Chapter 10

Dear Ada,

I promise to write more often. I've been incredibly busy. We moved to a new place in Venice, and we had three gigs this week. We're all waiting tables or working two or three part-time jobs. And we have to audition, and when we perform we have to load up and go to the club and set up and play and tear it down and come home. And we practice three or four times a week, in an old warehouse a long way from here. I haven't written because I'm dog tired. Sometimes I fall asleep in the middle of writing a letter and next thing the alarm goes off and I have to go to work. I'm sorry. I think about you every day, and I miss you all the time. It feels strange, being without you. "Being" without you doesn't feel like being at all, more like an ersatz existence. But this has been my dream since I was eight, and I have to do it.

You'll like L.A. There's a lot of unusual architecture and odd little neighborhoods you never would expect. It's not all homogenized, the way people think. There's the beach, which you would like, and the mountains, too. And the desert. You'll love the desert.

A couple of times I've walked down to the beach and looked out over the ocean and watched the sun set. Lots of clouds, every kind of cloud. Puffy, streaky, you name it. And every color, even some I don't have names for. Greens and pinks and oranges and reds and blues. I watch the sun go down and I think of you.

I miss you, Ada. This feeling is like a phantom limb: I've lost part of me, and all that's left is the dull throb of the absence. I go to sleep thinking about you, and I wake up thinking about you. I remember your face, and your thin arms and hands and fingers. I remember your hair, and your pale skin, and the way that pale skin makes your lips look red, and I remember the way you blush. I remember the birthmark on your knee. I remember how thin you are, and I worry that you don't eat enough. I remember the way you look at each bite of food before you eat it, as if you were going to ask it a question. Even without your letters I would remember your handwriting, straight up and down, not leaning to either side. I remember the way you push the toe of your right shoe against the inside of your left shoe when you're trying to find exactly the right word. I remember the distant look in your eyes sometimes, as if you have a private world. I remember the way you look right at me. I remember the way strands of your hair come loose and hang over your ear, or beside your temples. Ada. I can hardly bear it, I miss you so. I didn't think being apart would be this painful.

Look at this. I'm writing cliches. It's so corny I could boil it and eat it on the cob. But I know you understand. I know you do.

It's embarrassing to read this letter. I have to mail it now, I'm tempted to tear it up and write something more polished. You must know how I feel. I think you feel the same. Nothing can come between us if we have faith in each other. I believe -- no, I know that we're destined to be together for life. There's more to say, but I have to mail this before I lose my nerve.



P.S. before I forget: Send me another picture of yourself. The one I have is wearing out.

Dearest Wyatt,

Thank you. Thank you for that letter. I miss you still, of course, but now that I know how you miss me too, somehow it's easier, at least for the moment. I'm so glad you mailed it instead of tearing it up. So glad. I cannot imagine how it could have been better. I carry it with me to class and I've read it so many times that it's already dog-eared.

It's strange, though, reading the things you said about me. It made me think, "Is that me? Is that how I appear?" Even my handwriting seemed unfamiliar after I read those things. I looked at myself in the mirror, something I rarely do, and the face there seemed to belong to someone else. I wonder. You see this one you love, who's not the person I see when I look at her. So the Wyatt I see and love isn't the same person you know. I thought about you and me, and how we are separate, and what that means, and the times I felt that I'd fused with you, and what that meant, and which of these feelings were true, since they contradict each other. The distinction between us began to seem arbitrary and unreal. I was completely confused, until I decided that none of this matters. Of course I don't know you fully, and perhaps can't. But I think that love is unknowable, it's simply present, all around, like air. It keeps us alive, even when we don't know it. It's enough that I love you, and that I know you love me, and that you love me and you know that I love you.

But there is still that terrible longing, which won't go away since you left. It is as present, as constant as you were, when you were here.

I've found a ride so I can come see you at the start of the summer session. Someone on the ride board at the Union is going out after the end of the spring session and coming back for summer. It's perfect. I will let you know the exact date. Be sure to keep your time free, because I don't want to be dragged around to your "gigs". I want to sit on the beach, and admire those sunsets you described so vividly. I'm afraid they may not live up to the beauty of the picture you painted. And I want to watch the waves and taste the water and see its color. Costa Rica is small, you know, and wedged between the Atlantic and the Pacific, but strange though it may seem to you, I've never seen the ocean. Another of the deficiencies in my experience, soon, like so much else, to be remedied by you.

