Or, should that be My Dear August? Or, what about Dearest August? My Dearest August? I’m beginning to see why people don’t write love letters anymore. The only reason I’m even attempting to do so is because I thought it would please you. I remember that Christmas when Paul gave you that book of famous love letters and you went on and on about it over New Year’s, so I thought you’d like to receive a love letter yourself. A real one. In a proper envelope, with a stamp and everything.
(That bit was quite difficult, actually; Do you know how long it’s been since I’ve needed a stamp?)
Now, from what I’ve read, these letters normally go on for pages about how beautiful the recipient is. For all I know, that was fine in the fourteenth century or whenever, but it’s not exactly “PC” these days, is it? I’m not supposed to reduce a woman to her physical attractiveness, as though that’s the only thing that gives her value. Because it’s not, of course. You have value far beyond your beauty.
Not that you aren’t beautiful, because you are. I just don’t know if I’m supposed to write nine paragraphs about your eyes or your hair or your smile or whatever. I could, of course. It would be easy. I could write a graduate thesis about how beautiful you are, but I wouldn’t because you are more than just the single most gorgeous human I have ever met, seen or imagined. Though, as I say, you are that as well.
I don’t feel like I’m off to a very good start here.
Anyway, apart from being beautiful you’re also clever. Much cleverer than me, which I think is brilliant, by the way. All my life, I’ve felt like I was the cleverest person in the room. Which is deeply troubling because, when you get right down to it, I’m actually a bit thick. I mean, not the kind of thick where I would, I don’t know, eat a shoe by mistake or open all the cages at the zoo or vote conservative. No, just the sort of thick where I don’t really know all the things that a chap is supposed to know when he’s thirty-four. I can tell you about the works of Dickens or the last time we won the World Cup or which of the Marx Brothers never talked, but ask me something that matters? Like, about government or money or cars? I’d be at a loss.
What do you Americans call it? “Adulting?”
Not like you. You’re brilliant. Not only do you know about government and money and cars, but you also know about books and films and music and what you call that little monkey thing from Madagascar with the stripy tail.
It’s either a lemur or a lemming; I can never remember which.
And yet you never looked down your nose at me for being so thick. If there was something I didn’t know, you told me, and that was it. You’re always teaching me new things, but you never judged me for not knowing them. In fact, in all the years I’ve known you, I’ve never once heard you utter a harsh or judgmental word to anyone. Even when they deserved it.
Even when I deserved it.
Do you remember the first time we met? We were at that terrible pub, and you spilled a pint of lager all down my shirt. At the time, I remember thinking that it was most fitting as I’d been having the worst day ever. The sort of day where a hundred little things go wrong. No big things, like receiving a large tax bill or getting hit by a bus. Just little things like stepping in a puddle or being late for work. In real terms, you’re no worse off at the end of the day than you were at the start. But all those little things add up, and I was feeling so down that I did something I hardly ever do and went down the pub for a pint.
Then, out of nowhere, a strange, American woman spilled her drink all over me. I thought it was another dark cloud. But it turned out to be the silver lining. Or, rather, you were the silver lining. And just like that, the worst day of my life became the best.
You were kind to me. Kinder than I ever would have expected from a stranger in a pub. You were there with a group of work friends, but you left them to take care of me. You bought me a new shirt. You promised to take my old shirt home and wash it for me. We ended up at a different pub where we spent all night talking. You told me about your life and your job. Why you left Minnesota and how happy you were now that you were a television producer.
You kept saying “sorry,” like you thought you were boring me, but you weren’t. I was entranced, hearing you talk about the minutia of television production. I didn’t understand most of what you were saying, but you were so passionate about it, I couldn’t help but hang on your every word. And, even though it’s far too late to mean anything, I’d like to tell you what I wanted to tell you that night:
August, you are a strong, intelligent, extraordinary woman.
That’s what I mean when I say you’re beautiful.
When people say that beauty is only skin deep, they mean well, but they’re not quite right. I think of you as being a bit like one of those paper lanterns people hang up in their back gardens. Sure, the paper is painted a pretty color and has a nice pattern on it. But it’s the light inside, shining so brightly, that not only makes the lantern glow, but bathes everything around it in a kind of magical, colored light.
Pretty is only skin deep. Beauty can only come from within.
I could go on writing about all the wonderful things you are for another year at least, but I think I’d better wrap this up. I’ve only got about half an hour till the service is set to begin and I don’t want to be late.
Looking back over what I’ve written, I realize that this love letter is severely lacking in one important respect: I still haven’t told you that I love you. Not in those words, exactly. I like to think I’ve been saying it to you all along, in my own way. Like that chap in that film who just said “As you wish” all the time, but what he meant was “I love you.” Every word I’ve ever spoken to you has been a kind of an “I love you.”
Why didn’t I say it? Properly, I mean. Why did I never tell you what it’s meant to me just to have you in my life? Why did I never say how much joy you bring me just by being yourself? Why did I wait until now to write you this letter? Why didn’t I tell you all this when it might have mattered?
Extraordinary. Even after you’re gone, I’m still learning from you. Learning not to take things for granted. Not to put things off. To say what needs to be said to the people you care about today. Because there’s no guarantee any of us will see tomorrow.
After I’ve finished writing this, I’ll take it with me to your funeral. I’m sure no one will object if I slip it into the casket. I don’t know if I believe in a life after this one, but if there is such a place as Heaven, then perhaps you’re there right now, reading this pathetic attempt at a love letter. Are you smiling? Are you crying? Are you wishing I’d said something sooner? Or glad that I never spoiled our friendship? I don’t suppose I’ll ever know for sure. Not until I find my way to wherever you are now.
Until then, know that you are loved. Have always been loved. Will always be loved. And that’s got to be a good thing.
Even coming from someone too thick to know the difference between a lemur and a lemming.
Too thick to tell you all this before it was too late, August.
With all the love I have to give,
PS—I’m now about 80% certain the monkey thing is a lemur…65 or 70 at least.