April 4, 2010

Envelope

Posted in Uncategorized at 8:56 pm by jlp412

Last Sunday night, I was organizing the contents of a wicker basket that I have filled with various cards – some blank, some bought with specific recipients in mind, some stockpiled for undetermined future use for out-of-the-blue note-sending. Interspersed within these purchased cards are return addresses torn hastily from envelopes of cards sent to me from family and friends – my makeshift way of retaining written confirmation of where people dear to me live these days. I also save a few cards I am sent, time-frozen keepsakes of handwritten correspondences with people I love. Last week, when searching for the perfect card to send to a good friend who had recently gotten engaged, I decided to organize the basket, purge what I no longer needed and better sort what I did.

I realized quickly that it had been quite some time since I’d really dug deep into the basket. I was surprised to find cards sent to me back when I first moved to DC almost three years ago, return addresses that were three or four 20-something apartments out of date, blank cards I had forgotten I’d purchased and could have used a few birthdays ago. As I was sifting through the hodge-podge of paper at the bottom of the basket, I came across an envelope that made my heart stop. It was red, with pink polka dots along the triangle of the envelope fold. The writing varied between all caps and lowercase, a cursivy, yet legible script. Trisha’s handwriting.

The envelope was from a card she had sent me back in 2007, which of course, now, I am kicking myself for discarding. I have developed a practice of only saving cards long-term whose hand-written messages are unique to that moment and person in time, whose words I will want to revisit in a year or five or ten and re-read. It’s a habit I adapted when in need of a clutter-free living space, having moved apartments three times in two and a half years. A habit that now, I regret taking up in the first place.

I pulled the envelope out and tried to rack my brain as to why Trisha would have sent me the card once contained inside of it. It wasn’t postmarked near my birthday or close to any major discernible holiday, so it must have been just a saying-hi, thinking-of-you kind of card. Her handwriting was scrawled across the envelope, her former Chicago address pinning her in a place of time almost three years ago, when she was still alive, still figuring out her next step, still one of my friends sending me a card just because, and since she was still with us and life was still unfolding in the way I had come to expect it to, I had not thought to save the card, could not have possibly predicted this moment nearly three years later when it would be one of the few tattered, tangible pieces left of the friend who sent it. I then found myself fumbling for my phone, scrolling to her name, which I still have not found the courage to delete from my address book, to call her, to tell her I was thinking about her and to check in on how she was doing. I made it halfway through the T’s before I stopped myself.

It’s been more than a year now since we lost Trisha, but it’s stupid, random moments like staring at her handwriting on an envelope that grab me by the shoulders and shake me back into the reality that Trisha is, in fact gone. Even though her handwriting is not. Even though pictures and videos of her are not. Even though the rest of us, for no other reason than happenstance good fortune, are not.

Trisha is trapped in time. We still move through it.

And sometimes the injustice, the confusion, of these dual journeys stopped and sustained, seems to freeze time altogether, seems to confuse time so much that I find myself practically calling a friend on the phone whose death does not for one day leave my thoughts’ undercurrent. And so I scramble to make sense of time by keeping Trisha with me in it somehow, by adding more thread to her tapestry until I continue to sew in new fabrics more than a year after she surrendered the needle and thread to the rest of us.

So, defying all logic, I try to piece Trisha back together with every bit of her I have left – even if it’s just handwriting on an envelope.

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