I wish you would write more often. I wish you were with me. I don't understand why you left. I go to class, and I go to the lab, and I study. I eat and sleep and do the laundry and all the other usual things, but always there is that emptiness, that something-missing because you are not here. At times I wake up in the middle of the night and I reach for the phone, to call you, and then I remember that I can't because your phone is disconnected.

When you left I realized how isolated I've been, and I've been trying to make more friends. I actually went to a party! (It was at the house of that boy you saved, after his beating. His name is Owen. I met him on campus, and he invited me. He says he wants to thank you.) I left early, but it's progress, isn't it? Sometimes matters are awkward because my past is so different from everyone else's, and I don't understand all the references to television shows and music and even weather (tornadoes, hailstorms). I knew that Monteverde was isolated, but not to what degree. Sometimes I feel like one of those feral children raised by wolves, who has no language in common with anyone else.

I have a garden now, in Owen's back yard. I'll explain when I see you. It was overgrown, and I'm tending it and we'll share the vegetables and flowers. I sunburned the first time I worked on it -- I hear you admonishing me again. I always forget. It was so cloudy in Monteverde that it was never a problem, cloudy when it wasn't raining or misty.

There isn't much else to report. Lawrence is not Los Angeles, not glamorous. Every day is the same. (Am I really saying this, I who have always found this place so circuslike, compared to my village?) The campus feels different now because we're nearing finals week, and then everyone will leave for home. The only ones staying on will be those who live to study or can't afford to go home or are trying to get through school in three years. I suppose I belong in the first two categories, though not the third. Much as I'd like to, if I took more hours while staying year-round, I'd finish too soon. Besides, taking fewer classes lets me learn the subjects better. Of course I miss home, but the distance is so great that it would be terribly expensive to travel back and forth, it would cost so much of what little money I have. It's almost a form of cheating, to go for four years straight, with no summers off, but all I have to do is (somehow!) stretch each year's stipend over twelve months.

The dorm is quiet now. I stay up late (my late, not what you would call late) to study, and sometimes I go for a walk, after I finish for the night. Often I wander along that gravel road on the other side of Iowa Street. There's a large old dead tree with an owl nest, and I stand there and watch the parents fly in and out of the nest, feeding their young. It comforts me. It tells me that life goes on. I want to be like those owls and have a family and take care of my children. I never talked to you about this. Somehow I couldn't. It's easier in a letter. I wish I had asked you about this. Do you want children? Do you want us to make a family?

This is too difficult, writing yet another letter full of evasions. I have to tell you. This loss, the loss of you, has grown and consumed my life. Why did you go? Why should your band and your music matter more than us? I miss you. You can ignore everything else in this letter, because this is the only thing that matters. I miss you. I need you. This pain and loneliness are more than I can bear. I need you here with me. Come home. You must. I'm tired and I miss you and I need you here. Please come home. Please. My other letters don't matter. I felt the same way then, but I didn't say so until now because now I have to say it. I can't not say it. It gets worse and worse, and now it's become unbearable and I finally have to say it. I can't live this way. I can't live without you. Please come home.

Dear Ada,

I miss you, too, but we'll be together again soon. I just can't be with you right now. I think of you every day, and I worry about you. I struggle with the idea of coming back, but there's everything I promised Gregg and Dave and Brad and Barry, and I imagine the betrayal. I couldn't face them.

Ada, you must know you are the only woman there will ever be for me. From the first night I met you, there has been something. I can't explain it, I can't describe it. There is no one but you, and never can be.

I'm not trying to hurt you, but this has to be said. You've even said it yourself. It's that you are inexperienced. You can't see past what you feel. But we have a lifetime. Being apart is only temporary. Be patient. We can afford one year. You'll see. We will be together again, and then we will never be apart.

There's always more to say. I could spend hours writing you, every day, if I had the time. Please remember what I said about us having time. Please be patient. I know this is difficult for you. It's difficult for me, too.

