The Last Real Letter

It was mid-afternoon, and before going through a backlog of e-mails I decided to go to my real mail box and check my real mail. This is usually a somber experience. What fun is it to look through bills, advertisements and junk? This time, though, somethi

It was mid-afternoon, and before going through a backlog of e-mails I decided to go to my real mail box and check my real mail.

This is usually a somber experience. What fun is it to look through bills, advertisements and junk? This time, though, something got my attention.

A blue envelope was in the stack of mail, and my address was handwritten on it. I looked up in the upper left-hand corner of the envelope to see who it was from. My friends Gary and William had sent me a letter.

Feeling a bit excited, I dumped the rest of the mail on an end table and took the letter to my desk.

The cell phone on my desk started to chime. It chimes whenever I get a new text message.

It was from my cell phone provider wanting to sell me a new ringtone. Yes, I even get junk mail on my cell phone. I quickly erased it.

I hadn’t heard from Gary and William since they moved to San Francisco last fall. They moved there because same sex marriages were legal in California. (I wrote about this in the column “Love, Marriage and Being Gay,” issue of Sept. 23, 2008.) The law passed in the state last May but was revoked by voters in November.

At my desk, I went looking for my letter opener, which I’ve had for years but seldom use because I get so few letters. When I found it, my damn cell phone chimed again.

It was a text message from a friend — an associate really — who wanted to meet me downtown at Arnold’s that night to pitch me a story idea for this column. His insistence was becoming annoying, but at least he wanted to talk about it face to face and not tire me out by sending a series of e-mails on the subject.

I found my letter opener and opened the blue envelope. Inside was matching blue stationery. Hell, I didn’t know they still made stationery.

It was a six page letter, half written by Gary and the other half by William. I read the letter slowly, catching up on their new lives in San Francisco — their new house and new jobs and their involvement in getting same sex marriages back to being legal again in California.

Finishing the letter, I left it open on my desk as I wanted to read it again after I looked through my e-mails. As I went through them, I discovered most of the e-mails were junk — just like the paper junk I’d dumped on my end table and like the text message junk from my cell phone provider I erased.

As I checked through the e-mails, deleting all the junk, I started to wonder about the last real letter I’d received before this one from Gary and William. It would be easy for me to find out, because I keep just about all of them. I don’t “delete” real letters.

I went to my letter drawer in my dresser. I discovered that in the summer of 2005 I got a letter from a friend in Michigan — just about four years ago.

I started looking through some of the older letters in the drawer. I found one written by my mother shortly before her death. I found a letter from my twin brother, who died in 1994. I found some old love letters sent from a “friend” some 30-odd years ago.

While looking through those old hand-written notes, I realized that if they’d been sent as e-mail or text messages they would be long gone by now. Deleted. Somehow a part of my history would have been forever erased.

Continuing to look over the letters, I found a few relating to some of my columns. I’ve received a lot of mail at CityBeat over the years about them, but almost always e-mails. Know how many actual feedback letters I’ve gotten through the U.S. Mail? Three.

Feeling like I was wasting time, I put the old letters back in the drawer and decided I needed to text my associate back about meeting up at Arnold’s.

Yes, I know how to text, but I’m not exactly fast at it. At this point in my life, I don’t consider “texting” to be career-enhancing.

Tired of sitting at my desk, I took Gary and William’s letter, sat down on my loveseat and reread it.

It was wonderful to hear from my friends again, but at the end of the letter William wanted to know if I had a Twitter account. Apparently Gary and William do. They want to start twittering me to provide constant updates about their lives.

As I folded the letter and put it back in the envelope, I felt a little sad. Will this be the last real letter I’ll ever receive?

In a few days, I’ll go to a Hallmark store, buy myself some fancy stationery and answer Gary and William’s letter. I’ll thank them for writing and catch them up on what’s new in my life. I might even answer the Twitter question.

It’ll be fun to write in longhand, to watch my ink pen go from left to right as I write. I’ll choose my words carefully and thoughtfully.

I want to write a damn good letter, like it’ll be the last real letter I’ll ever send. When it’s finished, I’ll text or tweet Gary and William to let them know it’s on the way.

CONTACT LARRY GROSS: [email protected]

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