He wrote her a letter. It was filled with fifteen years of unspoken love and yearning. Each word pick meticulously, every sentence firm and defined, it was a work of art. A body of words that even with all its beauty and poetic beats just skimmed the surface of his feelings. He, Richard Covington, had finally said he loved her; Kristen Nakayama.
Richard was sixteen when he first met Kristen. The moment he saw her he had finally found a definition to a word as fickle as beauty. She was a dancer and that grace carried through all her movements and gestures. She never touched the ground Richard often thought. Kristen was silent and proud; a humility passed down by her father.
Through high school Richard and Kristen formed a friendship. He saw her laughing, crying, enraged, and talking endlessly about Martha Graham. Richard was her champion, her confidant, her friend. Yet, never was he her lover. Even so, they shared their lives over secret bonfires in the woods. A pit made of stone and rubble; Freud’s Couch as Kristen used to call it.
Kristen left Ann Arbor for New York after high school. he had a scholarship to Columbia and a dream to dance on a stage in every country. Richard stayed in Michigan and after several failed attempts at writing became a teacher at their old high school. They kept in touch. At first there were calls everyday, then every other day. E-mails came next but soon faded into an occasional text message on holidays and birthdays. Now they’re on the cusp of Thirty and Kristen has just moved back home.
What was suppose to be a second chance for Richard became a dead end when he saw the ring on Kristen’s left hand. She was engaged to Trevor Moors an investment banker from New York who thought it was the right time to try and cash in on the never-ending comeback of Detroit. Richard was speechless. He had loved no one but Kristen and now she was betrothed to some big city hotshot who probably only saw value in Kristen’s looks.
Richard did the only thing he knew how to do… He wrote. Four days, and five hours is how long it took him to finish his letter. It was a declaration, a justifiable argument for Kristen to leave Trevor, an expose of his love, a memoir, a prayer… It was a rebirth of their communication.
So now he waits, deep in the woods at night tending to a small fire. If Kristen had read the letter, if she had felt the same then she would have read his post script with earnest and she would show. They belong together and even if it isn’t the ideal situation, love will get them through. That is all they need… love.
The fire crackles in the moist April air. Richard smiles and turns as he hears the brush and fallen branches twist under footsteps. Kristen walks into the small opening, entering from stage left as always. She stands across the fire in silence as Richard’s eyes trace her body in the orange light. Her face is timeless, her cheeks still catch the light off the fire as they did fifteen years ago. Hair long dark hair is tied in a loose ponytail that drapes over her right shoulder. In her left hand is Richard’s letter.
“You came,” Richard says standing.
“I didn’t really have much of a choice,” Kristen gestures with the letter in her hand.
“I know it’s not the best time but–”
“I’m getting married Richie.”
“Don’t marry Trevor. You’re making a mistake.”
“Richie, do you understand what you’re saying?”
“Yes, something I should have said years ago,” Richard pauses as he takes a deep breath, “I love you Kristen. I loved you the second we met and I haven’t stopped loving you since.”
Kristen is silent. Her eyes sink as she lets out a loud sigh and places her hand on her face, “Richie…”
“I know you feel the same. That’s why you’re here that’s why–”
“Richie stop,” Kristen interrupts, “You need to sit down.”
“What?” Richard says with a puzzled look.
“Sit down Richie.”
“I don’t understand. I–”
“Alright,” Richard sits on one of the worn tree trunks.
Kristen paces across from the fire mumbling broken words to herself. After countless loud sighs Richard interrupts her, “Kristen what’s going?”
Kristen stops in place. She lets out a final sigh and holds up Richard’s letter, “What the fuck is this?”
“Excuse me?” Richard’s voice drops.
“Richie what the fuck is this?”
“A–A letter. My letter. Didn’t you read it?”
“Yes. And you think this is OK?”
“Kristen what’s going on? I love you.”
“And that gives you the right to tell me what I want?”
“I never said it!”
“You think that Trevor is some terrible person who only wants me for sex and I must be too stupid to realize it. But that’s OK, because you’re going to save me from myself,” the years had not dulled Kristen’s sarcasm.
“That’s not what I said at all! Look I know you, I know he isn’t right for you.”
“How many conversations have you had with Trevor. Have you ever spoken with him outside of that one time I introduced you?”
“But what? What gives you the right to judge him?” Kristen waits for a response but Richard has nothing.
“So my feelings mean nothing to you Kristen?” Richard finally shouts.
