Remember when we listened to punk rock, rolled the windows down and drove to the gas station with the blue roof because a guy there was known for selling cigarettes to kids like us and we figured this was a pretty good deal? When he stopped working there, we never even asked what happened. He was just gone and we found an unsupervised cigarette machine in a coffee shop to replace him. It was in full view of the public, cops sitting at the bar and all, but no one was going to turn around and ask you for ID if you had the balls to just walk up and buy a pack.

Remember how that trip to the gas station took forever, like what the hell could we be doing? Well, we had to stop at so-and-so’s house and pop in to say hi to her mom so we wouldn’t look suspicious like that one time she knew I was going to be getting a ring, and she asked why I wasn’t wearing it and I said, “I let him keep it because we were going to, um, I mean, it was too big and it has to be re-sized, and I didn’t want to lose it.” What I almost said was “We were going to get high, and I was afraid I’d lose it.” It was my first time, and I was sure I couldn’t be trusted. We ended up just sitting in that coffee shop all day, staring at our cups. I tried so many times to explain something, some insight offering itself from the folds of my slow motion rush, and I’d start but my mouth couldn’t keep up, and I’d flounder till finally I muttered, “Ah, fuckit.” And that became my signature phrase for the next year. This is the sound of me falling short.

Remember when we left school to go swimming in some lake somewhere? We dragged our legs, thick with drugs, through muddy water and contemplated whether we could swim to the other side. We got water in our mouths. It was the first time I heard the word brackish, and it was delightful the way you said it. Brackish. We swam in our clothes so we wouldn’t have to go naked, but then there we were hiding behind the car putting on god knows what, a t-shirt I guess, and a towel maybe, something from the trunk of this boy’s car. I told myself to remember the image of you with the sweet purple smoke swirling around your face, the light sifting in through the barn window as you sat back on this old couch and someone finally declared, “It’s burnt.” I told myself to remember how goddamned beautiful you were because it couldn’t have lasted forever, but I had this one taste of it, this one photo in my mind — you sealed in the amber of time.

Remember when I was laying on your bed in my panties, and you sang that stupid song about me being on your bed in my panties? I couldn’t figure out why it was such a big deal, and I just felt lucky that you weren’t laughing or anything, and I felt like a bit of an asshole for smoking your pot but I realize now that you got the better end of that deal since you kept the remainder of the bag, too.

Remember when my eyes felt like sugar water? And my teeth, sugar cubes? And my heart, sugar, too?

Remember when we went to the park and climbed on the jungle gym and hung upside down by our knees and wondered what THC stood for anyway? It sounded like a college, like some kind of private school, like The Hard College. We talked about how girls only wanted to date shitty guys, and how good guys always get stuck being just friends, and then one night you kissed me on the sidewalk. It was an ambush of teenage hormones and then there were the long rambling love letters written in pencil, and the phone calls where you told me about your dreams until it got to be too much and I knew you were making things up.

Remember when I believed there were things good girls didn’t do? Remember when I was in love with you and tried that weird role reversal of deer perusing the hunter? And remember when you finally took me up on it and I shrank back from your hands because no one told me that was part of the deal?  Remember when the best thing I could think of was you thinking of me? Remember when I would whisper your name until I fell asleep? Do you remember me?

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MARY HENDRIE (formerly Mary Richert) is a writer living and working near Annapolis, MD. Her blog is missdirt.net. She has an MFA in creative nonfiction from Goucher College. You can also find her on Twitter, @MissDirt. Mary really likes it when people comment on her blog or talk to her on Twitter so she can meet new people and get new ideas, so feel free to say hello any time.

50 responses to “Some Kind of Love Letter”

  1. Matt says:

    And that, I think, is the question we all want to ask of the people who’ve surrendered their temporary lodging in our hearts and moved on down the road: do you remember me?

    Did any of it matter?

    Well done.

  2. I remember all of that. I think it was 1977, the year Elvis died and innocence left with him. Am I right?
    Such a nice evocation of a time in life we experience sooner or later unless we are sociopaths. Thanks for the reminder, I’d forgotten some of those feelings, sad to say. Every now and then they return but not so eloquently as you have expressed. Thank you.

  3. Irene Zion says:

    Ah Mary,

    I have a feeling it’s only the females who remember.
    But that might be unfair to the males around.
    I just don’t think they remember much.
    I should probably think about why I think that so strongly.
    I imagine it’s unhealthy or something.
    But I still think it.

    • Mary says:

      I feel that way too, although it doesn’t make much sense. But if you take a look around at the gentlemen who post here, most of them seem to have some pretty lovely memories of their young loves. Hope is not lost when these guys are around.

      • Irene Zion says:

        Okay, Mary, I’ll exempt some of the TNB guys, depending on the kind of writing they do.
        I think that you can tell that way.
        I accept that I may have a skewed take on things.
        Pay no attention.

        (Does anyone know of a dictionary-like book that helps you with spelling? I must have written skewed 400 times before I got the red line to go away!)

