The Love Letters Project & Why I Agreed to Do It:
by Lauren Crux
1. Sara Wilbourne asked me to be one of the writers. Early. before I had time to get too busy, or think about all the good reasons why not.
2. I’d follow Sara anywhere.
3. I love participating in collaborative community art events and this one was so good-hearted.
4. I like to play, and this seemed like good play.
5. Why not?
At Karen and Jory’s house: I was late, there was an accident on the freeway. I don’t like being late so I was a little anxious, but no one seemed to mind. I was only a little late.
Food, drink, typewriters, paper, pens (I came with several pens to try out--I am a fountain pen and good stationary kinda gal), chocolate kisses and good will abounded.
Wallace Baine came late too, after I arrived, sat next to me. We were partners in our rehearsal. We both felt a little anxious.
He wrote something “perfect” for my sweetie, something Calvin Trillinesque, which delighted me.
I think I was supposed to leave it behind for the archive but I was bad, I took it home. Wanted to frame it.
I wrote something rambly for his sweetie. He commented on it being “all over the place, but caught something about her.” It was good enough for a first try.
This was not a competitive event, but, fifteen minutes? To interview, to get something to work off of? To write it? And then those other writers -- all good. Well how could one not be a tiny bit competitive. Wallace and I laughed a bit nervously.
Have fun. I had fun.
And to be so well taken care of: Julia, Karen, Jory, Sara . . . so well organized, so respectful. What a delight. Thank you.
The Event Itself:
I did not rehearse, other than the one formal “rehearsal.” I didn’t worry about it until the morning of, because by this time I had become quite busy and was focused on other things. I figured that I have been writing letters all my life, was a writer/performer, that surely I could do a good job on this project. If not, I would just throw myself off a cliff--oh too dramatic--well, just hang my head in shame--oh still too dramatic. I think I landed on I would be disappointed. That was survivable.
So, I loaded up my favorite two fountain pens, one lavender roller ball pen just in case someone wanted a little colour, and my portable writing desk. I pinned on my red felt heart, added a little pin with a quote from Dorothy Sayers* to keep me inspired, and off I went. I didn’t get nervous until walking to MAH. Then it hit me. Why did I agree to do this? I could be doing other things this morning; walking on West Cliff, cleaning the house . . . This is another performance. Oh shit. Then I remembered why: community, fun, play. Ah yes. This will be fun.
Wallace and I had shared an email exchange sharing our mutual anxiety: (thank heaven for Wallace) about the possibility of failure (not writing a “good” letter). Whereas I was just worried about my ability to write quickly and well (I am a 40 draft person: do not think or write quickly well). He pointed out in that wry humorous way he has, that we were responsible to other people, to their hopes and desires and what if we let them down. "Oh good," I replied, now I can worry about that too. Thanks, Wallace.
The first person arrives: a man who is too busy wanted a letter for a wife who is too busy. He remembers how completely she melts into him when they hug, when they find the time; how beautiful she is in her unselfconscious moments. And there was the opening; there was the love. I gave him time for this love, even if for only a moment.
Whew. The first letter is written. Inside the time limit. Fifteen minutes was plenty of time, what a surprise. And although it is now completely clear that I will never be accused of being a person of few words, I think I did just fine. Managed to find that one thing to wrap the letter around.
Then the letter for the young wife for her husband who can repair anything, who pulls things out of the garbage that she has thrown away; who likes to sleep in, “slothful” she called him and then it turns out that sleeping in meant--until nine. She loved how he loved her and their child and life.
Later, the young husband of the young wife arrives and I write a letter for him to her. What fun. Their descriptions of each other match my sense of each of them. He keeps her feet on the earth; she is fire and air.
Another letter: The man of no words whose wife wants words. I gave him words. I was deeply touched by his pain, by his desire to give his wife the one thing he couldn’t give her; until now. Words.
A young trapeze artist wanted a letter to her mother, a somewhat eccentric mother. Or perhaps the trapeze artist was eccentric and her mother just tried too hard—to be a good mother; to know and understand everything. This young woman gave me great lines, easily. Whereas the man of no words took extra effort on my part to hear the words that weren’t there, this woman handed them over. Made my job easy. I have a fondness for eccentricity, for goofiness. She played. I played. She was pleased. I hope her mother was pleased.
And so it went and soon the time was over. I was tired and delighted.
I had not expected people to be so earnest. I thought people would be out to play with the artists, to play with the day. I expected some people to be provocative; others just to be checking out the scene. I did expect people to be so earnest. I was surprised by how quickly people became available to tell some of their story, and by how much they wanted a “real” letter. “Affectionate” was the category most chose. People were sincere and some a little nervous. I remember saying to one man, when I realized how nervous he was, “Hey, I’m the one who has to write the letter; I’m the one whose nervous. You can relax.” We both laughed. That’s when I realized we both had something at stake.
When I left I could feel that I had been deeply affected by this event in a way I couldn’t have imagined. I was touched but what I was offered and what I offered in return. Connection. Intimacy. The risk of that.
My shift over, I immediately went to have a letter (another) written for my sweetie. Why not? This was too much fun. The category I chose was “affectionate.”
* ”Time and trouble will tame an advanced young woman, but an advanced old woman is uncontrollable by any earthly force.”