“Fifteen years ago maybe. But that’s the problem… You have this idea that since we spent so much time together that means I belong to you. That whenever you wanted all you had to do was write some long winded letter and I’d come swooning back to you. What do you think I was doing in New York?”
Richard fumbles for justification, “Look I love you. I’m sorry that I was scared and it took me so long but that doesn’t change how I feel. What about me?”
“Yes because all these years you weren’t thinking about yourself. You weren’t living in some fantasy because you were too afraid to accept responsibility for your feelings. Its not like I was just some object for you to romanticize in order to feel better about yourself,” the years had not dulled the sharpness of her words.
“What the hell is wrong with you?”
“Nothing. I moved on, I lived a real life. You’re the one that stayed here and hid away in his terrible writing and fantasies.”
“Fine, go marry Trevor but don’t come crying to me when he fucks you over.”
“Right, because Trevor could actually say in fifteen minutes what took you fifteen years to say. Yeah he’s the terrible and selfish one.”
“I am not selfish. How many times did I sit through you falling apart? How many times did I bust my ass to make your life a little easier?”
“That’s the problem you think that entitles you to something. You would have never done any of those things if you didn’t want something in return.”
“That’s bullshit and you know it!”
“Really? Let me tell you something. This love you believe you have for me. It’s just sexual. You think by putting the word love in desire’s place excuses it. So you think by doing all these favors it justifies that desire. True friendship has no currency. I owe you nothing.”
“So you came out here just to shit all over my feelings? Thanks,” Richard stands, his face a mixture of grief and rage.
Kristen ignores his pain and takes another stab, “Have you even been in a real relationship Richie?”
“Does it matter? I loved you. I waited and stayed true to those feelings.”
“No! This is the fucking problem Richie! Stop using me as an excuse!” Kristen stomps her feet in defiance of Richards logic.
“I’m not using you!”
“Why are you so afraid to think that you’re wrong about this, that you were wrong about me?”
“Because I’m not!”
“You’re twenty-nine and writing high school poetry in a love letter. Don’t you think you might have gotten some things wrong.”
“Why? Because I didn’t run off to chase some stupid dream. By the way, how is that going for you? Oh wait I forgot, you dropped out of Barnard and became a waitress. Guess that makes you some sage of wisdom, huh?”
Kristen is silent. Richard knew her well enough to know her weak spots, “You think I settled? What about you? You know what I know why you came here Kristen. You came here to tear me down because you’re unhappy.”
“I came here to tell you that this can’t happen.”
“Don’t worry it won’t. I thought you had values, I thought you actually still held on to some of those things you used to believe in. All New York did for you was add ten pounds and gave you a sailor’s tongue,” Richard goes to grab the bucket of water to dose the flame.
“July 7th, 2001,” Kristen says forcing Richard to pause, “Do you remember?”
“It hurt,” Kristen’s face glows in the fire’s light, “It hurt. I waited for you but you didn’t show. One of countless times you weren’t there.”
“What? I was always there when you needed me.”
“No. I was going to tell you that day. You didn’t show. Not only that, you never noticed, not once did you pause to look at me. Never.”
“Kristen what are you–”
“Who asked you to prom.”
“Who spent every Valentine’s Day with you.
“Who was always there for you.”
“I’ll admit I was scared too and I could have done more but at least I tried. Not once did you even make an attempt. I was always the one. So that summer I was going to say it because I knew you wouldn’t. But you didn’t show. You didn’t show!”
“I had no idea.”
“You shouldn’t need an idea! If you loved me the way you say you did then you would’ve showed. If not that day all the other days I needed you.”
“Richie I left to New York because I realized that I was wrong. I was wrong about you, I was wrong about dance, I was wrong about who I wanted to be. I dropped out of Barnard and Columbia because I wasn’t happy.”
“Are you happy now?”
They both stand, across from each other, the flame yearning to be kindled or destroyed, Richard with the bucket of water and Kristen with a letter of burnt emotions. They stare at each other waiting for the other to answer, to define a word as fickle as happiness. There was a moment when they were bonded by youth and dreams. Both of those things have now been devoured by time.
Love is never a solution, no matter what poets may dream, it is a start. A spark that lights the fire. However a spark will never sustain a flame. Beautiful words are loaded with cruel intentions, selfish thoughts and desperation. Life is so much more than just a single feeling.
It happens in unison, graceful and quiet, Kristen drops the letter into the flame as Richard doses it with water. It was an illumination of grief struck quick by the contrast of night. The orange light vanishes leaving indescribable shapes in the dark.