  4. Judy Prince says:

    You led us directly into our own memories with yours, Mary. I love that. Especially love this, as well: “an ambush of teenage hormones”. Mood is all over this piece, my dear.

    • Mary says:

      Thank you so much for saying so, Judy, and thanks for reading! One of the most rewarding things about TNB is that writers get to experiment with styles they enjoy and other writers appreciate and respond to it. It’s such a good experience for growth!

      • Judy Prince says:

        I agree, Mary, about TNB being so rewarding with other writers’ appreciative responses—a rare situation we have here!

  5. Zara Potts says:

    Oh I think they remember alright.
    In some ways I think old memories may even be more painful for men.
    Nice piece, Mary.

    • Mary Richert says:

      Thanks, Zara.

      I think folks certainly expect women to be more sentimental about our pasts, and conversely, they expect men to be callous about the past. I imagine it must be hard when people expect you to be emotionless.

      • Simon Smithson says:

        “I felt like nothing. I realized later that what I needed was for my wife to take me in her arms and hold me and rock me, just like my mother used to do. To let me know she loved me and that things would be okay. But I didn’t know this then. All I could think of was to have a few drinks and go home and make love with her.”

        – The New Male Sexuality, Zilbergeld, B., Bantam, 1992.

        Great resource for wanting to understand a lot of the processes for guys in terms of emotions.

  6. angela says:

    lovely, mary. makes me sentimental for something that hasn’t even happened yet, if that makes sense. like you’re living some moment, and you think, i’m going to remember this, and it makes you all sad?

    anyway, i really enjoyed this piece.

    • Mary says:

      Thank you, Angela. I do know what you mean, how when you’re in a moment and you have the luck to realize it’s something special, so you file it away. It’s a mixed blessing of course, since that realization takes you away from the moment just long enough to sense your loss…

  7. Marni Grossman says:

    This was so pretty. That word sounds incomplete, but it’s the best I can come up with right now.

    This sort of coming-of-age, coming-into-sexuality stuff always bums me out, though. I feel like I missed all of it. I was too busy trying to get good grades and counting calories and sitting in the art bathroom holding an x-acto knife to my arm.

    • Mary says:

      Thank you, Marni. I’m sorry it bums you out. 🙁 I guess everyone’s experience is different, though. If it makes you feel any better, my “college experience” was pretty much a wash. I spent most of college thinking (and actually telling people), “I did all my partying in high school.” Luckily, I snapped out of that after college, and it turns out it’s never too late to have a good time.

  8. Simon Smithson says:

    I really liked this, Mary. The output here at TNB seems to be of particularly high quality lately.

    “Remember when the best thing I could think of was you thinking of me?”

    Well said.

    I can still remember kissing my high-school girlfriend for the first time. I can remember a lot of things about a lot of girls; which is nice.

    • Mary says:

      Thanks, Simon. I found myself thinking of you and your weird syndrome of coincidences the other day because I kept running into pieces of writing about the same topic — troubled childhoods — and it culminated with Matt Baldwin’s piece “The Three Blows” here the other day. And I kept thinking, “What does he call that? The Simon Smithson Experience? No… that’s too much like a band name…”

  9. Amanda says:

    Remember when we hung upside down on the monkey bars…

    Yes! I totally remember that!

    If I’d a known you back then, we could’ve hung upside down together and when our underpants showed, we could’ve taunted the boys, “they’re just underpants! It’s no big deal! They’re just another kind of clothes!”


  10. This recalls so achingly that time of life when there are so many firsts and almost no rules — you have rendered it here in a most sublime way, Mary.

  11. Don Mitchell says:

    Mary – I especially liked “Remember when I would whisper your name until I fell asleep?”

    I don’t think I ever literally whispered any girl’s name until I fell asleep, but I definitely “played” either audio or video clips, short ones, in my mind while waiting for sleep. You have to take that metaphorically, because when I was young audio tapes existed but videotapes did not.

    Memories like the ones you describe persist for decades. No one has aged. No one is cynical. No matter how bad the breakups were, they haven’t happened yet.

    And as I’ve related here before, one set of those memories was so powerful that I found her after 4 decades, and now we’re a couple again.

    Oh, and as always, I like your dense-paragraph style.

    • Mary Richert says:

      Ooh, my paragraphs are dense? If I were still a high school girl, that comment would be the equivalent of hearing “You have great legs,” which is one I never heard but always wanted to hear. Instead, I have outgrown the desire to hear compliments about my legs and instead want to know how attractive my prose is. See Angela’s post on validation.

      Thank you so much, Don.

  12. Slade Ham says:

    I remember many of mine all too well. Funny now, how so many of them have moved along to happy marriages and children and homes, and I still wander my own path, remembering people that forgot about me long ago.

    We all hang on to different things… I might be surprised to find out that I’m still in their head somewhere. A few of them are certainly in mine.