I have to mail this now. I'm late for work. This will be the last letter before you get here. I'm trying to take my own advice and be patient, but I'm counting the days -- no, the minutes.



The country was huge, the numbers on the map incomprehensible. In her mind she measured in kilometers, but even if the distances had been in kilometers, not miles, the scale was unimaginable. Vast fields of corn, wheat, soybeans. Empty grasslands with nothing but an occasional windbreak, a few meadowlarks, no animals, not a human in sight except in other automobiles, and one solitary tractor. Ecclesiastic processions of clouds in an infinite sky. This was only the beginning. They had been driving since dawn, the time was long past noon and they were still in Kansas. The driver, Dean, rarely spoke, staring straight ahead, his hands on the wheel. Ada was settling in. The trick was to consign herself to the boredom of the road.

They slept overnight in the car, sitting up. The second day they reached Las Vegas. Dean made a detour to show her the Strip. She could not understand what she was seeing -- the architecture, the lights. All this, for gambling? She was astonished that large sums of money would be spent to make such grotesque monuments to waste.

They went into a casino. It was filled with bright lights and loud strange sounds, and people in every kind of clothing from sweatpants to tuxedos. She stood in line with Dean for a cheap buffet, inching along next to a row of slot machines, and she asked him how the machines worked, and he explained.

"So you put your money in," she said, "and once in a while it gives you a lot, but usually it keeps what you put in, and then you do it again?"

"That's right."


He shrugged. "Hope springs eternal?"

They were both exhausted. She had to be persuaded, but finally she let him pay for a motel room, a single. He slept in the bed and she slept on the floor, fully clothed, on the extra bedding.

Then the road west again, bleak, brown, of a featurelessness she had never imagined, like driving on the moon.

They came over a pass and saw a brown haze and city as far as the horizon, which was closer than it should have been because of the soupy air, and they dropped down the pass and the mountains disappeared except as a faint outline in the translucent, dirty atmosphere. More people than she had ever imagined, but they all seemed to be in their cars. No one walked.

Everything looked like a movie set, unreal, worn and tired, fake and empty. Everything existed by itself, without any relation to the things around it. A city of solipsism, saturated with loneliness, ugly and uncared for. The houses looked temporary. The city made her even more tired than she already was. Soon she would see Wyatt, but the houses, and the highways, went on and on. A hundred miles of them.

In Santa Monica, they exited on Lincoln. She smelled something unfamiliar, unexpected, almost rank, and knew immediately that it was the ocean.

The house in Venice was a few minutes further along. She pulled the envelope from her pocket and read the address to Dean. He stopped and asked directions from a pedestrian. The answer was in Mexican-accented Spanish: "No habla Ingles". Ada asked in Spanish, listened to the answer, thanked the man and translated for Dean.

Except for the discouraged-looking banana tree in one corner of the yard, the house looked like something from an Erskine Caldwell novel. It needed a new roof and the paint was peeling. The yard was full of weeds. The front porch had a glider on it. The only thing missing was a broken-down appliance in the yard, or a rusty car up on blocks.

Dean's only words when he drove off were, "See you in a week." Ada picked up her suitcase and walked through the gate and up the sagging, rotting steps and knocked.

A girl wearing only panties answered the door. Ada noticed that the girl's breasts were of different sizes and immediately transferred her attention upward. "Excuse me. Is Wyatt Packard here?"

"He's at work. You want to come in and wait?"

"Thank you."

Panty girl opened the door. She tipped her head toward the couch, where a body lay sprawled with a copy of Zap Comix obscuring the face. "That's Dave. Don't wake him. We had a rough night."

"I didn't introduce myself. My name's Ada."

The other nodded without bothering to give her own name. She said, "Make yourself at home. I can't stay. I'm supposed to meet my boyfriend. He gets mad if I'm late."

"Boyf -- ?", but the girl was already halfway down the hall. Ada inspected the room, which fronted the house, all the other rooms to its rear. The floor was strewn with comic books and dirty clothes. The sofa Dave slept on was stained and worn, and the air smelled of mold. The linoleum had curled in one corner of the room. Ada decided to wait on the porch. She put her suitcase behind the couch and went back to sit on the glider. The door clicked shut behind her. She tried the knob. At least she wasn't locked out. A few minutes later she heard a car start. She peeked around the corner and saw the girl pulling out of the alley in back.

