On my 17th birthday, my boyfriend at the time gave me a book. He was 6 years older than me and really liked that fact. I think. He bought me The Complete Stories by Flannery O’Connor. I remember being really excited as no boy prior this had ever gotten me a book before especially one with actual words and well written sentences.
I wrote you something on the inside.
Mike was a writer. He actually went to college for it. And he was really quite good. I think. He was also a drummer who wrote a lot of songs for the band he was in. Throughout my entire teenage life I wanted nothing more than a boy to write something about me. It didn’t even need to be spectacular. It didn’t have to rhyme or make sense. I just wanted to be that girl whose man once said, “This one goes out to Michele, without her, I never would have gotten that zipper infested biker jacket.”
When I found out someone had finally written something to me
– emaciated, frizzy-headed me – I was beside myself with joy. Someone had finally written me The Love Letter I always wanted and inside a great book, too. A boy wrote me something, permanent, and in a book I didn’t feel embarrassed about keeping forever.
Excitedly, I cracked open the book for its very first time. The smell of paper hit my nose. This was the smell of complete, the smell of remembrance. The first page was empty, the second one was as well. On the third page I saw writing—at last.
(For those who are too weak to click a mouse it reads:
I took a chance on this, but I think you’ll really like it. Short stories are easy to read & you can skip around. Some of my favorites start with “A God Man Is Hard to Find.” But all are great.
“That’s it? Are you kidding me?” I thought to myself. “It’s my 17th birthday and you gave me a book that will forever read, ‘Short stories are easy to read and you can skip around?’ That’s my love letter? The teenage love letter I waited for for years? The teenage love letter I am STILL waiting for?”
Looking back, I should have been happy. Because on my 18th birthday he handed me a brown paper bag that held a bottle of Quell, Medicine for Crabs. And on my 19th birthday, I no longer knew him.
Now, the book and what he wrote makes me laugh. I have shown it to friends over the years and we’ve all had a chuckle. Toby Joe once asked me, “Did he think you were a total moron or something?” And I guess that he did. Who knows. And the brown bag of Quell is also something I laugh at as well, though, I didn’t save it. Granted, I don’t think it’d be nearly as funny had I actually had crabs.
It’s reassuring to know that something entirely devastating for a time becomes entirely comical during another. And I will remember this fact for when my daughter suffers from her first broken heart. I will remember this fact the next time something kind of small hurts so bad.
This year, Toby Joe wrote a tech book about PHP 5. In it, he gave thanks. Tucked inside that paragraph, there is a sentence or two about his wife. He even spelled my name right.