I'm certain the very idea of this letter seems to you too sentimental. You have done a truly commendable job in maintaining complete ambivalence to me over these past 8 years. Those who have known you better and longer than I have, told me from the beginning that you care not for me, pause not for me, change not for anyone.
And indeed you have not.
Still, the necessity to write this letter has been increasingly apparent to me for weeks. You see, despite your indifference, I must tell you my feelings. I am compelled to express to you, in some tangible way, the immense impact you have had on my life. The unparalleled bounty you have provided me. Yes, I guess you could call this is a love letter.
I love you because whenever I see you – even just a glimpse of you in my periphery – I feel at home. My hands unclench, my heartbeat eases and suddenly I'm thinking of poetry instead of politics. The sand in my toes, instead of money in the bank. You make me instantly whimsical as I imagine where you've been. Where you're going. If I dare follow you again.
Many people call you so many names: The Great River, Mississippi, Old Muddy, I object to Old Man River because only those who have had the disadvantage of seeing just a small, quiet stretch of you could make the mistake. We who have called you home and traveled your entirety know better. You're fierce and constant. Bold and strange and above all, beautiful – by god, you're beautiful.
Don't mistake me, I've never dared consider you mine. I've never let my mind linger too long over the fantasy of a returned gaze; mutual affection is impossible. I know it and I accept it.
There were those cold nights when we were first together. Painfully cold nights – below zero, when even surrounded by you I felt alone. Hopeless. Like every second was the one just before complete devastation. Fear of ice crushing the hull, then paralyzing water rushing in and all is lost. Then, knowing you were deaf to me, yet with no one else, I called out to you. Do you remember? It was in broken sobs, but the sobs were addressed to you. Pleading and calling out to you for some safety. Some comfort. Some small evidence of pity... and it seemed to me, you gave it.
Oh who am I kidding? I called out to you countless times. At first, only pleas for help or mercy – like you were some sort of flowing saint. But then, later, as the years passed I admit real affection for you developed. I'd let slip words of gratitude, greetings, blown kisses even – and who cares who sees?
In short, River, I love you. You saved me.
If you wonder, you may be wondering why this sentimentality now?
I'm going away – living on land for awhile. Ground. Earth. Trees. It's not forever, but it will be the longest we've been apart, and I'm afraid our relationship will never be the same. I'm a fool, I know that you're deaf and impatient and will not note my absence; but that's the thing – that's not why I'm writing this. I'm writing it because I will feel your absence. I'm really going to miss you.
I'll miss the way tornados of mist spiral off you on cold mornings. I'll miss the way you screech and crack the winter, and the way you smash free like a valkyrie in the Spring.
I'll miss sitting at your side – that, maybe most of all. Your company, for lack of a better word. So, until we reunite:
Bon Voyage, my friend.
PS: With respect, I am awaiting your return of my ipod, George's sunglasses, Kat's sheers, Rainy's earring, Mo's fedora, and Melby's C-stand. In your own time, as always.