Brenda Rodriguez (BFA IL 2021)
I feel a soft vibration in my pocket.
“Is it him?” I always wonder, longingly.
Whether romantic or platonic, love from a distance is no easy task. As I chase my creative dreams and collegiate ambitions far away from the comfort of the people I love, I find myself stranded, relying on the aid of technology to remotely reunite me with them. Lengthy text messages, daily calls, selfies, pictures of food, you name it—they’ve all satisfied, to an extent, my desire to keep my loved ones close.
As a child of the digital age, I’ve had the immediacy of technology in my daily life make it much easier to water my relationships and watch them grow from incredibly vast distances—something that would have been significantly more difficult only 20 years ago. For most of my life, I’ve taken this privilege for granted, until recently, when my phone (likely inspired by video compilations of Olympic diving that were once played upon it), decided to take a dive from my pants pocket and into the toilet. It’s incredible how such a powerful being, with nearly infinite capabilities, will cease to function the moment it is submerged in water—ironically, the very substance that keeps us alive. She was submerged for merely a second, so I clung to the possibility that she’d survive. I desperately tried to resuscitate her by dissecting her body and drying her insides, but it was of no use: her consciousness had already escaped her! And just like that, the central artery that connected me to everyone I loved was severed. She was just two years old.
This tragic situation got me to consider other modes of communication. I considered the past: prior to my being, how did people maintain relationships across vast distances? I suppose 21 years ago, people still had phones, and the internet was nowhere near as advanced as it is today, but it was still widely used. What about 100 years ago? How did folks communicate amidst international conflict? How did soldiers contact their loved ones from foreign soil?
Oh, of course: letters!
I’ve always associated letters with a faraway time and place, a foreign realm before communication as I know it. But now, in times of desperation, with a dead phone and no one to
whisper sweet nothings to, these general assumptions no longer reflect my reality. At last, I was
officially going to write my first letter to my beloved long-distance partner!
I was instantly enamored by the idea of writing a letter, and of the romance and permanence that are usually attached to them. Love letters, acceptance letters, invitation letters—all capture and solidify a cherished moment in time. Handwritten letters, however, hold the most value.
Handwritten marks are filled with substance and complement the content of the writing, almost like an illustration. Within handwriting lie all the writer’s most private secrets and thoughts, a reflection of their experiences, expectations, who they love, what they’re feeling, what they’ve felt. Messy and often indecipherable handwriting can reflect urgency, passion, anger, or disregard. Cleaner and more precise handwriting might otherwise indicate care, love, and even insecurity. In handwriting, there’s no “backspace” or “undo” function. Ink-written words cannot be deleted. Instead, regretful scratches and scraggly marks of ink censor mistakes: a display of the beautiful imperfections of humanity, forever immortalized in the ink. Sending my partner a letter now meant that he was not only going to receive my message, but a little sprinkle of my essence that he could keep forever.
I may no longer feel the vibration of my phone, but after dropping off my letter at the post office, I feel something better: anticipation for the appearance of a letter in my mailbox!
Illustration by the author
Brenda Rodriguez is always daydreaming and quietly sipping away at a cup of tea.