She did not own a watch, but the sun had moved several degrees before Wyatt drove up in a van. She hurried down the walk as he parked, and met him just outside the gate and grasped his shirt and raised herself on her toes to be kissed. Then she pressed her face to his chest, inhaling the familiar smell of his soap and the personal odor of his skin.

"At last," she said. "At last."

They stood for minutes, their arms around each other.

"I could have started my time off today. I didn't think you'd be here this soon," he said.

"Just hold me. Don't talk." Later: "Is the ocean close enough to walk to?"

"About a mile."

She stepped back. "You look tired." She touched him under his eyes, feeling the black bags there. The whites of his eyes were bloodshot. She hadn't expected that.

"Not enough sleep," he said.

She embraced him again, her head in the same spot on his chest and said, "My Wyatt," her voice muffled.


"The beach will be there tomorrow. Where's your bedroom?"

Love was long and slow and nothing remarkable, because it was for the joining and not the discharge. She locked him to her with her legs around his hips and her arms around his neck and wouldn't let him go until he said he needed to sleep. Then she released him and they closed their eyes. The last thing she remembered was saying, "This won't do," and moving her foot so it touched his.

Loud music woke her before dawn. She roused Wyatt.

"What?" He blinked and groaned.

"They're playing music. It woke me. Would you ask them to stop?"

"Why? We play music every morning when we get up. It's how we start the day."

"Doesn't it bother you?"

"I'm used to it. I don't hear it any more."

"Well, I'm awake now. Let's walk down to the ocean. I've never seen it."

They walked the empty dim streets, no sign of life except an unwatched television flickering in the front room of one house. The buzzing of a street lamp. Graffiti spray-painted on walls.

Her first view of the Pacific, her first ocean, partly by moonlight but more by the sun brightening behind her in the east. She sat and removed her sneakers and socks and felt the sand with her toes for a minute and then stood. Wyatt held out his hand, and she let him take the shoes. He brushed the sand from the back of her jeans. She walked toward the water, her feet sinking in the yielding surface of the beach. A gull hopped out of her way, then flapped its wings and rose into the air, and landed again not far off. Ada hesitated as she approached the irregular line where the highest waves had lapped. The texture of the wet sand there was smoother and firmer. She stepped back and was surprised at the sharpness of her prints; they looked like a cast of her foot. She walked toward the water again.

A few strands of green seaweed with odd bulbous appendages were scattered along the beach. The smell of the place was odd, and like nothing on land. The wind was against her back, and her face felt damp. A wave, almost spent, hissed toward her and she scampered back. When the water retreated, her footprints had vanished. She started forward again, and scuttled back, trying to step into the water slowly, but she couldn't find a way. After a few tries, a larger wave rushed her, splashing her legs. She raised her arms and scurried backwards, looking over her shoulder at Wyatt. He smiled at her. She strode into the water. It was colder than she'd expected. The water rose around her feet, above her ankles, bobbing up and down her legs. She walked out until it was almost to her knees. She put her hand in the water and brought her palm up, cupped, and tasted it. The saltiness was shocking.

She could not tell where the sea ended. Its horizon seemed undecidably distant. She stood gazing, thinking: Unimaginable depth, to Japan, to Australia, to Alaska. Creatures swimming in its bosom. Ships. Mountains and canyons at the bottom. Infinite. The sound of an airplane grew, then faded. A wave splashed her shirt. The weakening moon was half-hidden by cloud. She turned. Wyatt had come closer and was watching her from just above the high-water line, the sky behind him light. Another wave splashed the small of her back.

"Go for a swim?" he asked.

"I don't know how."

