I first received a copy of the story in 1998.
I had arrived with my then very-new girlfriend, in Lima, Peru.
It was back when you still wrote letters, and I got this package from the local post office and boy – I was in the 7th heaven.
A real letter from home – with a story, and … well, it was just such a great thing to receive so far away.
We had had a trying two months in Peru and Bolivia, you see … I had been very ill most of the time and our ‘dream journey’ had not turned out quite as we wanted.
But there was the letter. And all was made good again. All tiredness banished.
I read it in the part of a dorm room, which was in an alcove that was built into the wall of an old colonial building-style hotel, but not properly isolated.
You could see through the wooden planks and down onto the street and there was a stiff breeze coming in all the time, along with the noise and smog from traffic.
We could also see and hear tanks, at some point during the evening, approaching the main square of Lima. We had apparently stumbled into Peru at a time when certain elements contemplated a coup against then President Fujimori.
But nothing came of the saber-rattling. After a few days it was as if everything had been normal all the time.
My girlfriend and I were also able to take stock of all we had experienced and use our remaining days to sight-see and gather our wits for the long journey home. That was good.
But the letter – and the story … they were also good.
You can’t imagine how good:
So far from home and your best friend invites you to read and comment on a story he has written, which is very special to him – and which he wants you to illustrate, by the way. (But that was the least of what made me happy about the letter.)
The story itself was the most important. For it felt like a second letter which had been accompanying the first ‘normal’ letter about how everything was back home, the weather, the family, politics, life and so on.
That’s what a friend’s letter feels like, no matter how it is written.
It has more than one dimension in it, and each and every one of them feels like a special surprise party that your friend had arranged just for you.
And you help yourself make the friendship special in years afterwards. You make it up as you go along, yes, but you also make it better by your own volition.
For example, my friend called me today … and tonight when I didn’t know what to write about, I just had to remember that – and then a memory from our long history.
And there was no doubt about what to write.