Polly absentmindedly tapped her keyboard, staring at her copy of Annie on my Mind. Liza Winthrop wasn’t exaggerating; writing a letter was hard.
Every song makes me think of you, she started. It was true.
“Fast Car” by Tracy Chapman made her imagine a life gone sour. She would probably be the husband in that song because Cap would never be such a jerk. Polly skipped that song because she did not want to think of herself as a jerk with the task at hand.
“Sick of Shame” by Film School was all about the if onlys: if only they weren’t broke, if only even a $5,000 windfall wouldn’t mean they were still at least 34 hours apart, if only they even knew. There was no point in trying in vain to wish reality away. Skip.
And then there was “Strong Hips” by Fanshaw, that glorious teasing beast of a song that had a vocal crescendo like no other, an actual climax. Polly flushed and timidly skipped that song, too. That was not what she wanted to think about right now.
She sat for so long that that her computer went to sleep, the dark screen reflecting her face. The face that Cap often gushed over. It was, at this point, all she really had to offer.
“Oh goddamnit!” Polly exclaimed, banging her head onto her desk. This was not going well.
“Tell her how you feel!” Her computer said with an exasperated sigh.
“I don’t know how I feel, I only have a feeling about how I’ll feel!” She retorted. The computer said nothing.
The hardest part is that it’s so gentle, Polly thought. She hadn’t noticed the signs because they were so different than what she was used to. Like the way her fingertips went numb whenever she received a message from Cap, yet her heart would race so much she always needed to take a moment before she responded.
14,000 kilometers is a bitch of a thing. It’s too far to travel without some sort of commitment, but who would commit to that sort of change? Who could commit to even the possibility of commitment with a number like 14,000 staring them in the face? Polly guessed that you would need a solid hypothesis. She woke up the computer screen and continued to type.
I guess that it will be worth the everything because when we meet, I will become Jesse Eisenberg in Zombieland and be overcome with the urge to tuck your hair behind your ear.
She couldn’t say she had feelings yet, no, just a feeling about the feeling she would have if she ever got close enough to… what?
The problem with adulthood, she continued, is that you are empowered with agency over your own fate. So these daydreams, innocent as they may be, are slightly more because I believe I can do something to make them reality. The thudding of my heart when your name pops on my screen tells me I WANT to.
You ask me, what would happen if all the strangers turned to stone?
I’ll tell you what might happen if we could always be alone. (1)
“Is there even a good soundtrack for writing a love letter?” Polly sighed as she tapped the right-facing triangles. “Why am I even writing a love letter for a love I’m not even sure I want to feel?”
Because of Alberta, of course. Because when Polly had told Alberta how she felt about Cap, Alberta had removed every possible excuse Polly had for not telling her. In doing this, she had also reminded Polly of how much she hated cowards. So Polly was telling Cap. Or, she was trying to.
Mostly because of Cap. Because she was beautiful, smart, funny, and a very caring person. Because she seemed interested in Polly, and all of her pursuits, for the right reasons. She didn’t want to use Polly’s vulnerability as a weapon against her. She just wanted to see her, because she found her beautiful. Polly knew this, and it made her anxious.
The stairs, your room, you think about me like I think about you? (2)
Skip. Polly realized that that was the thing she wanted most in that moment; just to know how Cap felt. They had flirted, yes, but did Cap wonder what would happen if they could see each other? Did she want that to happen as much as Polly did?
Be my flower girl. Things can’t get any less perfect. (3)
Skip. No, they couldn’t. Polly eyed the container of pencils in the right hand corner of her desk, near her mug of tea. Normally too utterly banausic to think about, they now seemed more romantic than the keyboard beneath her fingertips. She made a few clicks to run an estimate, courtesy of Uncle Sam.
“Thirty-three fucking dollars to send a letter to South Africa?” Polly asked in disbelief. Email, as somewhat impersonal as it seemed, was better. Getting rejected was bad enough, getting rejected after spending $33 for the privilege was unthinkable.
You can occupy my every sigh, you can rent the space inside my mind, at least until the price becomes too high. (4)
The price was already too high. $33 to send a letter, for chrissakes. Skip. Polly was using this as an excuse to avoid thinking of what she needed to say. She wasn’t going to say that she didn’t send the letter for the cost. If it was what Cap needed, she’d send it, happily. She’d send one every week.
If you and I, mean nothing at all
Take back the time when I was falling (5)
“If she can’t ever feel the way I do, is that what I want?” Polly asked her computer before hitting the skip key. “Do I want to pretend I never felt this way?”
Cut me free
Let it last, and let it burn (6)
Skip. So maybe it was. It would be better, then, if they took space. If Polly didn’t picture the gorgeous steel color of Cap’s eyes, if she didn’t read too deeply into her praise.
More frightening was the possibility that Cap did feel the same way. Where would they go from there? Polly felt the weight of expectations on her shoulders. She couldn’t make those promises that Cap was used to. She had already told Cap that her summer of freedom was more important than their marriage, even though the marriage was a joke in that context. If she never got successful, if she could only pay their bills, would that be enough? She thought hard. The only thing that came to mind was “love moderately”. That she could do.
Polly could love Cap, with the sweetness of real cane sugar. She could save, and sacrifice. She could work, and work and work. She could believe, in the steely blue-gray of those eyes, that it was worth it. She could make Cap feel that way. She could develop a habit of holding her arms gently near her elbows and just gazing into her face. She could dig in her heels and make them go slowly.
If we’re falling in love, we’re falling in love
There’ll be nothing above
No I won’t give you up, no I won’t give you up
If we’re falling in love
If I’m gonna fall in, I’m gonna fall my all in (7)
Yes, Polly typed, sometimes if you think the song is about you, it is. If only. No.
God willing. I’m willing.
Polly signed the email with her name and hit send.
1. Film School, “Two Kinds“. Hideout
2. Film School, “Direct”. Fission
3. Pity Sex, “Flower Girl”. Dark World
4. She Wants Revenge, “Red Flags and Long Nights”. She Wants Revenge
5. No Joy, “Hollywood Teeth”. More Faithful
6. Among Savages, “Terrified”. The Wanderings of an Illustrative Mind
7. Disclosure, “Willing & Able”. Caracal
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