The beach was wide, the gulls few and the city, for now, more or less quiet. Except another couple far enough away to look tiny, they were alone. She looked at her lover and he smiled, his face full of kindness and affection, and the smile opened a door in her heart. He had a knack for that. For once, he knew enough to be silent, and they went on looking at each other. The sun rose behind his head. She went and stood next to him and they looked at the water, the sun behind them casting their long shadows, which linked as she reached for his hand and held it in hers. The color of the sea changed with the movement of the water, and foam floated on the liquid. An inexact band of light wavered on the restless water that surged toward them, and surged again, and never ended. A sandpiper ran past. They stood at the edge of the continent, the vast city behind them coming to life, his house stirring a mile away. She was already tired of the city and the house. She missed the evenings in his apartment, studying quietly, the noisy world shut out, their love safely enclosed in the room, alone, silent, working together. She was afraid of who he was becoming, of what his friends would make him into. She would lose him, either because he would lose who he had been, or because they couldn't stay together so far apart from each other.

"Wyatt, if you come home to Lawrence I will live with you."

He grinned. "Now you offer?"

"What if you have a hit record? What if you get famous?"

"I'll come back anyway. If I have enough money, you can come out here and I'll send you to UCLA."

"You've been the realistic one. Now I'll have to be. You're fantasizing."

"This is going to work out. Just have faith."

She clutched his shirt and shook it gently. "How did this happen? I fell in love with a fool."

He said, "This can wait. I'm hungry. Let's go down to Santa Monica. There's a little diner there. You have to meet the character who owns it. He's hilarious."

They went to a tiny pink stucco diner, wedged between the street and the wide paved walk that paralleled the beach. There were four tables, and four stools at the counter. Wyatt's friend had tattoos on his arms; Ada had never seen tattoos before, and when told they were permanent, thought to herself that this was certainly an irrational act of a sort she'd never imagined. He showed them to her, and explained that he'd gotten the vivid one in Morocco. He said the tattooing methods there were different, that they went deeper into the skin or used a different dye or something. He was sorry he'd got the tattoo. Then he changed his mind and said he should have gotten all of them in Morocco. His talk was vivid, and laced with unselfconscious profanity. He used "fuck" or "fuckin'" every other sentence, and sometimes oftener. Ada would have left, but she didn't know the way home, and she couldn't think of a tactful way to ask Wyatt to go -- he was laughing too hard at the stream of jokes and smutty stories, most of which starred tattoo man in some improbable role. More than once Wyatt nearly coughed up his food or coffee, trying not to laugh with his mouth full. They stayed for hours while his friend cooked for the customers.

They walked outside and past a few buildings and down a dozen stairs. To their right, in a niche between the buildings and the bike path, men were playing chess at incredible speed, punching the buttons of their timing clocks. To their left, on the beach, men with large muscles and small bathing trunks were holding women above their heads. Wyatt and Ada walked out along the Santa Monica Pier, past the rides and the booths, to the end, where other men waited patiently, their fishing lines in the ocean.

They spent the remainder of the day driving around Los Angeles, seeing various parts of town -- the Sunset Strip, movie studios, the San Fernando Valley. It reminded her of an advanced cancer: large, undifferentiated, and out of control. When they got home, in the early evening, she said, "Have we seen it all now?" Wyatt only laughed.

They took a nap, without even bothering to make love first. Half an hour later, when they woke, they were starting to remedy the oversight when someone knocked on the bedroom door. "Wyatt, we gotta go, man."

"Shit," he groaned. "I forgot. We're playing tonight."

"But you said -- "

"This was already arranged. Besides, we'll be back by two."

"A.M.? I won't be able to stay awake. I'll stay here."

She spent the time reading and trying to stay awake, but she had nodded off when they pulled up in the alley, in back of the house. Wyatt told her to go to bed while they unloaded.

She couldn't fall asleep. First the noise of men tramping through the house and up and down the basement stairs, then girls laughing (where had they come from?), and finally, when she thought everything would be quiet, the noise of the stereo and more laughter and conversation.

Wyatt slipped in next to her. "Man, I'm tired."

"Are they going to have a party now?" Ada gestured toward the door.

"It won't last long. They'll get stoned and quiet down."

"Stoned. Wyatt, this is all wrong. The marijuana, the girl in the panties -- "


She told him about the girl. "Dave's girlfriend," she added. "I suppose. I'm not sure. She mentioned a boyfriend, but I'm still trying to figure out what she meant -- Dave, or someone else."

