Lost Letters: When I Wasn’t Writing


Going into that prison sentence, I told myself that I was strong enough to withstand this test of time. After all, I had my hands full with a newborn baby and a full-time job as a supervisor at a retail chain. He tried to pressure me into applying for public housing assistance, claiming he would need somewhere to set up a physical address with his probation officer once he was released. Yet at the same time, he would warn me that I needed to be ready to take our son back to Texas with him, his father and his brother who would be making the long drive to pick him up the day he was released.

I put his future release in the furthest corner of my mind because three years was a lifetime away. Instead, I worked hard, I partied harder. I made money, I blew money. I slept too much and cried too little. There was a new sense of freedom that I didn’t understand, yet welcomed with open arms. I took care of myself, indulged myself, I was healthy and happier than I had felt in a long time, despite my chain smoking and binge drinking.

I owned so many nice things, well things that were nice to me- brand name clothes and shoes, expensive watches, a wide variety of creative sterling silver jewelry. I still wasn’t writing and I hadn’t picked up a book in ages. I was too busy living.

I should have been sending him money, money so he could eat better, money to help ease his suffering. Instead, I was busy waiting in long lines every weekend outside of ocean-side nightclubs. I was busy buying long-neck Coronas and Kamikaze shots. I was busy losing myself in places that made me not feel so lost.

I kept trying to convince myself that I didn’t need him, that I could live a happy life without him. After all, how could we ever be happy and financially stable once he got out of prison? I was no expert but I was pretty sure that he would never make it to a corporate level with a felony criminal record. That would put the financial burden solely on me. Besides, I already had a job. A job that I loved. I had a life that I loved.

A while into our relationship I had decided that it had been our love for alcohol that had bound us together. He drank obsessively to forget the pain he claimed he felt at having lost a child, and by lost I don’t mean the child died. I drank to fill that constant longing I felt. Longing for something, anything, other than the life I had. A lot of the guys I dated in highschool couldn’t understand my need for drinking. They couldn’t understand why I preferred Budweiser over something fruity. They didn’t understand why I couldn’t drink in moderation and they didn’t appreciate that if I was ever made to choose between them and alcohol, they would lose every time.

But he wasn’t this way. Once he was out of prison there were so many weekend mornings, afternoons and nights we would drink side by side. It eventually escalated to drinking on the weekdays after work and after things got bad, I would drink before my night shifts at work just so I could numb the pain and survive for just one more night.

I drank to forget about the screaming pain of a fractured arm. I drank to forget the explosion of excruciating hurt that reverberated throughout my chest after having beem punched. I drank to dull the dizziness of a concussion, probably not the best idea, but at that point, I didn’t care. I drank to forget about about the feeling of his fingers around my throat, trying to squeeze the life out of me time and time again. I drank to keep myself from going completely mad over an incident that I’ve only ever spoken aloud about twice since it happened almost four years ago.

It all carried on for the seven or eight years that I lived with him, right up until the day I left him. That was four years ago and I haven’t had a single drink since. Some days it’s hard, most days it isn’t. I’ve found other ways to cope. I’ve found other ways to do everything. I think for a long while I blamed myself for it all. I told myself it might have been different if I would’ve never stopped writing to him when he had been in prison.


Lost Letters Written In Fear


No matter how exhausted I was, no matter how discouraged I was about the situation and my relationship, I wrote those letters faithfully for a very long time. I wrote about the mundane details of my days, I copied song lyrics, I drew him pictures. For a very long time, I just kept writing.

When I couldn’t think of anything to say, I would sit on my bed with my blank notebooks open in front of me, my pen poised above the blank lines. In the beginning, I wrote to fill the emptiness in my heart and life that his absence left. Towards the end, I wrote to keep him appeased in the hopes that he would stop keeping tabs on me, that he would give me a chance at a normal life.

My money started to dwindle away between the collect calls and sending him $100, sometimes $200, every week or every other week. After he got out of prison I was angered when I found paperwork, receipts, showing what he had purchased from the prison commissary. Most of the money was spent on snacks, which I understood, he was always adamant that he was wasting away in there. He also spent money frequently on batteries for his radio and on paper and envelopes so he could write to me. I don’t know why it upset me that he always needed more, more money, but it did. It made me feel bad that it upset me. Everything about the situation upset me.

Sometimes he would write the most beautiful words to me. He would tell me how lucky our child would be to grow up in a home with two parents who loved each other. He would tell me that he would do anything to protect us, that he would always take care of us. He just knew we would be happy together and he had me convinced as well. Now as I sit and stare at the scar on my knee that he gave me a few years back not long before I left him, I can’t believe how naive I was back then in the beginning.

