Suburban Soliloquy #76

The Love Letter

This last March had its anniversaries. Snakeskin celebrated its one hundredth issue, in which appeared my seventy-fifth Suburban Soliloquy. It was also my seventeenth wedding anniversary and the fifty-third anniversary of my birth. (It was my suggestion to be wedded on my birthday so that I should never forget the date.)

Ms Keogh and I celebrated our seventeenth wedding anniversary with a long drive to Boston, staying at a Bed and Breakfast in adjacent Brookline. The Samuel Sewall Inn, with its many rooms, was a Victorian home built 117 years ago. This comfortable inn, tucked into a side street, has an outstandingly friendly staff.

The inn is named for the English colonist, Samuel Sewall. He achieved great wealth and importance in Massachusetts. Sewall was an abolitionist, and, what I thought particularly interesting, a penitent for the part he played as Magistrate in the witch trials of his time; he publicly proclaimed his involvement and the error of his judgment in the tragedy, setting aside one day a year to atone with fasting and prayer. The town of Muddy River eventually adopted the name of Sewall's vast estate, Brookline, it sounding more elegant.

The fourteen rooms of the inn are number one through fifteen, with thirteen being conspicuously absent. We lodged in room twelve on the third floor, formerly the billiard room. The incline of the roof encroached into the room over the king-sized bed. Every room in the inn was furnished to reflect the Victorian Age. Our large room had a big oak dresser with a mirror running the length of it, velvet curtains on the two windows overlooking the street, and an oriental carpet on the plank floor. There were still gas fixtures mounted in the walls, which is not to say they were functional. As with every other room, we also had a private bath, as well as the seemingly anachronistic television set with DVD/CD player.

Brookline has changed from when I lived there nearly thirty years ago. I had followed one love interest into Boston and left the city in love with another, but Boston/Brookline was a parcel of the history from my time before meeting Ms Keogh.

The inn was only two very short blocks from my old apartment. I led my present wife about the neighborhood in which I first met my previous wife, Matsui-san. The community still had happy memories for me, but the place was not the same. Papillion, the bistro where Matsui-san and I drank bottles of wine, argued Marxism, listened to a young musician playing jazz on vibraphone, had vanished. Chardas, the Hungarian restaurant where I discovered crÍpe suzette, but have not found it on a menu since, was also gone. When I lived there, that part of Brookline was down on its luck and dilapidated. The neighborhood has since been gentrified, having two-dozen coffee shops and two-dozen Japanese restaurants. I wrote to tell my Japanese ex-wife about it. There had been no Japanese restaurants when she lived there.

On Sunday, before we left for home, Ms Keogh took me to see Jamaica Plain, which is cater-cornered between Brookline and Boston. She showed me the house in which she had an apartment. It was strange to think of the places we enjoyed in common, like the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum and the Boston Public Library. I had left the city just before she moved in and it would be years later before we would meet.

The good folks at the Samuel Sewall Inn provided me with their letterhead stationery so that I could write a few letters to friends. An exhausted Ms Keogh climbed into the soft, bouncy bed. After bathing, I stayed up to write a few letters at the desk beside the bed. As she slept, I was inspired to write her a love letter, even though she was only a few feet away. I addressed the envelope to our post office box back home and concealed it in my raincoat.

Later the next day, while we were walking through a very windy Copley Square, on our way to visit the Boston Public Library to see John Singer Sargent's murals, I intentionally walked past a mailbox. Then, as if just remembering, I announced I had letters to mail. I ran back to the box while Ms Keogh walked on, her back to me, and I surreptitiously removed that one letter to her from the inner pocket of my raincoat and included it with the other letters I mailed.

This month's essay results from having been recently asked, in a casual query, what was the most important thing I have yet to write this year with a fountain pen. It was that letter to Ms Keogh.

Bruce Bentzman

This essay is number 76 in a series of regular reports from the life and times of Mr Bentzman. If you've any comments or suggestions, the writer would be pleased to hear from you.
Mr Bentzman's collection of poems, "Atheist Grace" is available from Amazon, as are "The Short Stories of B.H.Bentzman"