Letters to a Person Who Doesn’t Exist

Riley Black
4 min readJan 16, 2021
Photo by Lucas George Wendt on Unsplash

I hadn’t thought about the letter in years, but I knew what it was as soon as I saw it — a note from someone I don’t know anymore to a person who doesn’t exist.

Maybe someone else could have left it alone. I couldn’t. I pulled at the edge of the red envelope, freeing it from a small stack of similar letters. Some were cards. Some were on stationary. Some had beads. Others, stickers. Many “sealed with a lick ’cause a kiss won’t stick.”

I sat next to the box full of buried memories and I started to read.

I’m not going to tell you what any of the letters said. I would say they are for me, but I’m not even so sure of that anymore. They were to the person I was, the man my love saw and wanted to be with. A version of myself who wasn’t really even much of a person yet, me before the metamorphosis.

Shattering is extremely, tantalizingly conducive to mulling over alternate timelines. Breaking up naturally leads to those endless, fruitless “What if…” questions we ask the bedroom ceiling at night. There are no answers there. But almost two years into my transition, rediscovering the old cards and letters felt like dipping into another timeline. The missives were meant for someone else, someone whose memories are stored in my mind, snippets and clips that are both warm and distant.

They’re Schrödinger’s love letters, here and not at once.

I don’t think I’m going to surprise anyone by saying that I didn’t stop reading after the first. One by one, I pulled them all from the little stack — my own personal section of bittersweet strata. Some lines made me smile. Some made me take a deep, calming breath. The past meeting the present found its own odd balance. I knew the ending of the story now, which you may never have guessed if you only had the letters to go on.

There was only one that I struggled to finish. A little folded piece of green construction paper decorated with beads and stickers, so packed with emotion that the words don’t entirely fit on the rectangle. It was a promise, a note from the past about a future that would never exist.

When the relationship ended, as I stuffed some boxes in the closet and tried to sort out what — if anything — my life would be, I wanted to do things…

Riley Black

Distant cousin of T. rex. Author of Skeleton Keys, My Beloved Brontosaurus, and more. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @Laelaps. http://rileyblack.net