My great aunt was warm but feisty. “Leave me in peace!” she would sometimes complain when I tried to comfort her during her difficult one-hundredth year.

Nearly seventy years earlier, she’d accused her married lover, John Franklin Carter, of having “fun” with her. This was his response.

Damn you, don’t you dare say that it was fun. The verb lies in your own decision but the adjective is false. If you desire to give over your heart’s desire or to stick pins into me or to do anything, that is your affair, but fun is not the word and never will be for anything so important and true, and you know it, I didn’t make life and I didn’t make myself but I have not been amusing myself and neither have you.

But two days later…

What did you do? What are you doing? All yesterday I was near you but you were sad and last night I felt evil and death all around you. I tried to reassure you, but my message must have missed you. All night I had nightmares and this morning I looked through the papers in horror.

I’m sorry I was so angry the last time I wrote, especially as I had promised not to become angry. I couldn’t help it when you sneered,” it was fun.” Why do you always draw blood?

I’m shooting this on my way to work. Write and say you didn’t mean it.


  1. We have lost so much with the passing of written correspondence. Reading this makes me wonder if our emotional lives have grown luke-warm with the fading of language with which to imagine and express them.

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