Love Letters from Strangers


"You gave it all away, asshole. Everything we could have had, everything, lost to a stupid pipe dream." She turned from him, took a deep drag from her cigarette.

He shrugged. "And every breath is one closer to your last. You gotta have dreams. You stop dreaming you die."

She walked to him and kissed him on the mouth, hard, a kiss that tasted of nicotine and spite, almost biting. Before he could react she was gone, out of the apartment. He came to the window, watched her shadow falling across the street. He watched for a long time.


A fire knows
        but one sensation
And cannot dream
        of its own cessation

But ice knows
        many voices
Ones that sit stolid
        and one that rejoices


Fall of our Freshman Year. An introduction. A shared math class. Walking in the same direction after class. A study session. An invitation to rent a movie. Your acceptance. A mutual appreciation of Woody Allen. Dinner out. Watching the nightly news, moving closer together. Closer still. Touch. A goodnight story. A caress through your thin t-shirt and tucking you in. My walk home after, streetlights and shadow.

Our histories, weighing on us like snow. Old relationships of yours, unresolved. Your contact with friends from before, my distance from mine. Fears that your friends would see me as an interloper. First questions of what 'we' could mean. A trip to t he science museum with your friends, a secret holding of hands. Dinner with your family, a midnight walk to the lake, skinny-dipping; uncovered to the moon and to each other.

More meals shared, a flurry of crosswords left undone. Oranges, our hands smelling of citrus. Math tests, middling grades. Annoyance of roommates. More goodnight stories, more nightly news, kisses until our lips felt raw. Indian summer, sunbathing on the university lawn. A game of frisbee, a twisted ankle. An excuse for long visits and tea and sympathy.

Few dinners. No time, too much work. A canceled study session. A break-up? Waiting for a call, waiting for e-mail, waiting. A reconciliation? Another movie. More kisses, more touch. Standing together before a mirror.

A cold sore. A sudden rush of distrust. A break up, loss. Unforgiving winter winds .


Once upon a time, in a solar system that is so so far away from here that you wouldn't believe me if I told you, were two planets. Their names were Yee and Lan, and they loved each other very much. Every time they saw each other they would whisper planet secrets, or share wisps of atmosphere, or tell silly jokes that caused them to shake with continent-sized giggles.

But they were a little sad, because it was so long between times that they got to be near each other, with orbital mechanics being what they are. Most of the time they had to gaze from afar, and make up little songs about the stars and the cold a nd the one that they loved.

Centuries went by, and one time as they passed, reaching out through the cold and emptiness to be with one another, Yee slipped Lan a moon, because Yee had three and Lan had none. Lan looked so perfect with the new moon that all the other planets were a little jealous, and Yee didn't mind giving up that moon at all.

So the planets kept on dancing to the math-music of the universe, and Lan's moon was admired by all, until one day an evil-minded ice-hearted comet viciously slammed into it, shattering it into a thousand thousand pieces. At that time, Yee was al l the way on the other side of the sun and couldn't hear the wails and shouts that rocked Lan through and through. All the nearby planets, who were jealous anyway, made fun of Lan. Lan was so ashamed of what had happened to the moon, so generously given by Yee, that Lan began to dread their next meeting.

But the old equations had their say, and after so long they were together again. Lan was almost afraid to look at Yee, but Yee reached out a wisp of atmosphere in comfort. Yee hesitated a minute, because all planets know how beautiful moons are, but then went ahead and smashed the two remaining moons together so that Lan would have no reason to be feel bad.

So around and around they went, so very much in love that they thought they would burst, even though they looked a little bare, and felt a little cold without their lovely moons. But then, something beautiful happened- their shimmering bits of mo on dust started to flatten out, and made two large circles, one for each of them. And before too long, the circles became rings, great big wonderful rings, sparkling in the pure sunlight, the wonder of that solar system and, some said, even the galaxy. The other planets were too awed by Yee and Lan's new beauty to feel even the slightest drop of jealousy.

And that is why, even on this planet, when two people have strong feelings for each other, so much love that they think they'll burst, sometimes they'll give each other rings, in memory of the planetary love of Yee and Lan.


She sat by the shore and wrote. She wrote on paper the color of cream, with a slow steady hand. She did not notice the crashing of the waves, did not notice the wheeling of the gulls, did not notice the salt beginning to sting her eyes and face.

Her lover stayed up carousing through the night drinking and laughing and singing old songs in a dark hot room that smelled of sweat and sex and paints, talking of wine and lust and philosophy, of prostitutes and professors and painters, of books and smoking and games of chance. On a desk sat a letter, the color of cream, under a candle that had been burned to a nub.


Road Trip. Even the sound of those two words, Road Trip. You and me on the road at night in my battered Ford, empty pop cans in the back footwell, my cheap tape player playing tinny James Brown 70s Super Funk Classics. Miles and miles passing under the wheels, the warmth of the road seeping up, the gruff drone of the engine, headlights from the car behind us lighting up the interior. We got away and we got together. Small trip to Canada, for pizza with bacon. Guy at the border asks us why we're traveling, we tell him we're hungry. A trip to New Orleans during carnival season. Pulling off the road for the night, sex in the big back seat, ragged worn blankets keeping us safe from the traffic and the summer chill in the night air, skin sticking to the vinyl seats, pink lines pressed onto thighs and backs, our scents filling the car. The only constants were the pills you'd take, neat rows encased in plastic in groups of 28. For food, almost nothing but Happy Meals, dozens of the same plastic toy filling the glove box.