The idea for this series came to me last week whilst writing about how social anxiety has affected my life. How my inability to share myself with others prevented me from saying the things I really wanted to say. So, last night, I tore a sheet of paper into 100 pieces and upon each one wrote a name. These names were partners, teachers, acquaintances, ex-work colleagues, family members, old friends and random strangers who made a significant impact on my life.
Each day this week I will draw one of these names at random and then write them a letter.
The only rules for this challenge are:
1) The person will remain anonymous.
2) The letter should include unsaid things I always held back.
3) It shall be written as a sixty minute stream of consciousness. (i.e. no painful seven hour editing sessions, so please excuse any grammar and/or spelling mistakes)
So with all that in mind…[shakes beanie, shakes beanie again, once more for good measure, plunges hand into sea of scrunched up piece of paper, selects, reads name]…okay. An oddity this one, considering I only knew her for four minutes!
7 September 2012
Never thought you’d be hearing from me again, did you?
What was that?
Don’t worry, I’m not upset you don’t remember me – I would’ve been stunned if you had! You see, the thing is, I’m doing a series of unsent letters to important people of my past and today, your name was plucked out the hat. Aren’t you a lucky woman? It’s not often you receive a letter from someone you knew for four minutes some thirteen years ago, is it?
Yes. You’re more than entitled to screw this up and throw it in the garbage but before you make a decision let me tell you why you’re an important person from my past, it may just pique your interest to keep reading.
You are responsible for the best twelve months of my life.
Yep, I’ll say it again just so it’ll sink in. You, ——–, are the person responsible for the best twelve months of my life. Now, doesn’t that feel a little awesome? No. A bit creepy? Fair enough.
In September 1999, I was but a young, fresh faced wee thing completely clueless with the methods of bunk beds, dorm rooms and all night drinking games. You were a ravishing raven haired backpacker hostel receptionist, who, like the Sirens of lore, enchanted every male who ventured too close. I was too shy to strike up a conversation for the five days I spent in Edinburgh, but on the last day, I bit the bullet.
You were wearing a pair of faded, dark blue jeans with a slight tear in the left knee. Your shirt was red, your jacket raven black to match your hair and your socks rainbow striped beneath kicked off ankle boots. You had a small Celtic knot tattooed on your chest, a silver stud in your nose, a gold ring in your left eyebrow and a single looped ring in your left ear. You also wore Jarvis Cocker style black rimmed glasses and had a habit of scratching the back of your neck whenever a guy was pissing you off.
I remember the latter only because I stood in line for ten minutes whilst an ogre of a Spaniard tried to chat you up, but you kept fiddling with the ring on your finger hoping he’d get the hint.
Anyway, when I finally reached the head of the queue I made no attempt to convince you into my underwear, merely requested your assistance. I wanted to book a hostel in Fort William and you were able to do so until you asked if I’d ever been to Oban. After telling you I hadn’t, you nodded sagely and and then picked up the phone.
After you’d booked the accommodation – and given them my credit card information – you gave me a booking slip and told me I wouldn’t really need it as they had a record of my reservation but to hang onto it anyway. I thanked you and you said “You’ll need this though,”
You then leaned over the desk, revealing the tattoo on your left stomach (which is when I wanted to ask you what is it with you and your left side? but didn’t) and pulled out a train timetable. Which I already had so politely declined until you said “Not to Oban, you haven’t,”
(And then the conversation went something like this…)
“I’m going to Fort William,” I said.
“I made the booking in Oban,”
“I asked you to make a booking in Fort William,”
“I know. But you also said you’ve never been to Oban. So I booked you Oban instead,”
“Oh. Did you have something important you needed to get to Fort William for?”
“No, not really, I went there a few years ago and wanted to pay it another visit,”
“So you’ve already been to Fort William?” You said. “But not Oban,”
“I’ve never been to Oban,”
“A sentence you’ll never be able to say again after tomorrow. Look, there’s a train at two-ish and you’ll be in Oban by five, easy,”
“But,” And then I made some weird sigh, and then I smiled, and took your timetable. “So what’s in Oban?”
“Nothing really. It’s a bit of hole, but a gorgeous hole,”
Now, I’ve worked in backpacker hostels in the years since this exchange and I can honestly tell you that if any of my receptionists had booked a hostel for someone that wasn’t at their destination of choice, without asking or confirming first, there would have been lashings of trouble. We’re talking a bollocking of such biblical proportion it would have redefined this British colloquialism for scolding for the rest of time.
I should have been angry. I should have been pissed. I should have been all manner of cheddered off.
But, like you said, I’d never been to Oban. So what the hey?
Anyway, we never crossed paths again, so I was never able to thank you for being such a bizarre receptionist. The thing is, ——–, like I said at the start to try and tease your interest, you’re responsible for the best twelve months of my life.
Because if I’d gone to Fort William I would never have been in the Oban backpackers to pick up a copy of the Anne Rice book Memnoch the Devil from their book exchange. And if I hadn’t picked up that book I would never have had a random conversation with a strange little Danish man who waxed lyrically about a wee town called Portree.
And if I hadn’t listed to his sonnet over this fishing village I would never have decided to go there after a few days in Fort William. And if I hadn’t gone to Portree I would have arrived in Inverness a week early, which means I would never have met Patrick, and if I hadn’t met Patrick, I wouldn’t have gone to Aviemore, so I wouldn’t have chanced upon an old woman in the Visitor Information Centre who recommended I visit Foyers.
And if I hadn’t extended my stay in Inverness to visit Foyers I would never have met Deborah. And if I’d never met Deborah I would have missed out on spending four months with some of the best people I’ve ever known. This, in turn, inspired me to go to Canada where I would meet Annie and Rachel.
And if I hadn’t done that, lord knows where I would be right now!
You see, ——–, your rather cheeky action set off a chain reaction that not only gave me the best twelve months of my life, it changed my meager existence in so many ways it’s almost impossible to count. Without you changing my plan for me, I wouldn’t have met people I couldn’t imagine my life without.
So thank you, from the bottom of my heart. Even though we knew each other for only four minutes some thirteen years ago, even though I don’t even know your name, the impact you had on my life is beyond measure – and I’ve always wanted to tell you this.
With love and thanks,
PS…I took this photo twenty-four hours after we met. It’s always been one of my favourite’s from the trip.
PPS…You’re right, Oban was a bit of a hole, but a bloody gorgeous hole!
- Unsent Letter #1: The First Real Friend I Ever Had
- Unsent Letter #2: Swearing Is Wrong and Can Hurt People’s Feelings
- Unsent Letter #3: My life would be empty had you never been in it
- Unsent Letter #4: Because you never know if today will be your last