Or: A Fictional Account of A Day.
It’s a cloudy day and I meet with my friend, Ludwig, at a cafe on Main Street. Ludwig is middle-aged and likes tweed jackets with patches on the elbows. I’m me, short, a little chubby, and prefer dresses at all times of the year. Today’s weather is perfect for each of our individual needs and we’re an odd (looking) pair sitting on wrought iron chairs under a very small veranda. It’s a quiet little spot and new to both of us, though we imagine it’s been here longer than we have been alive (though maybe not Ludwig).
I’ve known Ludwig for a while, nine years or so, but we don’t meet much. I probably haven’t spoken to him for several months, in fact. We were working so well together at one point, a couple of years ago, even wrote a paper together. (Neither of us like Ayn Rand much.) Yet, this is the first we’ve come to see each other like this, two know-it-alls who like to discuss the world.
“Ludwig,” I tell him, “I’m sorry it’s been so long. Things have been busy.”
It’s true, but also not true. Ludwig understands and nods along, but I can see he doesn’t buy into it completely. It’s not a malicious thing, of course, just the way a good friend knows when something is not quite right. He is, after all, a good friend.
So, I tell him the truth. I had lost interest in our discussions because of some bad experiences. First was the realization that my other friends do not understand Ludwig or his idiosyncracies or his philosophies. They respect them, of course, but they don’t want to investigate the topics Ludwig and I like to delve into. Every time I bring up a sentence tree, blank stares greet me or it is brushed aside for more popular opinions (like Ayn Rand).
And then there was another friend (more of an acquaintance, really). I had written a letter to this friend, who also knew Ludwig, but did not receive a letter back, only a postcard months later. It had infuriated me for some reason, to receive less than a full paragraph in return. It irked me, too, that it was sent as a postcard.
There is something impersonal about postcards, I tell Ludwig as I explain what happened. They are little notes sent in the mail, not letters. Ludwig raises an eyebrow and I place my hands in my lap.
“I’m not angry anymore, though,” I say as I smile like a sheep caught outside the fence.
I hadn’t actually read the postcard when it had arrived. Now, months after the fact, I read it while cleaning out my home office. I had intended to simply throw it out, but something in me told me to at least read it beforehand. It took two or three tries to actually read it, fishing it out of the recycling bin by my desk a couple of times before settling down with the paper.
My friend had not been mean at all, more kind in fact given the situation. I learned several things about my old friend: he was married, he visited Berlin often, and was basically happy to have read my “note” (if a note could be three pages long). More importantly, he remembered me and remembered me fondly. He was even happy that I had returned to school after abandoning it so long ago.
All in all, it was… nice.
Ludwig gets this “aha” look in his eyes and I laugh along with him. The words, of course, it was the words! That mattered more than the medium on which they were written. There was no reason to infer a message from the method of delivery. Indeed, a postcard allows for others to read the words before it reaches its destination. And so, is it not more open?
At any rate, none of that matters, of course. The words held the sentiment, not the paper they were written on. Ludwig knew this and admonishes me (gently) for forgetting such a thing.
Ludwig and I sip coffee and we watch as the cars go by, pleased by the turn of events.
“We should meet again,” I tell Ludwig. “There was no reason for all the melodrama after all.”
He nods and I smile again, this time more assured.