Billet-doux /bilāˈdo͞o/ | noun: love letter; French: literally sweet letter.
[Below is a futuristic letter I have written to an American institution which was lost]
You are gone now and there’s nothing I can do about it, except to coexist with this excruciating pain and the numbing knowledge that it didn’t have to end. I could have prevented it. I could have stopped it. Instead, I sat idly by while you were torn from my embrace. You put up a fight. You fervently tried to remind me that what we had was special—that it did not exist anywhere else in the universe. You were always there for me. I never thought I’d be without you . . . until you were gone. Complacency was my final sin that ended us; leaving me with nothing but this aching heart and devastated soul. I am lost like a wayward son now, suffering like a shipwrecked soul. I constantly scan the horizon for one last glimpse of you, praying for one final embrace.
With each sunset I remain imprisoned, void of hope. My only solace is that nightly I reminisce upon the glorious journey we were granted by, for lack of a better metaphor, divinity. Alas, it is not enough. I awake at dawn, instantly hoping that way out there on the horizon, I’ll see you returning from the sea to rescue me. To let me hold you evermore. If the gods are listening, please send her back—back to me. I shalt not take her for granted again. I will not let her slip from my embrace. I will stand guard, willing to lay down my life if anyone attempts to harm her. Please hear my humble plea—and return her to me.
I remember when we first met. I was so young—so scared. The world seemed like it was going to end. President Kennedy had just been killed. You found me in the corner of my room, sobbing, unable to focus. You came to me. Your words comforted me. The pictures you shared gave me hope. Through many lonely days and dark nights, you stayed by my side. You never abandoned me. Eventually hope returned. Eventually, the strength to carry on came, and together we held our heads high while we headed down the highway towards the great unknown.
Together we rejoiced when Neil Armstrong took “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” Do you remember how long I stared at you? Transfixed with pride, with hope for humanity. I do. What a special time that was for us. The whole world looked upon us in awe. Everything was possible, nothing was out of reach. . . . Civil rights became the law of the land. We were both so proud to hail from a society that had finally seen the light. That light dimmed when Bobby, Martin, Malcolm and so many others were assassinated. Then, I again cried. Again, you came to my side. And again, together, side-by-side we healed, then headed back down the road.
It took so very long for you to explain the Vietnam War to me, to instill lessons I will never forget. You forced me to look at horrific images of death, destruction, and carnage—carcasses, human, discarded like humanity’s garbage. You forced me to look and look until I could not stand it anymore, until I acted to stop it. You made sure the world saw what I was doing. You gave me a voice and dignity in those dire days. When it was over, again we strolled down the side of the road, locked arm-in-arm.
We danced the nights away to disco. When my dabbling in party supplies got the better of me, you educated me. When the war on drugs got carried away, you educated me. When Challenger “slipped the surly bonds of earth” to “touch the face of God,” never to return, your remained with me. You comforted me.
In good times, in bad times, you never once thought about leaving me, abandoning me, despite of myself—you stayed. The decades we have navigated together have been hellish and glorious, painful and joyful, scary and stoic. We have seen death and birth. We have seen fear and resolve. We have witnessed it all.
I recall that September morn. I cannot escape it. It will not fade. The fear remains. We met enemies that day. Our nation has since created enemies out of our fellow citizens. The other. The opposition. The ones to fear and to blame. The dominoes have fallen rapidly since that day. They have fallen to this place in space and time. To our shores. They have divided us.
Then they laid the blame on you, my dear. And when they came for you, I was angry, fearful, full of indignation. I felt disenchanted, abandoned. I stood by and simply watched as you screamed, “It was not me. I simply tried to tell the truth.”
You are gone now my dear, and I am poorer for it. I am lost, void of hope. There’s no light shining in the dark corner of my room anymore. While looking out on the water yesterday, I found a floating bottle. I’m going to place this letter in it, and reseal it with its cork—and a kiss. It’s my SOS! It is my billet-doux to you. I hope it finds you, and that after you read it, that you will forgive me. That you will find a way to return to me. My Dear. My Love. My Free Press.
Post Scriptum: Dedicated to Mona Hawkins (@monahawkins179) because of her lovely tweets: “Be mindful of what you toss away, be careful of what you push away, and think very hard before you walk away” (Hawkins, Mona. Tweet. 19 February 2017 6:47 PM. Web 21 February 2017).
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