Tale of Unrequited Love

It’s the end of my work week, and I’m spent. I lay in bed in the late afternoon, my tank of energy perilously low. Son heated up a can of chili, relieving me of dinner duty. I lay there as dusk descended, feeling oh-so-tired and kind of lonely, too, now that I thought about it, there in the growing darkness. Next I would feel sorry for myself. That’s no good. So I turned on the light and picked up a volume of Jane Kenyon poems that I bought at the used bookstore last week.

Inside was a note. I always read artifacts I find in used books–ticket stubs, bookmarks, grocery lists. They are the ephemera of fellow book lovers.

I was too far into it when I realized it was a letter of unrequited love. They must have been students. He was a cyclist. She understood it was not meant to be, but she was having trouble accepting that. This was not her first letter. I groaned, on her behalf, wanting to counsel her on withholding such thoughts, on letting him go, on preserving her heart and her dignity, too.

I wondered who folded the letter and placed it in the Jane Kenyon volume. It had to be her, right? She must have written it and never sent it. I consider that a small triumph on her behalf.

I carefully folded the letter and placed it on my nightstand, hoping to restore any dignity that I took away by reading it. I was grateful to her, whoever she was, for showing her vulnerability and humanity. I connected with her, whoever she is. Her struggle brought me outside of myself to recognize that we all struggle, in all sorts of ways, and we try so hard, we really do.

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2 thoughts on “Tale of Unrequited Love

  1. Wow, the stories you could make up about finding a letter in a used book! I would have assumed he put it in the book, still loving her a little but knowing they were not right for one another. Did you get a clue from the poem on the page where the letter was placed that she wrote it?

    I love your last paragraph.

  2. If he tenderly folded the note and placed it in the Jane Kenyon volume, then that would be lovely, too. Anything but crumbled up and found in the gutter, right?

    It was in the front of the book, so few contextual clues there.

    I did find a bookmark in a Billy Collins book of poems. It marked his poem, “Forgetfulness.” Now they’ll never forget where that poem is!

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