When You Were In Prison I Wrote You Letters


When you were in prison I wrote you letters. And when I sent them they got sent back. You were already out by the time they arrived. That is a good thing, I think.

They said you were 30 miles from the border when they found you. When you got there would you have crossed it? For me the border is a thing from the movies and political debates. My friend Steve says he’d like to take a blank globe and redraw all the maps. He’d just put borders where they seem to make sense, topographically speaking. That’s not the worst idea I’ve ever heard.

I was pretty sure the letters wouldn’t reach you. Maybe I don’t have enough faith in the post office, but it just didn’t seem possible for some pieces of paper to cross that massive span — the distance between us. You were in the southwest and I was in the northeast. You were in the hot sun and I was in the snow. You were in outer space on that planet, the one where the people we love go to when they are lost. Did the earth look like a blank globe from out there?

When you were in prison I was chasing you on a bike with two flat tires and the bike was in my mind. You were going out of yours at 1,000 miles per hour. You weren’t running from me, anyway. That is a good thing I think, because there’s no way I could have caught you.

When you were in prison I wondered if you were cold. I didn’t know yet another person had let you borrow their sweatshirt. I didn’t know they had sweatshirts in prison. I guess I’m sheltered.

I remember how my friend’s dad once made fun of me for using the word “incarcerated.” It was during winter break in my freshman year of college and we were all just sitting at their kitchen table. I think he thought I had learned the word at school, and was being a snob. But honestly isn’t that word at a sixth grade reading level? Just because a word is long doesn’t mean it’s advanced. I didn’t learn the word “dickishness” in college either.

When you were in prison they tore up the sidewalk in front of my apartment. Isn’t it weird how a jackhammer hitting a rock can sound like a sharp piano key? Like the one we would use as our doorbell, when we’d play underneath the piano and pretend it was our home? And neither of us ever even learned piano. That’s the real crime.

When you were in prison I watched Somewhere in the theater and I cried at how the actress reminded me of you at that age. I cried at that stupid Strokes song. I don’t think that ten decisions shape your life, that lyric’s just another catchy lie for the sake of indie music. I think it’s just one decision — and then the one after that, and the one after that. After each decision you start a new life with a slightly different version of yourself. I thought you were never coming back.

I like the version of you who’s here now. It’s not the version of you who ran, or the one who played house under the piano, hundreds of decisions ago. I hope you told your new self about how you once borrowed a sweatshirt in prison. I still have the letters I wrote you.

I hope I never have to send them.

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