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A Letter

by Thomas van Osten

I found myself crawling out of bed at 3:00 a.m. again last night. My room was dark except for the dim light of the clock and the rows of moonlight on my ceiling divided by venetian blinds. I shuffled to the desk and switched on the lamp, momentarily blinded by the sudden illumination.

Opening the drawer, I saw your letter resting on top of all the other letters, Christmas cards, and pay stubs I keep in there. I sat there just looking at it for a minute or maybe two. I took it from its resting place and reached in to remove the letter from its paper sheath, mindful not to cut myself again on the message within. I unfolded it and began my usual routine.

Left to right, top to bottom, and then in reverse. I searched again for a secret message within the message, but again I couldn’t find one. It was a deceiving missive. It began with the date and ended in love, but what was in between was as sharp as a scalpel. A few lines of flowery language, a few lines of excuses, fourteen in all, and it was done; a sonnet by any other name. The words sometimes seemed to make more sense when I read them backwards. That way, the letter begins with your name and ends December 17th.

It was snowing last night; same as it was the day your letter came. I could see it falling through the air, illuminated by the glow of the porch lamp of the house opposite mine. I watched it as it cloaked the roofs, the lawns, the drives in an ethereal white. I watched it for a long time. So long that, for a moment, I lost my sense of place and thought that I, too, was in the snow.

The clock ticked impatiently drawing close upon the hour. I folded the letter and put it back with the others. I closed the drawer, no wiser than when I had opened it. Switching off the lamp, I headed back to bed. I couldn’t help but notice that I’d cut myself on your letter again.

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