s life in a positive way that can be revisited again and again.
But in the end, there is nothing like the letter, what it can bring and what it can pull from our own selves. Nothing.