My dearest Evelina,
I hope this letter finds you well. I hope this letter finds you. However you are, I wish these words find you.
What am I supposed to say now that we are so far apart? I would like to lie to you and say that I am looking forward to my return or that I cannot wait to be back. But, as the distance prevents me from embracing you, I am more uncertain of the future than I was of the past. Still, I am writing this letter trying to find a way to be together in spite of everything.
Like we used to be.
Do you remember that time we went to Acapulco? It was soon after the carrion flowers took over the Pacific coast. What a gruesome, smelly place to go on vacation. Remember the color of the sand? Sometimes, when I close my eyes, I can still see the blackish-maroon beach that irradiated a green-tinted glow at night. I remember the waves moved as if they were tired of coming and going to wash off piles of flip-flops and plastic bags. In the early morning, the ebbing tide would show shards of broken glass and rusted electronic parts washed up on the shore.
You drove a beat-up Tsuru, that hunk of junk with an always-attached trail of black smog that surprisingly endured the melting asphalt of the Autopista del Sol there and back again. Your hands trembled on the wheel as if tapping coded messages with your fingers, or as if you were afraid of something.
When we arrived, the resort’s guide told us to be aware of aguamalas at the beach. You were so confused because you did not know he was talking about jellyfish, and you thought he was referring to the water as an evil being. I laughed at you until my stomach hurt.
You love my laughter, right? As much as you love the memory of our last afternoon in Acapulco, when we sat together on La Quebrada cliff to watch the sunset. You pointed to the horizon and I knew that our only future was far away, elsewhere.
Remember the seagull that fell down mid-flight? We saw it sink in slow motion against the sepia dusk sky. In that precise moment, the ocean looked like hungry mud.
You played that song you like over and over on the way home. Windows rolled down, your singing voice mixing with the dusty air, the stench of carrion flowers overpowering the world.
We had so much fun there. Let us do it again, shall we?
All my love,
• • •
I was not expecting a reply this soon, so it should not be a surprise that you did not answer at all. It is surprising, though, because you always do all sorts of unexpected things, like refusing to leave with me. Oddly enough, choosing captivity surrounded by flowers of death was your own idea of an escape.
I am sending this letter only to remind you that my tentacles should be delivered today, god willing, maybe tomorrow. I do not expect you to be prepared.
Are my letters reaching you well? Is the postal service failing again? Are you failing again? Please, PLEASE, please reply swiftly.
Yours in brevity,
• • •
I found your letter hidden inside a crack in the wall.
I almost passed by without noticing it, but something sparked in the corner of my eye. It was the whitest piece of paper I had ever seen. I felt as if I would go blind if I attempted to read it again. Thus, I burned it.
It was curious reading that my tentacles are not there yet, but they will arrive momentarily. I am sure of it. My instructions clearly state that they should be delivered to you only. Nobody else but you. So do not fret. The postal service may be failing again after all, like it did when several letters—dated with the peculiar format used in faraway lands—were labeled “impossible” and secured in a safe that was later thrown into the ocean.
My tentacles will be there with you. Soon. Eventually.
It is hard for me being so far from home. I miss everything. I packed half my things to take with me. But what about all that remains? Are they missing me as well? If we are defined by everything we own, what does it say about us when half our possessions are that far away? What does it mean when we are in a long-distance relationship with ourselves?
I am glad you are there to take care of everything.
Here, I have not had the determination to unpack. For me, settling is another name for abandoning the past. The other day, I found myself rummaging through the contents of a medium-sized cardboard box I had forgotten about. The things we brought from Acapulco were inside. A fridge magnet shaped like a palm tree. Six seagull feathers. An empty jar of carrion flower ointment. Pieces of a broken shell. A single flip-flop, because the other one got caught by a wave.
I thought about you and that Tuesday morning on the jellyfish-covered beach. I had vivid images of your swollen leg wrapped in intricate red lines made of pain.
Your scars never vanished.
• • •
Evelina, just Evelina,
Your letter was so ugly I could not help but cry while reading through it. Thank you.
Your otherworldly handwriting is ravishingly appalling. Thank you. Reading it was like seeing underwater, like scuba diving in the oozy Acapulco sea. I am almost certain I saw that cluster of badly drawn lines and curves uncannily twitching as if they had a life of their own. Thank you.
I am glad my tentacles are finally there! I told you it would be soon! (Note that I am adding exclamation points to signal the immense joy I feel for the fact that you will be taking care of them during my absence. It is a burning feeling I cannot express with words, hence the punctuation.) (Here, take a couple more: !!. Use them as you see fit, but please do not return them to me. Ever. Excitement is a burden I am not willing to take in the future.)
Are you getting along well with my dear tentacles?
Know that their care and feeding is not as simple as keeping four planters in the windowsill. They do not need much space now, but they will. That is why I left the living room completely empty, to be their living room. I trust that, under your guardianship, they will need to be repotted in no time. There is no need to give them baths since they usually clean themselves. Just make sure they actually do it. Depending on the batch they come from, they can be very stubborn. They are different, my tentacles. Each and every planter holds its very unique kind. Treat them with the particular love they deserve.
