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The story of this work is the story of its sources. The people who appear within—Max, Jax, your ex-girlfriend from six years after we broke up whose stepdad, I discovered, was actually one of my current co-workers—never agreed to have their lives as part of this project, but here they are anyway.

I have not changed the names or identifying characteristics of a single person within, although my retelling likely bears only a slight resemblance to the memories of my fellow participants. That is the nature of never changing perspective. Identifying characteristics have, instead, been exacerbated, because like the Travis song, I am always writing to reach you.

I couldn’t have done this work without fifteen years of your start-and-stop correspondence—like the email sent on Christmas Eve 2005, the Facebook message in 2011, a promised “letter” which was compelling enough to elicit my address but which—whoops—became a letter never sent. It isn’t easy to sustain interest in a virtual relationship based primarily on emails from 1998 and 1999, but you never gave up and so neither did I.

We only lived an hour and a half apart during the events described herein, but as you never got your drivers’ license—preferring to bike—and my parents only let me drive during daytime hours, this story can be seen as a “long-distance romance.” In the ensuing years, I have been fortunate to spend time in residence 425 miles away from the place where you now live, though I did take one field trip to visit a friend who shares your current town. Her house was only three blocks away from your WhitePages reported address, but you and I did not cross paths. Even though I gratuitously brought and rode my bicycle down your street.

No one edited this. Not even me.

In researching, I spent time in a number of archives: your old Photobucket account, Jax’s college Livejournal, Max’s current Instagram, and the computer print-outs of your emails. I even reactivated my Facebook profile just to confirm that you did, indeed, send the last message. Yes it was in response to mine. Yes I was fishing. Worked.

I consulted no one.

Special thanks to the books that we exchanged in 1998—they have tormented my child-rearing years. The copy of The Lorax I gave you? When the feature-film version came out in 2012, I watched dark-haired Ted pursue red-headed Audrey, and even with my daughter on my lap, all I could think about was you. I’ve seen my daughter with my copy of The Mammoth Book of Fairy Tales on her nightstand—yes, the one you inscribed to me, assuring we’d have to find at least one romantic story in there, eh? There is: the tale called “Blue Roses,” about a princess perpetually longing for that which does not exist.

A big thank you to my best friend for being there through the laughs, the tears, and for the rhyming poem, mocking you, which she wrote to console me when you casually mentioned you’d driven to visit a nearby ex-girlfriend. You never bothered to visit this ex-girlfriend. Our Twitter account for your mother—@bitch_motha—hasn’t had a tweet in six years, but her key lime pie remains infamous. Thank you Taco Bell for the sporks I stole and stuck in your front yard months after we’d broken up, trying to elicit a reaction. Thank you as well to prairienet.org for hosting “buffg,”—an overconfident email address for a teenage boy—and a hearty thanks to Hotmail for deleting my teenage email account, along with your emails, when I accidentally went six months without reaccessing it.

Thanks to you, of course, but mostly thanks to my husband, who knows I’ve traced and retraced this path of shame for the last twenty-odd years and who still waits, patiently, for each little spark’s descent into ash. He never reaches a finger over to snuff them out. Neither did you.