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Love Letter To A Young Man In A Foreign Land: Short Memoir

The following “memoir” was published online elsewhere, only the website has since disappeared.  Thus, I resurrect my creative attempt at remembrance here.


"Virgen de Quito" by Lion Hirth (Prissantenbär) - own work (self-made). Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons -

“Virgen de Quito” by Lion Hirth (Prissantenbär) – own work (self-made). Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons –

I started this letter many times. And many times I’ve ripped the paper from my notebook, crumpled it into a tight ball and tossed it into the wicker waste basket. The last time, the crushed paper ball ricocheted off the mountain of other paper balls and rolled under my bed.

The night you left, that last night where we stood outside my apartment, I told you I loved you. The sight of me had surprised you. You didn’t expect me to throw on my thin blue bathrobe and race down the stairs after you. The night sky was clear. The air was cold. You knew I was naked underneath. I said, “I love you.” You said, “Don’t say that. I might run away to another country.”

But you were leaving for another country. You would be gone for two years, and we had only been dating a few weeks. But I loved you already.

I’ve been writing this letter every night since you left. At first, I just wanted to get the pain out and on paper, hoping that I might at best numb myself. I thought you were perfect; yet, you weren’t at all what I expected or had ever loved before. I had, until you, loved tall, dark, lanky men. Men made of wire, whose hair and eyes were black and unsettling. Men who were artists and slightly insane.

You are nothing like them. Fair skin, fair hair, blue eyes. Thighs like rocks from all your years of long-distance cycling. A chest with soft hair that I love to rub my cheek against. You are made of muscle and sinew, and I disappear in your arms. You are analytical. An engineer. Your sanity is so sharp that I’m almost driven insane.

Except that I love you. And this is the one letter I haven’t yet sent. I’ve written other letters to you. Boring letters about the people we both know, the places we’ve both been, the movies you are missing. I send you news clippings, magazine articles. You send me stories about the water tank you’re building, the village you live in, the bartering you have to do for supplies, the language you barely know. You beg for letters. You are lonely.

You don’t say you love me. And I haven’t said it since that night outside in the cold, dark parking lot. You held me tight then as you kissed me one last time. And then, in that coolly sane way of yours, you turned away. I stood and watched you go and then realized that I was barefoot. Did you ever wonder how long I stood out there? Did you look for me in your rear-view mirror as you drove away?

In your last letter, you wrote that you would come back. Not to me, you didn’t write that you would come back to me. Only that you would come back.

And so I’m trying one last time to write this letter. To say again what I haven’t said in two years. I love you. But as soon as I write these words, the fear comes over me. Will those words drive you away? Should I toss this letter with all the others I’ve never sent, never finished? Should I wait? Should I wait for that moment when I’ve disappeared into your arms, my fingers tangled in the soft hair of your chest, my lips near your ear? And then say, I love you.


Categories: Memoir

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Marie A Bailey

Writer, blogger, knitter, cat lover, and introvert.

31 replies

  1. I think you could fill a book with this kind of remembrance. It’s a great concept — one sided conversations that still tell a story — this was wonderful — the sense of character you developed for both the writer and the intended recipient.
    Of course, I shouldn’t assume that this is fictional, non-fictional or a bit of both. Whatever it was, it was a pleasure to read. I wish you wrote more.


    1. Thank you so much, Helena. Such kind words, and so encouraging 🙂 It’s a true story in as much as that’s how I remember the last night my not-yet husband and I parted before he set off to join the Peace Corps. It was incredibly painful to let go of him, but since things turned out well, I allow myself to re-experience the pain and uncertainty now and then 🙂


  2. Marie, this is a wonderful way to tell a love story. Emotion can rise and decline with a few sentences and gives the reader the solid reasons for each. The fact that the letter has not been mailed is perfect. What should she do? Marvelous.


  3. Gorgeous! I can almost see the handwriting on blue air mail stationery… And what a great way to stick your toe in the waters of putting your original writing on the blog.


  4. What a lovely piece, Marie. I love the unique touches like “You didn’t expect me to throw on….” And that he knows she’s naked underneath. Thanks for sharing this.


  5. This was so wonderfully written, Marie! I could picture this whole thing! I have been in a similar situation, where I was used to lanky, tall men, with thick brown or black hair. I had a recent experience for exactly one year, when he chose to leave me and go back to an ex-girlfriend, who he known and wished for, over the whole 12 months we were together. It would be futile for me to tell him how I feel, and somehow, you may think I am really gutsy by saying this, but I believe it may be futile for you to express these words, “I love you,” again. It fell upon a self-contained man’s ears and still did not ‘melt’ him. He did not go away and write those words back to you, right? He may be lonely but I am fearful he is not longing for you. I feel this anguish and heartache you have for him, Marie. I really do!


    1. Wow, you really have gleaned the pain I was going through then! Yes, this is a true story (with just a few literary embellishments). My husband joined the Peace Corps soon after we started dating and for two years I had no idea whether he would come back at all. But I was a constant for him, and when he invited me to visit him, I went. That sealed the deal 🙂

      Thank you again for your comments.


  6. Oh Marie, this is fantastic writing! I hope there is a follow-up…I’m dying to know if she mailed the letter.
    That Eric, such a romantic. 🙂
    Thank you for sharing this! xo


    1. Thank you, Jill! Actually, there’s not a follow-up story. That is, not one written. I can tell you what happened, though. I didn’t mail the letter, but I did visit him in that foreign land and he fell in love with me there. Our anniversary is this month. 25 years 😉


    1. Oh, thank you, Andra! I’m still coming to grips with the response to this story. I’m grateful for it, indeed. Just (pleasantly) surprised 🙂


  7. I’m glad I read through the comments so – as Paul Harvey might say – I could have the REST of the story! I’m not a happily–ever-after type in fiction, but in real life it’s my preference!


    1. Thank you, Shel! I don’t think I could have written this memoir if the ending had been different. It’s much easier for me to reflect on pain once I’ve achieved happiness 🙂


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