Most seventeen year olds wouldn’t have written a letter to begin with. But then again, I didn’t have any points of reference. Dating isn’t something that had any manuals or 1-800 sex help numbers. It didn’t clarify my feelings that sex seemed to equate love. If a girl loved me she would have sex with me, right? And if she didn’t love me she wouldn’t sleep with me, right? And if I went home and got a hammer so I could get into that metal mailbox and get the letter back.
No, seriously, this was who I was when I was seventeen.
Very seriously I was going to get a hammer and breaking into that mail box. Of course, I would wait until about three in the morning to do it. Yes, I had a plan. Of course, I still lived with my father so I would have to sneak out of the house at three. That wasn’t very hard to do. Then I had to walk about a mile to where the mailbox was, and that was more difficult. The walk itself was easy but I had to make sure the one cop in town didn’t see me. I tried hiding the hammer under my tee shirt but it kept falling out. So there I was, at three in the morning, walking towards the courthouse square in Blakely Georgia with a hammer in my hand.
In that one mile, about three cars passed by and each time I would leap into the shadows as if I were an assassin. No one, ever, was more nervous about their mission than I. By the time I got to where the box was I was sweating profusely and I was also covered in dirt from diving for cover, like James T Kirk, so many times. I didn’t care. The box had to die, be gutted, the letter retrieved, and I would be free.
I knew I had to act fast. The mailbox was right under a street light. Why didn’t I think about that? Why didn’t I bring a pellet gun to kill the light first? I could go back. I looked around. The streets were empty. Now or never! I went to front of the box and had this insane idea of reaching into it. But suddenly I realized there was writing on the front of the box: “All mail picked up at 5:00PM Daily”.
I had mailed the letter at about ten in the morning. It was gone.
This is a feeling that most teenagers can relate to once they’ve hit the send button and realize what they just sent in a text message cannot be recalled. The thing is, the internet is forever and letters, well, that one might as well been. I saw the headlights of a car and I panicked. I put the hammer in the mailbox’s chute and let it fall. There was an ominous and very loud, “Boom!” as it hit the empty bottom. I just kept walking and the one cop on duty stopped and offered me a ride. Maybe he was drunk. Maybe he was bored. Maybe he just wondered what the hell was going on. But he rode me around for about an hour lecturing me on the dangers of loitering and how crime was a slippery slope. Once I started out being bored and wandering around at night I would soon start shop lifting and that would lead to bank robbery and eventually Communism. But that letter was one its way. The only way out now was to break into the post office. Hey! They cop was right!
I sat in my room and watched the sun come up. The morning traffic picked up and I wondered if I could talk to the post office people and get them to give me the letter back. It occurred to me that I had never heard of anything like this. Normal people went on dates, seemed to stress not at all about it, and life went on. I wrote one letter and the world was coming to an end. What was wrong with me? The idea of trying to pass the letter off as apocryphal came to me in a rush. I could always deny that I wrote it. Yes, someone forged the letter in my name that seemed very reasonable. I could imagine trying to explain this theory to her father and that caused a tsunami of fear to wash over me. I could jump out of the window and hope the fall killed me.
Truly, it was that bad. There wasn’t any way for me to relieve the pressure of being in love with a girl that I couldn’t speak to without falling apart. Because she did live twenty-five miles away all the calls were long distance and my father was adamant that no long distance calls were to be made from his phone. But that was an excuse of convenience; I simply lacked the social skills to talk to her. Period. The sun came up on Day One. The letter, short of some miraculous accident that caused the postal carrier to burst into flames, and for that I prayed, would be delivered in two days, maybe three, and there was no telling what would happen after that.
You might think I’m entertaining hyperbole when I tell you some of the things that ran screaming through my mind but I’m not. I thought she, or her parents, might call the Sheriff for harassing her. Then I thought she might call the record company and have me sued for using the lyrics. Then I had this nightmarish vision of where her father contacted my father and we were all gathered together for me to explain myself, and that frightened me much more than any other scenario. I did what I always did when my mind went into overdrive; I drank. A lot.
This was the vicious cycle I commuted on in my day to day life; I would imagine the worst case scenario and then augment it with distilled paranoia. I would then try to figure a way out of the worst case mess I had made and replay in my mind what each party would say or do. Then I would sink into a depression over what had happened and have the repeating epiphany that I would never be able to see her again much less have any sort of relationship with her, and my life, at age seventeen, was over.
Day Three rolled around and I was already thinking about hitting the road. I would jump a train and just go. I was pretty sure warrants had already been issued for my arrest and my father had begun missing the hammer. You forgot about the hammer, didn’t you? I had, too, don’t worry. I was walking by the phone when it rang and just by instinct, answered it.
“Mike? That was the sweetest letter I ever got” and she started crying.