Sometimes his letters were painful to read because for a long time, I missed him a great deal. Mostly they were painful to read because I never really believed a word he wrote. I was terribly lonely and afraid of the future. I was afraid of every decision I would soon have to make. I was afraid of letting him down. I was afraid of everything.

Damned Lost Letters


We used to sit on the large sectional in his living room- him playing Onimusha, me smoking my Marlboro Reds and flicking my ashes into one of his low balls filled with water. He almost always had a refrigerator full of strawberry Cisco. I hated the way Cisco tasted. He used to tell me that in the hood, Cisco was considered “liquid crack.” I believed it after I drank a few sips one night and woke up to the worst hangover of my life. On the weekends he drank so much of the stuff that it seemed like his lips were permanently stained red.

I would drink unil I passed out and later would awaken to find him gone. He would be next door with his Latina neighbor- a woman whom he often told me tried to sleep with him by walking into his apartment and stripping down naked. He had told me that once, she had walked into his apartment while he was in the shower, barged into the bathroom and pulled back the curtain. He swore he never slept with her but reminded me often that he could if he wanted to.

I think she was a stripper for a short period of time and most times when I would see her around she would be wearing half- halter tops, extremely short shorts, platform heels and bubblegum pink lipgloss. He had a thing for Hispanic girls. I’ve never been the type to dress scantily, not even back then at the end of my teenage years. Once, he tried to get me to go with him to the mall dressed in a tank top and some swimming bottoms- the boy-cut type for women. I didn’t hesitate to tell him that wasn’t the kind of person I was. That was probably one of the only times in all the years I spent with him that I spoke my mind.

Once, we went to a nightclub together along with one of my girlfriends I had known for many years and he spent most of the night chatting up a half-naked girl that was dancing on the bar. Later on he told me that once when I had gone out of town, this girl tried to sleep with him but that he had turned her down, which I should’ve been thankful for because there was this mindblowing thing she did with a small flashflight that he almost couldn’t resist. I’m sure he lied about turning her down because she was a stripper too and that’s the kind of woman he loved. It’s funny how I would forget all of this while I was pregnant and faithfully sending him letters and money in prison.

More Lost Letters


I didn’t technically lose the letters. Did I already say this? I can’t remember. There came a point in time when I was ready to move on and I didn’t feel the need to hold onto to the words. I had convinced myself that I didn’t need them anymore. I knew the words by heart- not all of them, but the ones that had the biggest impact on me.

Most of his letters were filled with his own delusional beliefs of how his sentence was going to be overturned and about how he was watching inmates around him being released every day. In these letters, I was instructed to call the warden, and I guess what you would call the clergyman, and beg for his early release. I did this every day for a long while, left messages that is. Apparently wardens and clergymen in prisons are busy people.

His dad used to call me sometimes. He had such a kind voice on the phone. He would ask me how I was holding up and if I needed anything. I always told him I didn’t even though I knew he knew I was having financial troubles- all because of the collect calls. He used to ask me often when I was going to relocate from Florida to Texas. I avoided the subject best I could. After all, there are no oceans in Texas, not in this part anyways. He paid my phone bill a couple of times.

I used to take pictures with disposable cameras. Dozens of pictures and I would send these a few at a time in my letters to him. I used to spritz my letters with perfume- a cheap spray I bought from Walmart and never actually wore because I never used to enjoy perfume back then. Sometimes I would tear out the fragrance flip-up advertisements from magazines and create envelopes out of them, never any fragrances that I ever actually wore.

I used to send him books of stamps, sometimes half-books, sometimes full ones. Oftentimes I would lose full books of stamps and find them much later when my bank balance was below zero. In times like this, finding those stamps made me happy. Except for the occasional letter to friends in other countries, I can’t remember the last time I used a stamp but I know it’s been nearly fourteen years since I’ve bought a book of stamps.

The envelopes his letters came in were always stamped “SENT FROM AN INMATE IN X CORRECTIONAL FACILITY.” I was still living with my parents, well I had moved back in with them, and it seemed that the letters stopped coming. I did my best to get to the mailbox before they did but when I was pregnant and working full-time, it wasn’t always quite that easy. I was exhausted often. Exhausted and depressed.

I’m sure more than a few of the letters he sent to me were thrown out by my parents before I could see them. Finally, I went and paid for a post office box. I felt so accomplished for having done such an adult thing. I checked that box religiously. I think my parents had thought the letters had stopped coming and I’m sure they were happy.

I kept his letters neatly filed away in the top drawer of a small nightstand that I had had for all of my life. It was white with yellow flowers on the front of the two drawers. It was the same dresser that I used to hide my cigarettes in when I first started smoking. I never in my life- before or after that period of time- used that nightstand for anything else, and after I threw out all of his letters, that little, white, two-drawer dresser with the yellow flowers painted on it remained empty.