Edinburgh, pt 1 (the letter)4 December 2011 permalink
I’m moving to Edinburgh. And, in trademark style, I manage to put off the actual packing until it’s too late to make any better effort than the one needed for a half asses job, and I’m left with making one pass over my meager possessions, chucking everything that seems semi-useful into a well-designated corner. Frantic as I am, I resist the common temptation of perusing all the optimistically bought books, still unread from the day they claimed their place in the bookshelf. Resist the call of the small cardboard box with a small, eclectic collection of pictures, correspondence, flyers and other various paper based flotsam. But, stuffed between the collected works of Salvador Dali and a thumbed copy of a Kundera, I do find a curious object that’s able to waylay my attention. More than curious, it’s probably the most enigmatic object known to mankind. The unopened envelop.
Nothing on it’s exterior betrays it’s content, writer or recipient, but it’s form and color tells me it’s one I wrote. This also means that it’s written to a woman, as I can’t remember the last time I wrote a hand-written letter to a man. From which you can probably deduce a lot about the letter’s content and intent. But I digress. One of the fundamental properties of unopened letters is that they, such as everything else, follow the second law of thermodynamics, and tend not to stay unopened for long. I rip open the letter, eager to place it in space and time.
One glance at the heading is enough to bring back the context of this letter. I deliberately choose to use the word “context” here, to underline the importance of the frame of mind of the writer at that time, as well as all other aspects that are not covered by the strict contents of this missive. I know this letter quite well, as the particular one I’m holding is the result of a couple of drafts, as well as a lot of careful penning on the subway, trying to space short, well timed burst of writing between the violent jostling of the old fashioned carriages. It takes only a couple of second before I’m dipped into a nostalgic reverie.
To make things more concrete, let’s say this letter is written at a time T1 (Time one). It’s written from a person A (being, obviously, me), to a person B (being whose identity is ironically only obvious to B). Let’s also start to make an early distinction between people at different times. This makes this a letter written by A1 (me, at time one) to B. Note that the lack of time for B, as the person it’s written to is a hypothetical person, a person whose characteristics I have extrapolated from earlier events, as well as a healthy dose of wishful thinking on my part. Or A’s part, as you prefer.
Moving on. With the semantics hopefully cleared up, it’s relatively easy to explain to you the contents of this letter. One of the most important elements is an ephemeral reference to another time T0, when A0 and B0 shared a couple of hours of conversation, as well as a couple of beers and illicit cigarettes. But the term “a couple of hours of conversation” is woefully inadequate to describe what in actuality transpired in those hours, and a good approximation would be that in those short hours A0 and B0 had a shared understanding, a fundamental sameness that render any imperfection in communication innocuous and imperceptible. An optimist might say that that moment was special enough to remove any reference to time, and just demarcate the event as A + B, an ideal and perfect meeting of two souls, released from the shackles of being within the context of a particular space and time. A pessimist would find it hard to be a pessimist at all, given the circumstances.
So, now we know that the letter, written by A1 to a (hopefully receptive) B1 refers to this event T0. This letter is also constructed on the presupposition that both A and B have an innate ability to have a similar event in the future, as well as B1 being receptive to the idea of giving it a whirl.
What happened to the letter after it was sealed, I can only guess. I can safely assume the letter was finished at some ungodly hour at which no postage can be procured, and given the fact that A has a tendency to procrastinate, there’s no reason to assume A1+a bit wouldn’t. And perhaps this A a bit later that T1 (let’s call him A2, for clarity) didn’t start to doubt A1’s assessment of the B1 receiving the letter (very distinct from the B1 mentioned before, which is the person A1 imagines the letter will be read by). A2 is not sure A1 knows who B1 really is, as he’s not sure himself, and as he’s A1 senior, he’s supposed to know better. A2 decides to play it safe and doesn’t post the letter.
Now, what I really find mind-boggling, is that fact that I managed to find this letter in exactly the right moment to permanently fuse and confuse the event A + B with my move to Scotland, even though they’re not even tangentially related. And, somewhere in the future, say T4, A4 will think back on A3 finding a letter written by A1 to a hypothetical B1 about an earlier event of A + B, and all of this stuff will come back to him a matter of seconds, perhaps as he’s carefully looking for his unabridged Nabokov, somewhere between the collected works of Salvador Dali and a thumbed copy of a Kundera.
NB. A and B did, in fact meet again, and the entire event of A + B was never mentioned or referred to. The whole affair even had a slightly awkward and embarrassing overtone. Both Ax and Bx seemed to have an unspoken agreement that something as time,- and placeless as A + B can only happen in a very particular time and place, which are only known a posteriori. So just make sure you enjoy it when it comes along, as it seems these A + B events are extremely rare (on the order of a couple per lifetime), and it would be a shame to either force or deny them.