“If all time is eternally present / All time is unredeemable.”
-T.S. Eliot, Four Quarters
These last days, in a rash of mental housecleaning, I’ve been getting rid of all kinds of stuff.
Dozens of old love letters, old photos, abandoned threads of defunct electronic correspondences. In some ways, it was a depressing exercise. I came across a painful cross-section of long (and perhaps best) forgotten correspondences with former loves. I thought. I remembered. I considered. And I decided that it all has to go.
But before I relegate the tangled strings of all those failed love affairs to obsolescence, I thought I’d share a few of the most memorable. I’ve deleted the names of the senders, but otherwise, I’ve kept them as-is. I’ve gotta warn you, this might be painful. To whit, a quick cross-section from My First 10 Years of Dating.
Some of it was sad:
(7/12/2002) hey- i haven’t checked my mail in awhile..i wasn’t trying to avoid your communications. i guess i just fell apart emotionally when i read that letter… everything in it was sorta familiar, yet with you by my side as i read it mad it super difficult to bear… i don’t want us to drift apart, as you have said before… you are so special to me, i just want you to be happy and live a long, happy, prosperous life. please write back whenever you feel the need….
Some of it seemed sad at the time but now seems sort of hilarious:
(10/23/03) Bonjour Erin !
you must be so suprise to hear from me, With wath i did to you i’ll not be suprise if you don’t want to hear from me.
Ijust want to tell you that my return in Quebec one year ago was very hard and i’ve never respond to anyone that i met during my year in London, you includ.
So i’m not gonna write a huge message to you now because maybe you don’t even want to hear from me, but i’ll be very please to tell all my year pass in Quebec for the last year, if, of course, you write me back to tell me that you can forgive me for my non-responding year.
I’ll understand if you don’T want, but i just want to tell you that i had very nice time in Paris with and i rememeber you as a very nice and special person, but i feel sorry for the mood wich i was when we met.
I hope you are happy and once more time sorry for my mistake.
(7/19/08) Dear Erin,
It wasn’t an “idea” I loved it was you as a person. Furthermore, what I said on the phone about being wasted 80% of our relationship still rings true. Thats not healthy for myself or for my partner. I still drink one night on the weekend but thats it. I took beer out of my diet and switched to gin and tonics. But I am gonna cut that out and just stick with red wine…
You can choose to look back on us and find whatever faults you want to before the whole cheating and after. I can choose to disagree but that does not mean I am dismissing your feelings. I just feel your focusing all your attention on a few negatives rather than looking at the whole picture. But you have every right to do so since I betrayed you and am basically a shitty person.
Some of it was pretty fucking harsh:
(12/5/03) Hey- Well, I wasn’t going to write you, but after carefull contemplation I decided there are things I need to say. When I wrote you that email a few days back I thought I was going to be ok with everything, not happy, but ok. Well, I’m not.
I’m sorry you don’t want to date me anymore. I, at least, thought we had a great thing going that wasn’t worth throwing away over a 2 month trip. Apperently I was wrong. I’m going to move on but there is no way I can stay in contact with you. Its hard enough as it is for me go through my daily routines without punching the shitout of someone. Well, have fun partying in thailand(hmmm… whatever happened to monastaries and secluded beaches?). Good by, X
Some of it was pompous:
(8/23/04) Erin- I understand what you want and will respect that. Watch the world around you, the only teacher you will ever need. Take care of your life, live towards love and compassion.Until the road brings us to each other. X
(10/19/2004) well well well,
you were right, i definitly didn’t expect to hear from you. but i must say that i’m glad i did. i’ve thought many times about what happened and it’s been so long that i can’t really even remember the bad. only the fun parts remain in my memory. i had a lot of gulit about the way things went wrong, and i was also going through a growing experience. at the time it left me in a total mental, and emotional confusion,
but in the end i came out much more of an adult than I could even realize. however confusing all this babbling is just know that what i’m trying to say is im sorry for all of my wrongs. X
Some of it was creepy:
(10/5/08) what the hell information are you talking about? What would you think I want with your credit cards? I dont understand a bit of any of this E, you have these assumptions and things that convince you all I do is lye and do bad shit, etc. I dont understand. Perhaps you would like to enlighten me on what it is this information is about?
By the way, with all due respect, calling the cops on me is a very cowardly action, you know I would never harm you. To even mention those dullards with their badges to help them cope with mommy and daddy issues disgusts me.
Why are you acting like this to me? What are you refering to about infotmation and these medical books I “so love to steal”? So far as the lay diagnosis of NPD, one must fit 5/9 criteria, according to the DSM… I would, if looked at in such a differential only fit 3 of them, therefore no diagnosis can be assumed. Please E, do tell me what this so facinating information is.
I hope this finds you well. All my love, X
Some of it is still insanely difficult to even read at all:
(5/6/06) Erin – I want to hold you and push you away, I want to cry in your arms, I want to fall off the edge of the earth.. I do love you erin, I think that I will always love you. if it’s true that we are supposed to be together, I will not rule out that we can be someday because I have never wanted anything more.. can I say just not now.. I don’t know if my heart can say it. It’s obviously too much for me.. I still want you every minute of the day and still love you and feel the same way, I can never -not- love you. X
Why had I been holding onto them all these many years? I had my reasons. And those reasons were unique, as unique as each of those people I’d once cared about. And somehow, they still feel intensely private. That might seem odd for me to say, considering that I just outed almost every serious boyfriend I’ve ever had in the fragments above. But, man. The ends of relationships are such dismal affairs, aren’t they? Hard feelings seem to endure an incredibly long time, at least for me. Perhaps that is why we all have a tendency to oscillate wildly between the desire to forget completely and the temptation to let our greatest disappointments come to define who we are as people.
All said, I do believe it’s probably better to forget in the end. If every single person, and every single relationship, is unique, why carry the past with you?
So it’s all going. In a fit of pique a few weeks back, I marched out of my apartment and down to the Columbia River docks and tossed one particularly sad batch of love letters into the water. I’ve thrown out heaps of old tarnished necklaces and crumbling handmade gifts. And I’ve cleaned out the virtual coffers of three separate email accounts. It is sort of terrifying. And also sort of exhilirating.
I’ve hung onto a few select items: an ivory necklace picked up for me in the Congo by an old lover when desire still bloomed inside of us like some great exotic flower; three lettres d’amour penned by a French boy I met in Paris on my 16th birthday; a funny breakup note from my junior high boyfriend, with whom I am still friends. And the bits of letters shared above.
That’s it. The rest is gone.
Deciding to fall in love requires, each time, a suspension of disbelief. Voltaire once likened the choice to a leap into the abyss. It’s been a long, long time since I’ve leapt. Perhaps such a decision is more easily made, though, when you finally let go of the hope than any of the past could have been different.
The past is infinite. The past is erasable. All time is unredeemable. Indeed.