When I was 11 years old, a friend wrote me a letter and stuffed it into my hand in the cloakroom outside our classroom. As I unfurled the crumpled paper and started to read the words scrawled in navy blue fountain pen on the faint ruled lines inside, my breath caught in my chest. The world suddenly stood still. And whilst I can’t remember the content, I do remember they were spiteful and personal. She didn’t like me – and lying in bed that evening, I sobbed sad, unhappy tears as the words replayed in my mind.
I genuinely can’t remember the circumstances surrounding that letter. I may very well have written to her first or done something unkind to prompt it. We may have spat words at each other beforehand, both determined that we were right. It was long before the days of being interested in boys – but those were the days when stealing someone else’s ‘best friend’ was amongst the worst thing you could do. So looking back, with not a shred of memory about what the letter contained, that would be my guess. I guess I stole her friend. I guess it stung. And I guess she felt better as her fountain pen scratched the paper as she wrote.
I have no idea what happened to that letter. If it didn’t immediately get thrown in the bin, it probably ended up in a box somewhere, long forgotten with the years slowly fading the ink.
I do remember who wrote it though – and 26 years later, we are good friends. We meet regularly, putting the world to rights over strong coffees and glasses of wine. We attended each other’s hen do’s and weddings. Our children play together. Our husbands stand over barbecues together. She’s part of my past, my present, my future.
I doubt she remembers writing that letter.
I hope she doesn’t remember writing that letter.
But imagine if we’d been born 25 years later. Imagine if we were 11 years old now, with phones in our hands, computer screens in our homes. Imagine if she’d typed that letter with angry taps, pressing ‘send’ before her mother called her down for dinner and she checked between bites that the message had been delivered so that she knew the words were playing in my mind.
Imagine if, 25 years later, I could look back at a stream of messages and find it right there at the very beginning.
To be reminded whenever I wanted to be reminded.
And imagine if she could’ve written it publicly and tagged me – or, with a sense of 11-year-old injustice and anger, I could’ve shared it with our peers, our parents, and the world.
I have no answers – but just imagine…
It scares me.
It really scares me.
Does it scare you?