The story starts here.
I stood behind the register at the counter of the bookstore where I was working part-time and opened up my letter of the day. Stacey was back at her University a couple hours south and I was getting the new semester started at my local junior college. She was going to be an engineer and I was going to be an archaeologist. It had been the fastest Christmas break of my life. Even though I’d spent almost every waking hour with Stacey (and even a few non-waking hours when we both fell asleep on the couch watching T.V.) it hadn’t been enough.
We’d already had one weekend visit with each other since she went back to school. She got a chance to come home and she took it. When she first went back to school I was pretty sure that she’d forget about me and get on with life. I was surprised that that wasn’t what happened at all. If anything we’d gotten closer. January was coming to an end and I was using the word ‘love’ when I talked and thought about Stacey almost as much as I was saying, “um…”. When she came home for the weekend we started where we’d left off a couple weeks before. It didn’t hurt that we were keeping in touch on a daily basis.
Since she had left for school we had started writing letters to each other every day. Al Gore hadn’t invented the internet yet so we were stuck with the old fashioned kind of mail that involved paper, ink, envelopes and stamps. One of the bonuses of old school mail was that, at least in this case, the letters always smelled good, the “i”s were always dotted with hearts, the envelopes were artistic and I was holding something in my hands that she’d held in hers. She wrote me every day and I wrote her back every day. Every day. Not one page or even two page letters but epic letters that read like diary pages, travelogues and secrets whispered. I heard her voice in my head as I read what she’d written. It was incredibly intimate, she’d gotten under my skin, into my heart and some part of her was living full-time in my head.
I heard someone in my Psych 101 class say that we can all identify with one of the characters from Winnie-the-Pooh. I watched the other students more closely, even the profs, and decided that there may be something to the theory. I could definitely embrace my inner Eeyore. I love a rainy day, a grey sky is my friend. When bad things happen it doesn’t bother me, I expect it. When something good happens I can appreciate it but not get carried away about it because this too shall pass. As I unfolded the letter I tried to fit Stacey into the 100 acre woods. Not Pooh, definitely not Piglet, not Rabbit, not Owl or Rooh. There was a lot of Tigger potential in her but she really was much more grounded than Tigger. I decided to write off that psych theory and read my letter when it hit me. She was my Christopher Robin. She was optimistic, fun, and creative. She took care of the people around her, could chase away my black cloud and she knew when my tail needed put back on. She was firmly grounded in reality but was amazingly cheery about the whole thing.
I read my letter and forgot I was at work. I heard her voice as if she was reading to me.
5 paragraphs in I stopped reading, turned and looked around the store. Every once in a while I had to re-surface and make sure I wasn’t ignoring any customers wanting to pay for stuff or looking for some help. Then I looked out the big front window of the bookstore and thought about what I’d just read.
In my last letter to Stacey I’d asked her what she thought about me coming down to her campus for a visit. I’d had a friend at the University of Illinois and I’d gone to visit her at school a couple times and just camped out on her dorm room floor. “A friend,” I emphasized in my note, “just a friend.” Stacey wrote back that she’d love me to come visit but the dorms were definitely not co-ed so she’d have to make some arrangements with some guys she knew from engineering for me to stay with them in what she called “their pod”. I’d seen enough scary movies to know I did NOT want to sleep in or around a pod, plus staying on their floor didn’t sound like quite as much fun as staying on her floor did. It also bothered me a little that she had guy friends she could talk to. I considered my options.
I hurried to write another letter so I could get it out in the mail that same day. Valentine’s day was close, what better weekend to come for a visit? I thanked her for looking for some floor space for me but told her I’d just rent a room at a local motel so I could have a bed and not inconvenience anyone. I suggested we go on a double date with her roommate and her boyfriend while I was there and hoped by moving past the word motel in my letter she wouldn’t give it much thought. Then I told her, for another 3 pages, how much I missed her. And I did. I couldn’t believe how much I liked her and how incredibly lucky I was to be going out with her. I signed the note, put it in an envelope, not heart dotted “i”s or decorated envelope, just a stamp and it was in the mail and on it’s way. I wasn’t sure how she’d take my suggestion about the motel room but it was out there now, I couldn’t take it back and in two days I’d get her reply.
And I found myself praying. “God,” I thought, “please don’t let her dad be visiting tomorrow when the mail comes.”
…to be continued…