You think you want that person who rejected you to be sorry. To come crawling back for you. Maybe you get over this desire and, you know, rise above it. You move on. At least, you move on until a night you can’t sleep and you start rehearsing a rewritten past. You would’ve said this. This person would’ve said that. You would’ve said this and–pow–this person would know how brilliant and wonderful you are.
This rewrite beats the original version where you sputtered and fumed all the way home, slammed to front door, and threw your purse across the room breaking a vase.
But what happens if he does come back?
When I got his letter I’d been married 5 years. It had been 10 years since we worked together. We never dated, but for months he let me believe he was single and about to ask me out. When I realized the truth, I threw my fit alone in my room, and then we stayed friends. Until the letter.
Not the great letters he wrote to me when I was overseas. Not the letters he wrote pouring out his feelings about the girl he was going to marry. Not the letters describing the first years of his child’s life. No. The letter that said, “I think about you…” A letter that asked if I remembered needing to borrow his room to get ready for a wedding. A letter where he rewrote his own scene in which he didn’t leave the room.
Sure, years before I wanted him to regret explaining how he needed a girl he could marry (whatever that means), but this letter didn’t make me feel flattered or pleased. There are compliments that flatter and compliments that disturb. Well, compliments that aren’t actually about you at all.
In fiction, characters learn information they don’t want to know. They learn things that change they’re thinking, their path, their choices. In real life, I wrote back to my letter writer and told him that we could go on being friends if we never mentioned this one letter ever again. I also suggested marriage counseling. He never wrote back.
In fiction, I might make a character take a road trip to meet her letter writing love. (My letter writer and I had seen Cyrano De Bergerac together after all.) Oh, the things that could happen on the road–and what would happen when she got to her destination? Would her husband have followed? Or no road trip. I could go with the letter writing madness. In this instant-messaging age, the characters could exchange wild letter–real letters with ink across paper. Or the letter writer could realize his mistake and determine to get that letter back. He becomes a stalker. He’ll do anything to get his words back and she’ll do anything to keep them. Or show them to his wife.
Why stick with it-really-happened-that-way when there are so many other possibilities?