Spoiler alert. This post relates nothing to food whatsoever. It is more romantic reflection, shall we say, but I thought I’d write about it anyway because what happened made such an impression on me.
Yesterday, I nabbed a seat next to a woman on the Tube, probably in her early 70s, her kind and wrinkled face staring out patiently as she made her way to her destination, wherever it was. Of course, I thought nothing of it as she sat there, but as the train pulled away, she pulled out a letter and gently started to read it, seeming to savour every word. This instantly grabbed me. First, I thought, how lovely; someone still writes letters, even in this day and age. But then I noticed the yellowed quality of the paper and its scratched handwriting and realised this must be something else entirely. This woman and this letter, on this crowded Tube train, was so out of the ordinary, my interest piqued and I pretended to read my book but all the while tried to steal glances over her shoulder to see what letter said.
I caught descriptions of a driver and surroundings and words like ‘my darling’ and ‘I miss you’ and instantly I was ashamed of my invasion on this woman’s personal history. She finished the letter; I saw it end with ‘your lover’. She gently folded the letter into a similarly yellowed envelope, covered in stamps I didn’t recognise, and put it back in her bag. In it, I caught sight of other envelopes in similar states of age. She got off at Oval and of course I won’t see her again.
In situations like this, my imagination runs away with me and instantly, I imagine her, young and full of life, wistfully missing this lover, who was so far away from her. I imagine the longing they must have had for each other, the total emptiness that can only be filled by the proximity of the other person; these letters their only lifeline back to the other. I imagine that she married this lover when he came back from wherever he was and they were happy and shared a life together for many years until he died, maybe a year ago, maybe 10 years ago, I don’t know, but she misses him daily, sometimes to the point where she can’t breathe. And she carries his letters as a reminder of their love and their history.
Or perhaps it was documentation of a clandestine affair she had many years ago, which made an unhappy marriage slightly more bearable, and she reads them now just to remember how, for that period of time, she felt desired and longed for.
Or it could be nothing like that.