I believe in love letters.
Three years ago, I believed in the kind that came stamped from the Marine Corps base on Parris Island, South Carolina. At least once a week for three months, my boyfriend Chris would send letters from boot camp.
He wouldn’t say much about training or how hard it was to be stripped of his personality—he wrote mainly about how he wanted to start a life with me when he graduated and how my love was the only thing getting him through boot camp. His eloquence was overwhelmingly romantic, and I believed every word.
When Chris graduated from boot camp, the letters stopped, but his words still influenced my life.
He made me feel guilty for the new friends and the new life I started at college while he was gone. He knew I dreamed of having a career that took me around the world, but Chris did everything he could to convince me that I should be a school teacher instead. Alcohol and cigarettes began to solve his problems, and the words he once used to build me up were constantly breaking me down. I lost sight of myself and my dreams when I was around him.
For months I thought the struggle was worth it. I thought that love was meant to be a struggle, until I admitted to myself that love wasn’t about words.
When we broke up, letters turned into emails and voicemails. It was the biggest mistake of his life, he said. He could never love anyone else. Beautifully written emails poured into my inbox, but I never wrote back. I found out quickly that his beautiful words were already charming someone new.
Then, as luck would have it, I met Mike. He lived down the hall sophomore year, and we struck up an instant friendship. I loved being around him—I was always laughing. We did everything friends did. We’d make fun of each other and play pranks. I’d give him advice on dating and he taught me how to ride a four-wheeler. I could literally tell him anything. By the end of first semester he knew more about girls than any guy should know. He was a great friend, and just a friend. That winter, however, in an awkward exchange of “I’m single and you’re single,” Mike asked me to be his girlfriend.
Two years later, we’re still playing pranks on each other. He’s the best friend I’ve ever had. I ended up going abroad to London and traveling as much as possible while in Europe. Mike would wake up in the wee hours of the morning just to talk and he’d even send love letters to London. They were sometimes written in pencil with an occasional misspelling, but what can you expect from a civil engineering major?
Mike taught me that love isn’t about eloquent wording; it’s about friendship. That’s why I believe in love letters: the genuine ones, written in pencil.