In lieu of a response

Author: Ellen Roof '15

I wrote you a love letter.


I wrote it in how I looked at you. I wrote it in how I talked about you. I wrote it in how I shared with you.


It was real and it was raw and it was unpolished. My sentences rambled and my thoughts jumbled — what’s the point of editing love? How can you refine the jagged edges, the coarse imperfections and expect it to feel the same? It was unfiltered and it was awkward and it was me, and it was for you.


I told you everything: my successes and my failures, my vanities and my vices. My future, then so entangled in yours, focused on us and ours and we.


And maybe I was filling the silence. Maybe I was super-imposing my truth over yours. Maybe I didn’t notice you weren’t writing back.


That’s the thing with distance. When we were apart so often how could I notice the gradual shift as the emotional distance overpowered the physical separation? I filled our weekends with dinners and drinks and distractions. In my rush to fill the hours, I didn’t notice, didn’t want to notice, the disconnect.


We grew together, and now where does that leave me? I’m not quite sure how to identify, how to define, how to separate which parts of me are me and which parts of me are you.


I like spicy foods. Or did I like liking spicy foods with you? Do I want to order a level nine at our favorite Thai place downtown, or do I want to remember the time tears streamed down our faces as we agreed perhaps this time we’d gone too far?


And what parts of us do I get to keep? Will I ever think of KC & The Sunshine Band in the same way? Will the specific compilation of chords that once made me smile now make my eyes darken just a bit? Am I allowed to watch You’re Next with anyone else? Do I want to watch You’re Next with anyone else?


I made it easy for you. I took the fall and I took the blame. But do you know you were the first to break my heart? Do you know how alone I felt that January morning, when you were just inches away from me, when we were sitting in your car in the Starbucks parking lot, cupping our coffees (yours black and mine with just a touch of milk) to keep our hands from going numb? And later, when you talked to me dry-eyed as I wiped my own tears. When I didn’t like what I was hearing. When I first admitted to myself that things weren’t the same — that we weren’t the same.


I could see so much of me in you, could find so much of you in me. Now, I can see how I saw our reality through rose-colored glasses, how I wrote over your feelings with my own and assumed they were one and the same.


You never woke up early to run with me when I was training for a marathon.


You never remembered to buy cheese pizza rolls when I went vegetarian.


You never told me I was funny when you knew all I ever wanted to do was to make you smile, to be a light in your life.


You never gave me the answers I needed, the response I deserved. You never wrote me back.


So I’ll stop faulting myself. I’ll stand a little straighter, I’ll be a little stronger.


I’ll run more miles.


I’ll watch more movies.


I’ll go more places.


I’ll create more, I’ll bend less, and I’ll become me.


Because I want honesty and I want to be a priority and I want a letter back — and it won’t be from you.


That reply letter that got lost in the mail, the one I waited for day after day, month after month. It never came, but now it makes sense. It never came because it was never supposed to come from you.


One day I’ll write someone new a love letter. And it may look similar, but it will be so very different. The content and the context and the words that make it up will all be new, and distinct.


One day I will write someone a love letter and he will write me back. And it won’t be because I can anticipate his needs or because I can bend my life to fit his own, but because he sees me and he knows me and he wants me. His letter to me will be real and raw and unpolished. His letter will be what I seek, what I crave and what I deserve.


One day I will write someone new a love letter. And he will write me back.


Ellen Roof’s essay received an honorable mention in this magazine’s 2017 Young Alumni Essay Contest. Roof lives in Granger, Indiana, and works in the Development Office at the University of Notre Dame.