"Dave doesn't have a girlfriend. Or he has a different one every week. They usually last six or eight hours. She'd be someone else's girlfriend."

"You see, that's what I mean. This is no way to live, like, like animals."

"When did you get so rude?" he asked.

"But Dave," she said. "The girl."

"I asked you a question, goddammit. These are my friends. I've known them longer than you. I want to make a living with them. Living like animals? Is that what you think of me?"

"No. You're twisting my words."

"I can't sleep with you." He rose and started to dress.

"Where are you going?"

"To the van. I'm so... Forget it. What a disappointment."

"Wyatt, please don't."

"God. My so-called girlfriend. I finally find out what she secretly thinks of my life."

"I didn't know it would be like this. I'm not used to this. I never imagined... "

"That excuse is worn out, baby," he said. "This is the United States of America, not Costa Rica. It's fucked up here. Get used to it." He picked a shirt from the closet and left the bedroom.

She rolled to her side and hugged herself. She refused to run after him. He could rot in the van, alone.

For an hour she lay awake, hearing the music from the stereo and the conversation and laughter, and then later, after these had ended, the squeak of bedsprings in the next room and the rhythmic moaning of one of the girls, that seemed to go on forever, until it rose to a series of loud "ah!"s and ended. She fell asleep after the sound ended and then woke to similar sounds from another bed and another girl in another part of the house. This series didn't last as long, but now Ada couldn't fall asleep. She dressed and went out to the van. Wyatt wasn't there.

She wandered through the darkened house, Gregg and Barry sprawled on the floor asleep. No sign of Wyatt. She heard the glider on the porch. There he was. She sat next to him and slipped her hand in his and rested her head on his shoulder.

"I'm sorry," she said.

"No. I am. I shouldn't have said that." Pause. "What is this? I've never needed anyone, never felt what I feel with you, and then I act like a jerk."

"I was going to say something like that about me."

"Ada -- "

"Don't talk. Talking only gets us in trouble. Let's go back to bed."

They woke late and ate breakfast in the kitchen, Ada cleaning as she cooked, and discussed what they should do the rest of the week. She wanted to spend the entire time in bed together, but merely nodded when he listed the sights he thought she should see. So they saw the tourist attractions instead of making love all week, which would have been her preference.

She disliked Disneyland -- the lines, the crowds, the insincerity of it, a machine to extract money from your pocket while making you feel warm. She disliked downtown -- the air made her wheeze -- but she loved the main library; the architecture was a treasure. They went hiking in some of the canyons, in the mountains -- mountains in town! She liked that, and their sandiness and dryness, so different from her mountains back home in Costa Rica. Then they went to Joshua Tree. She loved the rocks, the comic archaic shapes of the trees that were like something she would expect to see in a picture of Australia, the hiking, but it was summer and she insisted on not taking a break at mid-day and then she had to be treated for heat exhaustion. The clinic kept her overnight for observation, and let Wyatt sleep on the floor next to her. She was sunburned again, too. She spent the last two days in discomfort, inside the house in Venice, as close to the air conditioner as she could sit, her skin peeling and prickly. Would she never learn? The band members popped in and out. Their work schedules seemed very irregular. She spent the time with Wyatt, who sat next to her, talking off and on while she read and he read and puttered and practiced music. Scarcely an hour passed without an argument about his friends.

Then Dean was at the door and it was time to go. She had been here a week without managing to say to Wyatt what was in her heart. Dean put her suitcase in the trunk and waited on the other side of the car, looking away, to give her privacy.

"I can't do this," she said. "It's too hard."

"I know."

"I didn't mean to complain so much."

"I know."

"I'm afraid."

"You don't have to be. I bought something. Here." He reached into his jeans and handed her a plain gold ring. "When I come back," he said. "Will you marry me?"

"Of course. You know I will."

He put the ring on her finger. She held him. He held her. It didn't help. She knew she had to go. She would be far away again. He was evaporating from her grasp even as she held him.

Dear Wyatt,

I'm sorry about our arguments, but the subjects are important and I can't let them pass.

