burning, an unsent letter

I should be working, but I can't. I am distracted by these letters at my feet. This stack of letters from over 10 years ago. Uncanny repetitions in my present-- in form only, but the form evokes the content, takes my mind, wraps it around this thing that was -- bring these letters out of hiding. Among the stack from you is a letter I wrote but never mailed. It is handwritten, and I see the me of the past, licking the envelope, addressing it; I sealed it, and later unsealed it. I don't know why. Did it remain unsent or did I re-write it? I no longer remember. There were so many letters, so many repetitions. My handwriting on the envelope looks childish -- big, careful, almost looping. I wasn't a child, and yet ... And yet, wasn't I?

I re-read your letters with a little amazement. You were my age now (maybe even a year younger) when you wrote them, when you wrote things like these, just one little parcel of the hundreds of pages that for some reason haunt me tonight:

"I spend my life trying to formulate questions. This may be the first question that is worth formulating. (I am not even sure what the question is yet, of course). It has to do with my feelings, my thoughts, my will, my being, all of which are, in a strange way, yours. It has to do with my language/tongue/voice/traces/letters, and yours, which affect me in ways I cannot even begin to explain. I am viscerally perturbed by your being...there. [...] It is everything to me right now. But I want more. I don't know what, but more. Only you, your mind, your body, your letters, your wounds, your voice, your evocation can respond to my invocation (question--whatever it is). I never expected this, but I am in love --head over heels and all that. I can't say I like it but it is everything. I am yours, claim me."

How do such letters get written? What kind of post is capable of transmitting such things? These questions, do they ever get posed? Forget the answers, we already knew those were impossible. And all the cliches we twisted and turned to try and say something else, something we felt to be unspeakable, worthy of more than language (we, who loved perhaps nothing more than language).

And yet, I don't have my letters. I have a stack of letters you wrote me. They respond to mine, sometimes explicitly. They call mine into being. I see where mine are to be inserted; where they moved, hurt, surprised, calmed you. You never gave me back my letters. The most beautiful things I have ever written. Even now, even moreso at this age, I feel that I am no longer capable of writing such letters. Perhaps I need to believe that in my present, even if it's not true. 

Do you still have them? Do you hoard them in a folder somewhere, as I do yours? Did you burn them? I have thought for a long while that you did; that there was a forced purge that ended in burning. That reminds me of something Rousseau wrote after Sophie's claims to be unable to return his letters because she burnt them. "On a trouvé brûlantes celle de la Julie. Eh Dieu! qu'aurait-on donc dit de celles-là! Non, non jamais celle qui peut inspirer une pareille passion n'aura le courage d'en brûler les preuves. [...]Si ces lettres sont encore en être, et qu'un jour elles soient vue, on connaîtra comment j'ai aimé." [It was said that the letters of my novel Julie were burning, full of fire. Oh God! What would have been said of these letters I wrote you? No, never could someone who inspired such a passion be capable of burning the proof. If those letters are still in existence, and if one day they can be read, then it would be known how I loved."]

Are they burnt, or just burning? So many little tongues of flame; some letters start fires, others consume them. I think I would like to be re-acquainted with the writer whose round print I see so neatly traced on that unsent envelope. Can all the traces be burnt? What remains? That, I think, is our question now. I am alone incapable of writing the answer. I don't need you to do it; I need her--that letter-writer that was me.