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Evan Melendez on the life a handwritten letter lives when it gets lost in the mail

I can barely remember a time before my parents had their first iPhones, and will never

know a world without the instant response of texting. Letters, when my parents had me write

them, were a chore for me when I was younger. It took effort and time — and often I never got a

response.

In seventh grade, though, something switched. While writing one letter, I began to

notice the charm and beauty that could be placed upon a single sheet of paper — meaning that

otherwise would never exist — and so my letter-writing journeys flourished. I used colored pens

and drew art, flowed in and out of my normal handwriting, sent letters to friends and family, and

each time, I knew they reached their destination with every drop of meaning I infused within

them. Just a few months ago, I treated one letter just the same — with colors, a decorated envelope, and a photograph — one that you would open and smile just by pulling out the card. I sent it, and a week went by. Two weeks. Three.

When I came to realize that my letter would never arrive at its intended destination, my mind immediately went to the reality that it would end its life in a dead letter office with thousands of other letters that would never be found. I imagined it like the Ark in Indiana Jones, lost forever in a modest warehouse — my romanticized ending. I couldn't get out of my head my letter being thrown out along with mailing list advertisements and magazines, another piece of mass-produced text — garbage.

Then, almost forfeiting the meaning of my lost papers to become a gem in the scrap heap, I remembered a scene from the musical ?Ordinary Days?: the character Warren, one day when wandering the streets of New York City, finds an unopened letter on the ground. A small piece of a life story that fell into his hands by sheer coincidence. It could have been blown into a gutter, been picked up by street cleaners, or rendered illegible by the rain, but no—it was a handwritten, still-frame of another person's ongoing life that he was now unintentionally a part of.

What I had begun to see were the natural tendencies of imagination that could take my letter

by its paper sails, and carry it across the world along an unpaved road—one I dream of following

myself.

I imagine my letter swept by the wind from a mail truck on a forsaken road, landing

beneath the feet of a wandering musician. The creased paper of the envelope would begin to tear

and age, the addresses made unreadable, but with every passing day and night spent under a

starry foreign sky, Orion guarding it in the winters, Sagittarius in the summers, it gathers another

story to tell within its folds. I see my letter drifting across the country as a wanderer whose travel is unburdened by finality.

When I picture my letter now, I see the beauty of life that evolves without intent: the experiences I never meant to deliver, are now imbued within. The story I trusted within the papers is malleable and continues to alter itself as its life becomes independent and takes shape in absence of delivery. An unmatched measure of experience and life placed into the hands of a single letter to convey, and though it may not share it in words, its existence within the papers of the envelope is a story nonetheless.

I suppose none of this would ever happen. But imagining an alternate reality in which

events differ from the truth, doesn't make it wrong to hope. I believe in what could be. And who

knows? Maybe I'll see that letter one last time.


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