Feed them when they need it. When they ask for it. Even if it is in the middle of the night. You do not want to discover how annoying they can be while hungry.
Please, sing them to sleep. A lullaby every night will help them—and you—to rest better.
You told me once that after Acapulco, the only thing you dreamt about was the beach. A conglomerated smack of thousands of iridescent blueish snot blobs. And then the stinging pain.
I wonder if you still dream about that. If you get lost in reverie while you feel your hands wet from sweat. I wonder if you dream at all. If you dare to sleep.
Yours in dreams,
• • •
To whom it may concern (which means you, Evelina, it concerns you),
I found your reply this morning. It was written on the backside of a grocery store receipt. On the front, it said, “Plastic-flavored cheese 8 oz $7.49, Saint Toribio Romo’s prayer card 7 lb $9.99/lb, That Brand tortillas 12 ct $3.69.” What a steal. I miss watching you make peculiar food choices while having very specific religious needs.
You had several questions. That was unexpected. I do not remember you being of the inquisitive kind. When you were stung, you just sat on the darkened sand, crying. The resort’s guide treated you with some strange ointment and you were too shy to ask why it smelled like rotten flesh. You remained silent even when the odor of death clung to your skin and clothes for weeks. You did not dare to beg for comfort despite wanting it so badly.
Your stung leg needed the relief I would never be able to give you.
Here are some of the answers you solicited (and some you did not ask for) in no particular order.
- Start by placing Saint John the Evangelist’s pottery figure upside-down, then pray backwards. y-a-r-p. sdrawkcab. It has not been useful for anybody yet, but you never know. Prayers are supposed to work better if uttered with strong conviction, the same you showed when you decided to stay.
- No, again.
- I do not think they have a meaning at all. They are. Things do not mean anything by themselves, people give them meaning. What do they mean to you?
- It is like that song you like about driving with the windows down, it does not matter where, just driving faster and faster. You could have been my passenger. I could have driven you through tunnels and flickering lights. Faster. Not pulling over to sleep. Just driving. Faster. Towards distant waters, where the beach is pristine and the sky is still blue. Anywhere. Wind in our faces. Dust blinding our eyes. Faster.
- We leave things behind as a symbol of hope. We fragment ourselves as an affront to the unknown. Maybe we cannot go back. Maybe I will never see you again.
- Because this is a prime number.
- I will write about it as much as I want and as much as you need. Read carefully; I am writing about it right now.
- They are mine. Sometimes I think about them as another me and not as an extension of myself I sent back to you. My tentacles are me. I am with you without being with you. Like a lingering ghost of me. Like the phantom pain that always comes back to your leg. My tentacles, unlike these letters, unlike me, will not ever leave you.
Give them a hug on my behalf. Make it two and a half hugs (the extra portion is for yourself).
I miss my tentacles and I miss you.
Sincerely with Os and Xs,
Almost truly yours,
• • •
Dear deer-eyed Evelina,
I tore your letter from an advertisement glued to a lamp post.
Covered by months of crinkly, sun-bleached flyers and paper ads, there was an Acapulco resort vacation poster. It showed a photo of a luxurious hotel by the golden sand beach. The water looked emerald-blue and the sun shone in a clear sky. A seagull flew to the horizon.
I wonder if anything would have been different without the carrion flowers. Maybe you would still be mesmerized by aguamalas. Maybe your leg would still be painfully scarred. Maybe I would still be gone.
What I know is that things will never be the same as they were, no matter how many letters we exchange.
I have heard that the flowers have moved forward to the Gulf of Mexico. They are everywhere now.
Are my tentacles growing healthy?
Yours like a headlight,
• • •
Seven times mine, Evelina,
I am sorry it has taken me so long to reply.
I got your letters months ago. Someone in another town found them all at once inside their coffee mug, then took a seventy-seven-kilometer train ride to slip those envelopes under my door.
The postal service has been more than a failure lately. Perhaps incompetency is its natural state. It may be working at full efficiency after all. Letters and packages lost, handed over to the wrong person at the wrong place, stuck to the wrong post, hidden in the wrong crevice; words and objects forever undelivered.
I have refrained from writing at all. Except for these words that, I am afraid, will be the last.
You will find this letter inside your left slipper as soon as you get up. But of course you already found it since you are reading this. See the three mottled gray feathers inside the envelope? They are your share from the past.
I feel like I am inside that song. I am driving fast with the windows down; the sunlight blinds me. I do not know where I am going; I am only certain that I cannot stop. I look around, but there is no passenger. I am not going back home. I am going forward towards the unknown.
I wish you could see me fall mid-flight like that seagull from our Acapulco trip. But the beach here, where I am, is golden and blue. A smack of iridescent blobs of pinkish snot covers the seashore. I will go faster.
Take care of my tentacles. Please, PLEASE, please. They already know how you taste.
Should they need you…
Should I need you…
Seventy times seven yours,