Letter Writing is a Dying Art

J. Andrew Briseño


When I was 13 I was in high school because I was too good at math.  Someone started leaving little notes in my book bag.  Just one that first time, in tall pissed off block lettering, folded twice.  The first one said GO KILL YOURSELF.  Since it was just the one note and it seemed to appear in my bag all on its own, I couldn’t help but wondering if I’d left it for myself.  But then more came.  Two at a time next.  YOUR FUCKING PATHETIC and I BET YOU FUCK YOUR SISTER.

They kept coming.  Two, five, eight.  They started to make a narrative.  There was a SHE that I NEVER FUCK JUST JACK OFF ON.  SHE and I became creative in our not love making, involving various nonpotable fluids, and YOUR FUCKING DOG. There were 13 of them one day, 21 the next.  I would leave school with my bag overflowing with story I couldn’t bear to read but had to just the same.  SHE eventually left me for THE FUCKING DOG.  Soon enough I wasn’t even in the notes anymore, written out like a dissenting costar.

I did what anyone would do.  I laid a trap.  I left my bag out in the open, hid behind a skinny tree and waited.  Sure enough, here he came, with a plastic grocery sack stuffed full with the day’s mail.  I watched.  Only some of the notes were for me.  As he was walking away, I wanted more than anything to watch the veins in his eyeballs pop swell throb and burst, listen to him whisper for mercy we both knew he didn’t deserve.

But instead, I waited for him to leave his bag alone, and I left him the note that I had written.  It said YOU ARE EVEN STILL NOT YET ALONE.  I wrote another one: ALL THIS WILL PASS, ALL OF IT.  YOU ARE LOVED, YOU HAVE TO BEHe never seemed to see me do it, never acknowledged me.  But I kept writing, kept folding the notes twice and slipping them into his bag when he wasn’t looking.  We wrote a novel back and forth.  We never said a word out loud.

This is a story about the lies that we tell ourselves, like this one—that’s how the notes stopped.  I am telling you about the time I answered hate with love, and not about how I got suspended for putting a skinny ninth grader who wasn’t even the one who did it into the hospital.

I have forgiven myself.  At least that is what the notes I find keep saying.  NOT EVERYTHING CAN  BE MY FAULT.



J. Andrew Briseño is Assistant Professor of English and Creative Writing at Northwestern State University of Louisiana.  He is the Series Editor for the Katherine Anne Porter Prize.  His work can be found in Smokelong Quarterly, Waxwing, Nat. Brut, Acentos Review, and The Boiler.  He lives with too many cats in Natchitoches, Louisiana.