The Unopened Letter or The Art of Blame

Image photographed and provided by Beth Wexler on Aug. 27th, 2010


There was an unopened letter, blackened around it’s edges, half soaked in the filth of the trickle of water that passed her on it’s way to the drain. The drain she dangled above. Every car that sped past caused her to flutter ever closer to the abyss leading out to the river, away from the city where she would be lost forever. And as she listened to the depths of the sewer woo her down, she thought with uninterrupted sadness, that she was already lost, failed, an unopened letter lying in the gutter.

She was just inches away from the hand that had lied twitching and dying before her. His hand, so strong, so beautiful; the hand that would never hold her, never open her. And she wept as she thought of him. She felt the drop in her stomach as she had fluttered to the ground, caught by a draft who carried her to where she is now, just out of sight. But she knew that there was no longer a need for her to be found. Her purpose was over. She might as well just take the invitation, drop into the dark water below and float away allowing herself to be broken apart. The words, love and sorry, and I forgive, tearing away as her body weakens in the undeniable strength of the river.

And as this thought made it’s away into her resolve a man approached the corner above her. He stopped and knelt to the place where the chalk had all but been washed away. He touched a bit of the cement where the blood had flowed in scarlet streams from his head, now cleared, now cleaned. The stranger began to weep, his body shaking, his head bowed low, his tears fell and ran their course towards her. He was the brother, his hand the same texture, the same strength and smell. She wanted him suddenly, terribly. She begged the wind and the air and the universe to help her. Help her, just now get to him. And as he wept she pleaded, until the man stood. His body slumped with the weight of loss. His jacket pulled tight around him, in a mournful hug and he turned to leave. Near tears she begged for something, anything to hear her cries. Just this once.

And the bus that roared by answered.

Caught in a hot gust of dirt and glass she flipped up into the air, blew above the lip of the drain and landed, her wet side down, to the toe of his well polished black leather boot. She held her breath as he lifted his foot to continue across the road and noticed her, an unopened letter. He leaned over with sad curiosity, wiped her filth on his outer coat and slid his coarse finger between her folds, drawing apart her delicate creases.

She wept as he read her.

The apology, the string of sorrys fluttered off of her as his eyes tripped across the words. He was not expecting what he read. She was speaking to the messenger, telling of a husband lost in an unnamed place in a horrible war. Her body, an apology, a means to reach forgiveness now lost forever.

His fingers grazed over the curl of her letters of the l in love and f trailing at the end of grief. The b scratched deep into her surface on each repeat of the word blame…. and wrong. Wrong rang out like thunder from a cracking bell tower through the blood filling his head.

And as he read, as he absorbed, she felt relief and pride, a strange satisfaction. Her life was not in vain, had not been for naught, ripped out to sea where her words would be lost forever. And the man wept uncontrollably. Just days before, on the ground where he stood, his baby brother had taken his own life. Burdened and saddened with a war he did not start but he had taken great responsibility for; perhaps the greatest.

As the man walked home, his heart tore deeper than he had ever thought possible. His head swam in the words intended for no-one, a dead man. Weeping alone in his apartment he watched as the letters attached themselves, in that beautiful script, to every cabinet, table and floor; until he was looking around him as if they had risen from the page and burned onto his eyes, a permanent screen over everything he saw and thought… “I am sorry. So sorry to have blamed you. I could not bear to hear of his death. Please forgive me, you were NOT to blame. You were not to blame”

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