Going outside to get the paper this morning, I found a piece of notebook paper balled up on my lawn. It turned out to be a handwritten letter — sent not to me, but to Alex, from Emily. I don’t know Alex and I don’t know Emily. Judging by the looks of her precise and rounded letters, she’s about 16. Judging by what she wrote, she’s had her heart broken.
The letter opens, “Why did you do this to me?” I read the first line — and stopped cold. I felt the blood rush to my face, looked around, wanted either Alex or Emily to materialize and grab the letter out of my hands. But I was alone and as I say, I don’t know Alex or Emily or how the letter wound up on my lawn.
Did Emily write it then throw it away because Alex didn’t deserve her tender words? Did it hurt too much to share her feelings with him? Did Alex read the letter, then throw it away? I do not know you, Alex, but I’d like to think better of you. And Emily, hon, I don’t know you either, but I hope you’re okay.
If I met you, I’d invite you in and despite your wishes, I would not put on April Lavigne or Billie Holiday. I would let you cry, though, and hug you and give you tissues and have you tell me all about Alex, how gently he’d undress you (sorry, Em, it was in the letter, I couldn’t help reading), how he’d lie to his aunts. . . and of course to you. You would tell me why you love him anyway and why you’ll never be happy again or what an asshole he is. Or all of the above.
I would like to do more. I would tell you how wonderful you are, with or without Alex. I might even start to say you don’t need him, but even without having met you, can see how that would sound both foreign and wrong to you, marking me as a lost cause, a grownup, a creature who does not understand the ways of love. So I would shut up.
When you’re lovelorn, when you’re in the throes of it, there is no food to soothe a broken heart. Your stomach is knotted, your soul is shattered, and eating seems painful if not pointless. How can you eat? So instead of feeding you, I’d brew you an herbal concoction, what the French call an infusion — a cup of lavender tea. Made simply with dried lavender buds steeped in boiling water, it is a nerve tonic both bracing and soothing. It is fragrant, floral and tastes of yearning and loss, but also of healing and spring, and with it, the promise of renewal. Lavender is also the wee-est bit soapy-tasting. That’s okay, Soap is cleansing.
Breathe. Sip. Close your eyes. Keep breathing. Well done.
Getting the first cup of tea into you might provide a little warmth when you had thought you would feel chilled for the rest of your life. And that may be enough, I hope, to keep alive your spark until you can catch fire again. Which I know you will.
1 tablespoon dried lavender
1 pot boiling water
Spoon lavender into an infuser or straight into teapot. Pour water over. Let steep for four minutes. Then pour into an eggshell-thin Limoge teacup. Some like to add honey. Breathe it in. Sip. Strain lavender if necessary. The tea gets stronger the longer the lavender sits. You will get stronger, too.
PS To Alex, Emily and all readers — please send word. Comment. Let me know you exist. Love letters welcome but any sort of feedback will do.