The letters arrived two weeks apart, sent by two different people; each requires a response, and yet I cannot think how to reply to them. The first letter was a love story; a year ago she’d met a young man, parted as friends, wrote to each other, talked on the telephone, fell in love at a distance. This relationship, now, is the focus of her new life, the new life she had begun in the months since she last wrote to me. The second was a death story; an elderly relative of a young married friend had died a week after suffering a heart-attack—the letter describes the site of the grave, beneath an opening in the dark pine trees, beneath blue hills, under the uneven Oregon sky.
And I have no idea what to write, for I know nothing of these things, am innocent and ignorant, bland and complacent. What can I say, save only:
You, my friends, are living, while I sit safe with my books. Love, grieve, do what you will, do what you must. I would worry about you, rejoice with you, suffer vainly in my sympathy, but such actions would be but irrelevant apings of the things you truly feel, and pleased though I am to act a part, I cannot do so with you, not in serious things. Rather, let me tell you of this amusing thing or that, an overheard conversation refracting ’round your stubborn facts; let me remain as I am, here, going from room to library and back again, stopping out for coffee and chasing away the pigeons.
And waiting for your letters….