Like many good stories, this one starts in a familiar way: “So I was really fucking drunk one night, and…”
Let me back up though. It was in November (I think) and we got a letter in the mail. A bright and obnoxious red envelope and it was obvious it was a card of some sorts. Greeting card, sympathy card, but most likely a Christmas card because of the red envelope. There was one problem with this letter; it wasn’t even addressed to us. It wasn’t addressed to our street or even our city. I don’t even remember where it was addressed to but it was certain someone at the Post Office fucked up somewhere. No big deal, I thought, and put the letter back into the mailbox and put the flag up.
[BIG NOTE HERE: Apparently my timeline is all fucked up here, but it still makes for a good story even if it isn’t 100% factually correct. More like 80% factually correct.]
A week or so later the same damn letter showed up. Okay. I tried to be responsible if a bit more forceful with this misaddressed letter this time. I drove to the post office and put the letter into one of the blue bins outside, forcing it to be sorted again. Bringing it back to the post office itself would surely get this letter shipped to its proper location. Someone would catch it this time, right?
Another few days/week later and you can guess what showed up in our mailbox for the third time. The Red Letter from Wisconsin heading to some other city in Illinois to people I was a stranger to. Damn. I basically gave up at this point, hauling the letter into the house and chucking it on the table. I nearly threw the damn thing away, after all it was most likely some shitty Christmas card and who cares if it got lost in the mail? Sure the people who sent it might be hurt, and the people receiving the letter might wonder why Grandma Edith didn’t sent her typical Christmas card, but it’s not really that big of a deal.
As the letter sat around the house, and as I glanced at it everytime I walked by something started to fester in my head. This letter, this unset letter, probably a card but what if it wasn’t? What if it had pictures in it, or if it was a sympathy card for the death of a close friend/family member? What if this letter was important and I was somehow stuck with it, given the chance to go above and beyond to deliver it or to be an evil and uncaring person who tosses it in the trash? What if I tossed it and caused a rift in the family: Grandma Edith apparently didn’t give a shit that James hung himself and she didn’t even send a sympathy card over his untimely death?
A few years ago at UPS I found a tiny slip of paper that fell out of an Amazon package. Apparently people can send messages to be shipped with their packages on a slip of paper and one of them fell out of the box. I found it in the plane amongst hundreds of packages we had just loaded. It said something like this, “We hope you enjoy your new, comfy socks Grandpa Bill. All of your socks have holes in them!” That probably isn’t accurate but it was about grandpa’s socks. I had an immense sense of bittersweet loss reading this, and it reminded me of this post from Waitbutwhy; it was only a slip of paper with a shitty message on it but the idea that this message would never be delivered, the grandkids had wasted their time crafting a message, and Grandpa Bill would never fucking see it was really depressing. Some stranger in Rockford, Illinois through tiny actions of the universe had found the paper inside an Airbus A300 aircraft at UPS and these people would never know it. I took the paper home and kept it for years — I might still have it somewhere — as a reminder of something. I don’t know what that something is though, maybe the cruelness of the universe.
This letter eventually had me feeling the same way as the Amazon paper slip did although this time I did have a path forward. An easy path forward.
So I was really fucking drunk one night, and was thinking about the letter. I had to get the letter sent to the proper address! It’s a mission — a grand quest — and only I was given the challenge of doing the correct thing! Like Frodo in The Lord of the Rings the
ring letter was entrusted to me and only me and even if I didn’t want the responsibility it was mine. That’s simply how things worked. I was the reluctant hero given a choice between good and evil! So I made a plan. A really shitty and not-at-all complicated plan but a plan nonetheless.