    • Mary Richert says:

      Well, everyone has their own path, right? I’m sure they have fond memories of you. From everyone’s comments here, I’m beginning to think none of the good stuff really gets forgotten. I just hope that everyone involved gets the chance to look back on those moments fondly. We sometimes acted less than admirably, but when I look at the kids we were, I can only feel love for our young selves. We were such joyful idiots …

      • Slade Ham says:

        I have the skeleton of a post similar to this on my hard drive somewhere. This makes me want to revisit it. Those memories deserve to be salvaged and dusted off, if only for a bit. The good ones don’t get ever lost I guess.

        I want to be a joyous idiot again. I was really, really good at it.

  13. Joe Daly says:

    Love the image of “our legs thick with drugs.” Just an awesome read. What I really enjoyed is how it made me realize that these experiences seem fleeting and insignificant as they unfold. It’s only years later, through the prism of time, experience, gain, and loss that we see the limitless promise and meaning of each of these moments. The things and people may be gone, but the feelings endure.

  14. kristen says:

    Love this: “And that became my signature phrase for the next year. This is the sound of me falling short.”

    I’m kindof obsessed w/ that lately–your “falling short.” Like, I’m learning not to push/fight it when the words simply won’t come. Because sometimes they just don’t. At least not in the way you want them to.

    Great imagery throughout this piece. Thanks for taking me back.

    • Mary Richert says:

      Well, in this instance I had no choice really. Mentally, I just couldn’t do it. I imagine I sounded like a muttering old man when I said it, too. But then came a phase of thinking I knew everything… like literally. I would never say, “I don’t get it” or “I don’t know” because I became convinced that deep down somewhere my cells actually knew everything there was to know in the universe. Why? Well, perhaps I had an ill-timed exposure to Jung’s concept of archetypes. I’m not too clear on that. But I wish I could regain that youthful confidence, although I would need some work to exercise it without too many foot-in-mouth episodes.

  15. Ellie Di says:

    Although I didn’t smoke pot until I was much much older, this takes me back to being fifteen, laying in bed with my first (real) love and making out all day, talking about the world. And this – “that weird role reversal of deer perusing the hunter” – describes nearly all of my romantic pursuits until years into college.

    It always surprises me when you write something that reminds me of so much of myself that I want to rush to a fresh Word file and type away my memories of the same thing. But then again, it should probably stop being such a surprise. It happens all the time.

    • Mary says:

      Ellie, I am coming to the conclusion that we are some kind of long lost twins. Well, maybe not entirely, but I do know exactly what you mean. Thanks, hon.

  16. Oh wow. I felt like I just peeked into a diary so personal that I had to steal a key to open it. Awesome.

    • Mary says:

      Thanks, Nick. And thank you for reading. I hope the personal nature of things didn’t weird you out too much. I once made the mistake of reading my sister’s diary. I never told her or anyone else (so if she’s reading this I’m in trouble now). The things I read at the time were rather shocking, but also liberating because it was the first time I realized she experienced the same intense emotions that I had.

  17. Lenore says:

    i love you, mary. i wanna write a song about you on a bed in panties.

    • Mary says:

      Oh, thank you, Lenore. I love you, too! And please do write that song. I will even lay on the bed in panties while you sing it… if that’s not too creepy for you. And I suspect it’s not.

  18. Erika Rae says:

    This was so lovely and vulnerable. It was vulnerably lovely. Vulnerable in a way that is entirely full of love. I feel high right now.

    The Hard College. Heh.

    • Mary says:

      Isn’t it funny how entering a certain state of mind (or thinking about it) can make you feel *that way* even when you’re stone cold sober? I quit smoking pot ages ago, but now I’ve become addicted to a mental high that comes with creative work. Thank you so much for reading and for feeling something.

  19. Richard Cox says:

    You always knock me to the ground with your prose. And your closer is magic: “Remember when the best thing I could think of was you thinking of me? Remember when I would whisper your name until I fell asleep? Do you remember me?”

    I need some kind of alert to go off on my phone or my inbox when you post something so I can read it sooner.

    Just pretend you don’t notice when I try to copy the way you transcribe your memories into poetry.

  20. Larry Bayard says:

    I asked to come by

  21. Larry Bayard says:

    I asked to come by
    She said “no, I have to feng shue my inner child’s room.”
    Oh, for a simpler time
    when they simply had to wash thier hair
    But then, I probly would have asked
    “can I come over and we can wash our hair together?”
    I wish desperado meant desperate
    I could call myself desperado
    I’d much rather think of myself
    that way.

  22. […] This week, I wrote a new essay for The Nervous Breakdown, and then I thought it would be fun to see how it works as a video. The video is below, and if you want to see how it compares to the written piece, go read it here. […]

  23. Somehow I missed this when it posted, I’m not sure how, because it’s beautiful and jumpstarts my nostalgia in the best kind of way for a dozen similar nights in my own past. What’s funny is that I think at the time I had the vague realization of the weight these moments would carry later on. Anyway, thank you. Thought I’d comment even in this tardy fashion, because the other lovely recent post of yours that I read but meant to come back to has vanished, hopefully not for good.

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