We're different. We want different things, we live differently, everything we value seems to be different. I don't want the things you want. I couldn't live the way you do. I couldn't. I saw the underwear girl, and the drugs, and the casual sex your friends have, and the profanity, and your friend with the tattoos and the dirty jokes, and I thought: "Is this my future with Wyatt?"

I don't want to marry a man whose music is more important than the two of us. You promised once to put us first. You've broken that promise. This is the thing that matters. You didn't put us first. I've thought about this very hard, and I've finally come to see how naive I've been. You didn't really love me, not the kind of love that makes and keeps a promise, not the kind that puts itself above everything else. Your music career is the most important thing in your life. So be it. I will learn to accept that. It will take time, and it will hurt, again and again, but I will learn to accept that. I will learn not to be bitter. But I am bitter, and ashamed for being so. I truly think you didn't mean to take advantage of me. I truly think you thought you loved me. You do love me. I know it. It's just that you love something else more, and you had to make a choice, and you made the choice, and we will both have to live with it. I wish you had loved me enough to stay.

I was brought up to believe in certain things -- simplicity, honesty, and to listen to the still small voice within and try to follow it. You have surrounded yourself with people who know nothing of these. I'm afraid I would lose what matters to me, if my life was connected to theirs.

The ride home was long enough for me to think about this. I thought of little else, in fact, and still do. When I got here, I wasn't ready to admit this, but then I was alone again, and it seemed to me as if you have really gone. The person I saw in Los Angeles wasn't you. You weren't present. I could always talk to you. You always listened. You've changed. I could wait, if I were waiting for Wyatt. But Wyatt is no more. Someone else has taken his place. Even the proposal of marriage was a way of keeping me. You say that we will be together again, and then never be apart. I don't believe you. My mother told me the same thing, and then she died. There is no time. At least she meant what she said. I'm not sure you do.

It would have been simpler and truer either to stay with me, or to go, but brave as you are, this is one time you haven't had the courage to make an honest choice. I hope I'm not being unfair, but I think that you've betrayed us. You promised to put us first, but you didn't. After that, how can I believe that you'll hold to your promise to stay there only one year? I don't think I can live even one year this way, much less however many years it finally is. This has no solution. We have avoided saying it, we have said that we have to solve the problem, but there is no solution. You are there, and I am here. That is how it is, and how it will continue to be.

There is another thing. I think that I have misunderstood what I am feeling. I think that I have been blinded. Without experience, I have mistaken passion -- being driven by my desires and sensations -- I have mistaken these pent-up needs and drives, and my own loneliness, for lifelong love. Lovemaking isn't love, but I think I was trying to make it into that. It was rapturous, but it wasn't true union. The body isn't enough. Something more is required.

I'm very confused. I know nothing about all this. It has never happened to me before. Perhaps this is a mistake. I don't know. But I try to be honest with myself. I think that what we had is over. It must have been one of those love affairs that people grow out of. However much I wanted to avoid this conclusion, it became obvious. We have to part.

This is the fourth time I've tried to write this letter. The first three were unreadable because of my tears. There is no escaping this. I have to say goodbye. The pain is extraordinary, more terrible than I could ever have imagined. I still love you, and I will love you for a long time to come, maybe forever. I hope this feeling ends. I started to love you when I saw your courage and generosity, but I can't stay with someone who is not honest with me. That is not love. The special tenderness we had is gone. Most of all, I can't stay because you didn't stay. It is obvious that it was only another affair, not important enough to sacrifice anything for.

I know this hurts you, and that makes the pain worse for me, but I have suffered too much already. I am suffering still. If I could survive, I would put on a brave face and remain alone and continue writing letters back and forth and being distracted in class by thoughts of you. But the only way I'll be able to live is to live without you. I can't go on being your girlfriend -- I love you too much. It feels like you've carried off my heart and are holding it hostage, and without my heart my life is hollow and drained. If you won't give me my heart back, I'll have to take it back.

I am not saying this clearly, so I will end now by saying it simply. Goodbye. Don't write, because I will return the letters unopened. Don't call, because I will not be answering the phone. I love you, but I can't be with you. I'll mail the ring back separately. This is final.