I have to admit I almost stopped after the last entry of my unsent love letters. Maybe it’s because I can see how awkward fifteen was, with the repeated unrequited love, and my completely obvious lack of experience. I was able to laugh at myself. But sixteen. I don’t know. I kind of still remember how it felt to be sixteen, and I still think maybe I had a point. Not a GOOD point. I know that. Sort of.

But I found this letter that… if you received this letter right now you could probably legally have me arrested.

His name has been erased to protect the innocent. Since some of you have told me the all-caps names can get confusing, I’ll just call him BOY. Since that’s probably the only word that was flashing in my head, a million times a second, every minute of every hour of every day of every week of every month of every bi-monthly period of every quarter of every semester of every year.

June 18, 1991

BOY–

I feel horrible.

I am the happiest that I have ever been. I am the most peaceful that I have ever been. I am the most alive that I have ever been.

But yet, I feel horrible.

This is probably a letter not to BOY, but to hormones. Perhaps I can give you enough background to know that at this point I think I’m either about to be in what could be considered my first real boyfriend-type relationship, or I’ve been in one for a month or so. I’m fuzzy on the timeline. But this would be I think the first time I’ve been in a relationship that wasn’t either completely imaginary or entirely fueled only by my constant affection/delusion. I believe this was the first boy to tell me that he loved me and wasn’t just like, testing it out or trying to get laid.

All of these feelings are because of you. Because of the way you make me feel when you talk to me, when you touch me, even when you look at me. My inner peace is because of the way you hold me, shelter me, love me.

It is crazy to me to realize that we could have been legally married if our parents gave consent. Which is what he wanted to do. At sixteen. And why laws are important.

You tell me your dreams of the two of us lost in paradise. You tell me your fears of being without me. You tell me how you are obsessed with my beauty.

I am flattered.

And misquoting, I’m betting.

Still, I feel horrible because I lack the guts to tell you how I feel about you. I don’t know why. I don’t know where it comes from — my parents, past relationships, or maybe it’s just me. But I want to tell you how I feel about you because you mean the entire world to me and to keep something from you as important as how I feel about you is wrong.

I think I’d started reading different books. This has to be it. Or I saw Dangerous Liasons. My tone has completely changed. It’s as if as soon as the same boy made out with me more than once, I decided I’d become a “woman,” and it was time to deal with my life as a real woman would. With maturity, grace, and an admission that perhaps it is her own fault that she’s struggling with her inability to discuss her emotions…which, come on, clearly, I’ve got no problem discussing my emotions. I’m somehow pretending that it’s difficult for me to talk about how I feel, and I don’t know why I’m doing that.

BOY, I feel horrible because every time that I look at you I want to tell you how much I need you, crave you, love you — but every time I open my mouth to do it, I instead close it with a kiss on your neck, your chest, your face.

I might be scared to say something because I’ve learned at least by this point that telling a boy you like him is the fastest way to make him not like you. Although, in my defense, it is a lesson I immediately forget every single time I learn it. I will go on to learn this lesson countless times. I will be teased about my inability to learn this lesson as recently as last week.

I hate not telling you my feelings, and I’m beginning to think that this letter is just another cheap easy way out. But I think that just saying

I love you

doesn’t mean anything.

Yes, I wrote it out like that on paper. I put that “I love you” on its own line for dramatic effect. It’s three very important words, you guys. You can’t just put them in the mix with other words. How will he know what I’m trying to say? This confession needs its own line, just to be clear, just in case BOY doesn’t get the complexities of what I’m throwing down.

Three words that are supposed to sum up all of these feelings inside of me? How? It can’t.

I love you

doesn’t tell you that you are constantly on my mind. It doesn’t let you see my dreams that —

Oh, boy. Buckle up, y’all.

–you are always in. It doesn’t let you taste the tears that I shed when I can’t be close to you.

I love you

is an abstract phrase. My emotion for you is not abstract.

Well. Technically–

I can see it in the way my eyes watch your body longingly, lingering on places I’d long to touch. I can hear it in the way I say your name — much like some people say

God.

SHUT UP.

I WAS IN LOVE, OKAY?

GET OUT OF MY ROOM!

People like to talk to me about these letters, and I understand why, it’s emotional. It’s funny when you remember something you did once like this, or how you feel better that you weren’t the only one who did something like this. But let me tell you that there’s an entire other group of people who say things to me like, “I can’t believe you are doing this!”

They say it while they’re laughing, like how you say, “That roller coaster was awesome!” And in the exact same incredulous, joyful voice, they will continue with, “It’s like you have no shame! I could never do this! Because I have respect for myself! But I’m so glad you don’t!”

This is one of those times when I understand why they say that. When I read that I once wrote to a boy, who may or may not have received a handwritten copy of this letter, that I say his name “much like some people say –” space space space — “God.”

We are on page three. It only gets worse from here. Please know that I have found my shame, and it is very mad at me.

I can smell it when you are near and when the smell of your hair or your clothes drives me wild. I can taste it on your flesh. And I can feel it.

I can feel it.

through every part of my body. Every part of me is infactuated [sic] with you. I have you captured in my mind.

That spelling mistake kills me, because obviously I thought it meant being so enamored with a person that you memorize every fact. It’s the smart person’s love affair. I’m infactuated with you. Go ahead. Test me. I’m ready for the finals week of your heart.

The next TWO FULL PAGES of this letter is a list of things that I have captured in my mind. I will spare you.

…but I’ll give you a few.

The way you walk.
The way you laugh.
The way you challenge my mind.
The way you sleep.
The sound of your whisper.
The way you skate.

