It has been so long since I’ve done an exercise from my Write-Brain Workbook. All of our belongings were packed up in October and most of my books stayed in storage until recently when we moved into our new house. Today, when I was at a loss for what to write about and writer’s block was in full swing, it dawned on me that I could –and should- do a page today… so here it is!
Finish the story. Start with:
Back in 1938, before… emails and video calling the best way to communicate with the woman you love who lives far away was via the written letter mailed through the United States Postal Service.
Her letters would arrive in my mailbox every Monday and Wednesday if she had an adventurous week I might get an extra one on Saturday.
The envelopes were a pale pink made of delicate paper and addressed with her graceful handwriting. I would gently pull open the envelope, careful not to rip more than necessary, then take out the heavenly scented letter savoring every word. She signed every one in the same manner, “Sincerely, Marilyn” in wispy and beautiful cursive lettering. Those letters seared into my heart.
I looked forward to the letters even though we had never met in person. She was the love of my life and she didn’t know it. We started writing when a friend of my mother offered to have her niece write to me as I grew more useless from polio. I was depressed. I didn’t want some girl’s pity letters but I was not given a choice in the matter. One day a letter arrived addressed to me and nothing was the same again.
Our letters started very formal and stiff. Neither of us asked for this. Her aunt pressured her to write and once the letters started arriving I didn’t want to offend her, her aunt, or my mother so I played along. But after a few weeks the letters evolved into casual conversation between friends. She told me about her days, friends, what she liked and disliked, about the local events, and her dreams. I told her of my dreams and all I hoped to accomplish when I could be more active. I downplayed my disease as much as I could and embellished my accomplishments.
I began to realize that I had created an image of myself for her that was not entirely accurate. Over the course of two years I had described a man I wished to be; not who I really was. She had written to me that she had a break in classes coming up and wanted to come my way and stay with her aunt so we could finally meet. I relished in the thought of seeing her for the first time. My heart would melt at the first glimpse of her beauty, my soul would forever be weakened in her absence. I loved her and I hadn’t met her yet.
So it was set up and she was to arrive in two weeks. She and I would meet at my mother’s house in the garden where I could be waiting on a bench before she arrived. I didn’t want her to see how lame I was, how far the weakness had progressed. I wanted to be a man she could love, maybe marry, but who could marry a man who couldn’t even get down on one knee to propose. I was sure she would stop writing me once she saw the man I really was.
On the day she arrived my mother wheeled me into the garden and took away the chair after I sat myself in the gazebo. I waited for footsteps but only heard the breeze running through the leaves. After a moment I heard my wheelchair crackling through the garden coming back to me. Angry, I yelled to my mother “I don’t want her to see me in that chair!” Please take it back inside.” The crackling stopped. “It’s me.” It was the most beautiful voice I had ever heard. I turned around for my first look at a woman who I had loved through letters for the better part of three years. My heart stopped. Not only was she more beautiful than every flower in the garden but she was also in a wheelchair.
We talked for hours. I asked my mother to ring back my chair and I took Marilyn to my favorite place where I would read her letters, under the shade of a large Oak in the park overlooking a babbling creek. She told me she was injured as a baby and had been in a wheeled chair as long as she could remember. She said she didn’t think of herself as anything different than the rest of the kids she grew up with. I don’t see how it is possible but I fell in love with her even more that day.
As the sun set and we readied to return home, with my heart filled with unabashed excitement, I poured out all my feelings toward her. To my own surprise, in the fever of it all I asked her to marry me. She looked at me, shocked after being assaulted with such an outpour of emotion from a man whom she had only written to, then smiled. “Yes!” And that was it.