DEAR ALEX

Dear Alex,

Given the amount of time it takes for one letter to travel all the way from Ghana to anywhere outside of Africa, I think you’d make an ideal pen pal for villains. They could monologue to their heart’s content, testing out evil plans and catchy one-liners–nothing ever seems real until you write it down–rejecting and reforming plans as flaws appear, without any of the time crunch of having to worry about being thwarted. An evil villain could write, say three or four letters, outlining half a dozen dastardly plans in the time it would take for you to receive one and alert the proper authorities. Not that that’s what I’m doing. Just pointing it out.

This time last year we were having Thanksgiving; I can’t believe you’ve been gone one year. Do you feel different, having been gone one year? Things are starting to slow down. It’s the end of the boat season. I have to get used to it being quiet again. I’ve never been good at moving slow, at being patient. I get antsy and try to fill the silence with reactionary things, like learning how to ride a motorcycle or rock climb.

I’ve been restless since I was a kid. I always thought it’d go away, that I’d grow out of it. I still do, like if I just keep looking I’ll find the thing that’ll help me settle. I come up with these plans that are going to fix my restlessness, like moving to Thailand or learning to ride a motorcycle, and usually I have someone rational, like Rachel or Mick or my father to point out the flaws, to say “Let’s think this one through.”

One time, sometime before you left, we were at Three Sisters, and I was a little drunk and said, “I’d like to do this.” I don’t remember what this was but I do remember that you said, “That sounds like a good idea.” And I had this–literally–sobering moment of clarity: this is how I die, encouraged by a Heather. I probably wouldn’t actually die, it would probably be this great, exhilarating adventure but, somewhere in the midst of this adventure, I’d probably look around and think, “I wish I’d never done this. Why did I ever think this was a good idea?”

I got letters from you and Zane last week and I thought it was sweet how you both mentioned how I continue to hang out with Ellen. Did either of you consider the fact that your mother is actually the coolest Heather and all of your boathouse friends were just hanging around long enough to be friends with her? Besides, Ally and I pinky promised her that we’re going to be friends forever. I don’t recall you and I ever making such a pinky promise.

My new tattoo is of a small mountain range. Did you know, I didn’t see mountains in real life until I was sixteen years old? And now, I keep finding myself among them–in Montana, in Spain, in wild and wonderful West Virginia. Every time feels like the first time, thinking that there’s no way something like this can exist in the real world, that beauty this staggering or adventure this big can exist anywhere outside of a postcard or a story.

I like to start my letters like I’m in the middle of a conversation, no preamble, no inquiries after your health. I like to end my letters the opposite way. How are you? How is Ghana? Have you had any life-changing epiphanies yet? Where do you think you’ll go next after you’re through with the Peace Corps? I killed that plant. Paul Gorka no longer has a manbun. I’ve started taking tennis lessons. I’m going to Costa Rica for Thanksgiving. Still trying to find a way to send you cheese.

Peace n blessings, hugs n kisses,

Madelyne

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