Open the envelope, put the contents into another envelope, and mail it that way. Clearly write the address and slap a stamp on it and send it on its way. Easy. But I didn’t want to open the letter — that would be an invasion of privacy — so maybe I’d put the envelope itself into a new envelope. But then I’d have to fold the envelope (it being the size of a ‘card envelope’ and not a standard letter envelope) and what if there was a picture in there?! I didn’t want to fold a picture! So new plan: open the letter, check it out, and reseal it. No one would have to know that I opened it. I opened it, it was a shitty Christmas card (I think…remember I was really drunk), and I sealed it back up, folded it, plopped it into an envelope and sealed it, stamped it, and sent it on its way.
Except I was drunk. I was in the mood, the mood of grand adventures and quests and here I was doing something totally strange and heroic. Putting so much goddamn emphasis on a shitty Christmas card from some strangers hundreds of miles away. A normal person would’ve pitched it in the trash, but I’m not a normal person apparently. Plenty of chances to turn away and give up the quest, but no. I should’ve thrown it away, but I didn’t. I was fixated on the idea of ‘doing the right thing’ and living in the adventure of it all. The world being full of darkness and danger and that the light will shine out the clearer. I kept thinking of The Lord of the Rings again, especially the speech by Sam at the end of The Two Towers.
“What are we holding onto, Sam?”
“There’s some good in this world Mr. Frodo, and it’s worth fighting for!-Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
And because the clip itself is so fucking good I’ll post that too.
I grabbed a piece of paper — once again stressing I was drunk as fuck and it seemed like a good idea — and wrote a letter to these people. I don’t even remember what I wrote, most likely rambling drunkenly about how there are good people in the world, how I couldn’t stop thinking about this letter, and how strangers can still be good people, and all of that shit. You might know how it is from a few of the posts I’ve written while drunk: just rambling and writing freely about whatever is on my mind. I took a picture of it because at the time I thought it would make a good blog post but eventually thought better of it. Here it is, and I haven’t read it and have no idea what I wrote but, yeah:
The letter was sent, I did the right thing, and whatever. Life goes on.
Fast forward to yesterday.
I walked to the mailbox to find a single letter addressed to me. Hand written, not some junk mail from businesses or anything, and who the fuck were Pam and Steve? Pam and Steve…hmm…that sounded familiar for some reason, but…what? Huh? OH SHIT. My actions a few months ago came flooding back. I wrote these people a drunken and scrawled letter for their shitty Christmas card and they wrote me back. Jesus Christ, cue the anxiety about it. It was time for me to leave for work so I chucked the letter in the car without opening it from thanks to The Fear and set about my day.
I told a friend at work about this story months ago and mentioned my letter I had just received. I mentioned I didn’t even open it because of the anxiety. These people probably called me a heathen from writing drunken letters to them — even the handwriting was slurred! — and making zero sense in the process. Fuck, the paper itself probably smelled like cheap beer even after a few days in the mail. It was all bad stuff, and nothing good.
She pointed out that the only people who send Christmas cards are probably quaint suburban grandmas and/or cute nuclear families who would probably be really appreciative of my actions, drunken or not. I had a slight bit of courage to open it and read a few words with it still folded inside the envelope. Hand written, on lined paper (unlike my printer paper scrawlings) and a few words like “thankful” here and there. It was a good letter to me. But on the backside I could’ve sworn I seen something like “medical issues” and “difficult times” and, what? Were these people also drunk and writing me back? Am I now a penpal to some Steve and Pam from another city in Illinois? Do they even know I’m writing a blog post about them now? The universe is a strange place indeed.
I wish I could tell you guys how this ends, but I don’t know. I haven’t taken the letter out of the envelope yet. It’s still in the back of my car, mostly unread besides those few key words. It’s almost like my anxiety to replying to blog comments and such; what if people don’t like me?! Why do I care so much about some strangers’ opinions of me? As much as I bitch about how life is some mundane, boring, and pointless, sometimes things like this happen where I equally think “Wow, sometimes crazy things do happen,” and, “Wow, I’m a drunken idiot sometimes and why do I do these things?” But I guess I do take some solace in knowing I did the right thing, even if it was kinda silly, over the top, and fueled by cheap beer. Being a hero doesn’t have to be glorious, right?