Unnecessary Pen Pals

Unlike most pen pals, we knew each other in person and only lived ten miles away from one another.


On paper, we were perfect for each other. We would start off each letter with endearing names like “my dearest”, “darling”, or “my loveliest” and end each letter with “love always” and “yours forever and ever.” I had a pen pal with whom I became totally infatuated. Unlike most pen pals, we knew each other in person and only lived ten miles away from one another.

I met her at the bakery I used to work at, and distinctly remember he first words to me being: “Are you gay?” I laughed and told her I didn’t think I was. I hunted down her number and we started texting each other back and forth. She was different than most of the girls that worked at the shop; she was witty and had a dark sense of humor. She would text me at 6:00 am on her way to work telling me it was early and she wanted to die. I’d respond that I was still in bed and she would tell me to go kill myself. She got fired after the second or third time we worked together and suddenly she was out of my every day life. After that, she became a goal, something to strive for. I wanted her and she wanted someone to write to.

Everyone has a bit they use over and over when they’re flirting with the opposite sex. Whether it’s telling them you that want to run away together or asking them incessantly about their personal lives, they exist. Everyone’s guilty of recycling their favorite methods of flirtation. Mine consist of the following: the overuse of defunct colloquialisms, sneakily bragging about my love of literature, and asking girls if they want to be pen pals. In my experience, every single object of my affection has answered yes when I ask them if they want to write letters, only a few have done it, and only one has done it consistently. Her. My first piece of postage to her was a picture of a dinosaur on a postcard with the words, “I bet you didn’t think I’d actually write to you” below it. To my utter surprise, days later, I received a letter in the mail from her. I remember hiding in my room to read it. It was a poem. 

It was on pink stationery with her initials embossed on the top. Her penmanship was flawless. 

This wasn’t just a letter to me, it was a metaphor. In my mind, her writing to me was a sign she mirrored the feelings I felt towards her. I was hooked, instantly addicted. I found myself writing to her in the early hours of the morning. I would be intoxicated, either drunk or lightheaded from my steady load of anti-anxiety pills. My mind would take me all over the world and she would always be there. My writing was full of grandiose romantic gestures; I never really knew whether they were genuine or not. 

Writing as if I was farther away than I really was, I told her: “I think you and I should move to Africa together. We can live like English imperialists lived in the 1800s. I’ll drink brandy and write and you can be a scientist. We’ll smoke cigars every night under the mosquito nets and grow cripplingly old together.” We knew each other well and it came through in every sentence of our correspondence. 

We played dumb with each other when it wasn’t on paper. In the rare occurrences of running into each other in real life, we would engage in awkward conversation and ask each other about the menial parts of our lives we had already learned about through our letters. We wouldn’t talk much when we were together, and I often resorted to drinking until the awkwardness went away. I’d try talking to her like we did on paper, but it was never the same. We resorted to cutting our losses and speaking only through paper. Soon we were writing each other weekly. Every Tuesday I’d receive a pink or purple letter with stickers or silly drawings, and my name would always be different. 

I remember smiling whenever I’d see her letters in the mailbox and eagerly retreating to my room to read her words. While mine were always on the more romantic side, suggesting a future with one another, hers were always conversational and silly. She would toy with the idea of us being together. 


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