Tuesday, March 31, 2009

A LITTLE BACKGROUND INFORMATION IS NECESSARY: a story by george tibbitt

I am standing at the curb waiting for the 12:40 Greyhound Bus to Baltimore.

As I stand here, I notice that as the other busses arrive, the ‘greyhound’ on the side of each bus has changed. The colors are darker and richer than per usual, with a slight hint of Prussian blue in the body; the animal is has a smooth inner bevel that it did not have before, and that makes it practically come alive on the side of the vehicle.

It is 12:30 and 42 degrees. Yesterday it was 62 by noon, but that is unusual for this time of year.

I thought for certain it would be sunny today, but it is not.

I am holding an envelope in my hand, and the envelope I am holding contains a letter.

The color of the envelope is that perfect blend of yellow and white, almost a cream or confectionary color, a custard or lemongrass, barely transluscent yet also subtly powerful and ethereal. It has a distinctive character yet oddly forgettable name; a color you used to see a long time ago on cars, and yet forgot, back when teenagers used to drive them for fun all over the neighborhood– a color that is spiritual, somehow sensual and yet vaguely nostalgic.

Inside the envelope is the letter, folded in crisp thirds, covered in ink that was clearly written with a fountain pen, most likely a vintage Sheaffer or Waterman, perhaps a Waterman Rubber Ripple. The color of the ink itself is what was referred to as ‘Peacock Blue’ an antiquated tone which is rare to find these days, yet quite satisfying if you do. Why? If you have ever seen a peacock, you know how its feathers can be either blue or green, or blue and green together, as is often the case with peacock feathers that seem to fan out in such a beautiful way that color becomes an diaphanous blur that is almost impossible to follow with your eyes. And if you have ever seen a peacock run, you know how exhilirating that can be–a wash of heavenly rich tones that seems to generate more excitement as you reflect and linger over the sensation than when you experience it. As breathtaking a color as it is, the beauty of the work was made complete by what I find inside the envelope.

The ink, upon the vellum, is the perfect foil for her handwriting: stark, angular, vigilant, with high upper zones and extreme differentials and sharp cap heights that seem to etch into the page like stone. Each letter is kerned tightly to the next, in an almost frightening, yet alluring, and quixotic fashion. It is the perfect complement to the soft texture of the paper, much as the color of the paper perfectly complements the ink. Together, it seems almost harmonic, if not symphonic, and it has been so long since I have seen all these elements together, that the experience of holding the letter together is almost arresting–the combination of colors, of textures, the quality of the ink–even its aroma! –the subtle interplay between the characters make the experience of enjoying a letter such is one that I will always cherish once I begin, and I am reluctant to even begin. And so I open it slowly, slowly, and perhaps even a little sadly, savoring it as one might when opening the case of a 18th century Chaconne Stradivarius, dipping into the experience of not knowing, of anticipating, more delicious than the knowledge and knowning can possibly be. I unfold the thirded letter gently, lovingly, and my heart begins to race.

“Please, Please, Please.” The letter begins. And then another “Please.” And then I hear the sound of another bus arriving at Gate 12, my Gate 12. I hear the dark bleed of pressure upon the diesel brakes. I notice the dove-grey soot that traces the wheelwells like the filigree of designs that one might seen swirling in patterns on the floors of oceans too deep to explore. The bus idles at a proud stop as I fold the precious letter inside the envelope and place it in my jacket pocket. I pat the letter gently with my right hand and ascend the stairs.

The driver says Please when she asks for my ticket, and I wonder why exactly I am going to Baltimore.

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