When he was barely 11, Josh Genova wrote an unsigned love letter to a boy he was nuts over, tied it to a balloon and released it into the universe. It was a silly thing to do, he knew that. Still, it felt good, cleansing. Like a Sunday morning confession.
It was his adolescent way of expressing his feelings without the fear of anyone finding out. But a day later the balloon descended straight into the hands of the boy he liked, the wind carrying his love note to its intended (or more precisely unintended) recipient.
To this day Josh (now 50) believes that if you really want a message delivered, if you try hard enough, somehow it'll find a way. Reach its destination.
Last week, another message getting through. Mine. This time with messy consequences. Lipstick, everywhere.
"Hey man what's up?"
"Other than my relationship being over, not much."
"What happened?" I ask, expecting another story about how they're not communicating anymore.
"He found your blog."
I must have apologized a hundred times. Never intended for that to happen. The few friends who heard the story would always ask me, "Don't you want Seth to know?" My answer, an emphatic no. What for? I know it happened, Zach knows it happened. Anything else would just be cruel.
I call Josh, who immediately recounts his balloon anecdote. He knows. I know. A message like that always gets delivered.
"I have to say, didn't think you had it in you. It's almost Machiavellian. Talk about getting even."
"Stop. You make it sound like I planned it."
"No, but you wrote it, then posted it. I mean what did you think was going to happen?"
"It's not a New York Times best-seller. It's a stupid blog. What are the odds?"
"Apparently quite good. How's Zach doing?"
"I'm sure he's freaking out."
"Is he mad at you?"
"No, not really. Handled it quite well I suppose. I would have lost it."
I look up, the sun is shining strong. I'm away on vacation. Palm Springs. Grateful to be far from New York in more ways than one.
"So does this mean Zach's read all of your posts about him?"
"Well if he hasn't, I'm sure he's reading them now. Seth sent him a an e-mail with links to all the stories."
"Oh my God."
It's not until Josh says those words that it finally sinks in. Seth has read them too. Each and every one of them. I try to recall what I wrote, but some of those entries are more than two years old. I know it couldn't have been easy. I know there are parts that must have hurt. I feel horrible. I can imagine how he must feel.
I can imagine because unintentionally, he had done the same to me. I close my eyes, and for a second I go back in time. Six years back. Just months after we split, Seth called asking for help finding his keys. He thought he may have left them at his desk. I remember opening one of his drawers looking for them but instead stumbling upon a stack of printed e-mails, as thick as a novel. Shouldn't have looked, but I did.
Hundreds of electronic love letters eternalized in paper. One on top of another. All sent to one boy. A boy named Zach. I looked at the first one. Sweet declarations of love. New love. One line stood out in particular.
"The last few weeks have been magical," he wrote. He'd never felt like that with anyone. Then that moment. My eyes, one big blur. The date. Way before we called it quits. My hands start shaking, warm wet tracks down my face. I try not to cry, but the tears, they won't stop coming. I read a couple of more e-mails, then quietly put the pile down as I found it. My questions answered.
Never told him about that day. Never mentioned that I knew. There was no need. At that point we had already been apart a long time. It took a while before that final dust settled, and more than a year before he no longer occupied every cell in mind.
Now it's he who is reading my letters. I feel bad for him, the pain he must have felt going through my thoughts. There's guilt and shame a touch of regret. But along with all the appropriate reactions, one that catcthes me by surprise. A smile.
Maybe it's the natural response of a vindicated person. Maybe I'm nowhere as evolved as I like to think I am. Or maybe, just maybe, it's the way of the world. Another message sent. Another boomerang returned.