It was really nice of this boy to date me for as long as he did. I don’t think that, until this very moment, I ever gave him enough credit for hanging in there with me.

These things I keep within my heart, along with everything else about you that is all supposed to sum up to that little phrase

I love you.

The other day I was sitting on my bed thinking about you. Nothing in particular, just thinking about you and how you’ve changed my life…

Half of me is jealous that Little Pam had this kind of disposable time, but the rest of me is relieved that I haven’t sat on a bed and just thought about a boy in… at least a month.

…when I looked up into the mirror and saw this huge smile on my face. I don’t remember smiling, it was just there, like a reflex to your name.

I can’t seem to get you out of my mind. This morning I was wondering if I went down the alphabet, would there be any letter in the alphabet that wouldn’t remind me of you? I went down the list, and I only couldn’t figure out one for Z.

At least I knew on some level that no boy wanted to know that I spent my morning trying to find out if I had enough good thoughts about our relationship to fill an alphabet. I bet that’s why I have this letter. Because I probably rewrote it without this part and gave him the rest… including that LIST which is so embarrassingly NOT in alphabetical order!

BOY, I wish there was a way to show love–

Hey, now! There’s a virgin waving a flag of surrender if I’ve ever seen one. “Gee, I if only there was a way to SHOW love. Do you have any ideas? Because it’s not ladylike for me to suggest we take off our clothes and do it all the way.”

–because I am not good at this talking stuff. I know how I feel, but somehow I can’t even write it because it is so complex. It is so unreal.

I mean, is love more about the sound of someone’s whisper, or the way they skate?

I’ve never experienced love like this before. If I seem unsure, it is because everything is so new to me.

And by that I mean the fact that you seem to like me back is really very new to me.

All of these feelings sometimes scare me.

And by that I mean I am scared you are going to break up with me at any moment. Like now. Or now. Or now. And now I’m scared that since you haven’t broken up with me yet, it means you want to break up with me, but you don’t know how to tell me because you’re so nice and you will be my boyfriend who secretly doesn’t want to be my boyfriend and that would be the WORST THING IN THE WORLD so you might as well break up with me now before you realize you want to break up with me oh god sixteen is worse.

Not enough to run, I’d never do that. I’m sorry, BOY, but you are stuck with me.

GOT IT? STUCK. WITH ME.

You can’t leave me because

I love you

and I’ll follow you everywhere.

GOT IT? EVERYWHERE. FOLLOW YOU. YOU CAN’T LEAVE ME. PLEASE DON’T LEAVE ME. Where are you going? What’s wrong? Did we just break up? why?

I need you. My life is nothing without you.

…for about two more months and then summer will be over and I’ll end up in theatre arts and then my life will be like, theatre, school, rehearsal, homework, and then you. Hope you understand. But until then: you are my entire life and I will suck every available second of yours into mine because THAT IS THE ONLY WAY I UNDERSTAND LOVE.

I wish I could say these things to you without being nervous, but that is something I will have to learn to do. BOY, I love you. For lack of a better phrase I will keep repeating that. I love you.

Forever.

And then it just ends there because apparently I threw my journal aside and ran around the empty house screaming SIXTEEN IS SO CLOSE TO BEING AN ADULT — WHY WON’T MY PARENTS JUST LET ME MOVE OUT AND LIVE MY LIFE, GAH!

So, I’m just trying to keep count here, just for myself. Is this the… third letter wherein I confess to a boy that I love him but the whole time I try to make it seem like I’m talking about something else and/or someone else entirely?

That is super depressing.

Almost as super depressing as this, which I’m going to reprint in its entirety before I tell you the one fact that turns this from pathetic to mortifying.

12 Feb 1992

I sit among your memories. They are scattered at my feet and I can’t help but wondering if I stand out. I wonder if even though I am clustered in with the tokens of your past, that I remain a part of your present, and will continue into the future. I am here merely to give parting words, but I wish they will remain forever in your ears — not as a memory but as a reminder. Of me. Do not forget me while you collect more tokens. Each momento [sic] tells a story, each trinket sings a song. Shine it, rub it, frame it… it speaks for itself as a trumphant [sic] or devastating moment in your life that you may or may not have chosen to remember. Regardless, it is burned into your mind as an image of you is burned into mine. I couldn’t forget you if I tried. I’m sitting here among your things and I wonder if you notice me. You walk around me, stuffing some of the memories in your bag — those you want to keep with you forever. You close your bag and look around, I notice the tear that runs down your beautiful face. I stand to touch you … to kiss it away or maybe just to brush up against your hand. You lift your head and your eyes meet mine. You walk over, take me into your warm arms and kiss me. You let go. You grab your bag of trinkets and walk out the door. I begin to run after you but I trip over one of your old shoes and I fall to the floor and remain there crying. Goodbye.

[FLASHBACK: THE LAST TIME MOM WAS IN TOWN]

Me: Oh, this is embarrassing. This is a story I wrote about a boy moving away.
Mom: (Looking over my shoulder) No! This is the other story I was asking you about. If you had it.
Me: What other story?
Mom: This is the one you wrote about the cat.
Me: …What?
Mom: This story. You wrote it as the cat. It was a letter from Nutso. To you.
Me: …No.
Mom: Yes! You turned it in. At school.
Me: NO.
Mom: What’s wrong? I think it’s clever. It’s the cat! But you can’t tell it’s the cat.
Me: No, you cannot.
Mom: But now when you read it, when you know it’s the cat? You can tell.
Me: Oh, God.
Mom: Stop being so dramatic. I think it’s clever. My baby’s a writer.