A Letter to My Long Lost (Imaginary?) Love

Anna Baranowska thinks she’s found the love of her life. The only problem? She hasn’t seen him in ten years.

Dear long lost (imaginary?) love,

Do you remember how it happened? The end of our friendship? Whichever way I put it in my head, it never makes sense. I can recall that it was soon after the winter break in fourth grade when you told me you’d be going away for the summer to Germany because you needed rehabilitation for your ailing knee. And of course the doctors across the Western border were able to speed up this process from something excessively long to a mere three months. I can just see us standing in the corner of the classroom and after having that brief conversation running off towards its middle. I remember you delivered the news in a very carefree way, as if you were brushing a speck off of your arm and we soon went onto doing our regular thing, whatever that was, you know, very mindlessly. Then time passed quickly, and you disappeared one day just like that, which I probably wouldn’t even have noticed amidst all my ten-year-old affairs, if not for one psychopathic game we played with our classmates. It was some time toward the end of the school year, June probably, and so for the last time we started a ”war” with one of my frenemies. We set up two camps in the bushes in the backyard, and there was one soldier missing in my army. We would have won with your help, and instead two of our little soldiers turned out to be traitors. I’m realizing just now, as I’m writing this, that this is my last true childhood experience. This is where my memory of you and my childhood nostalgia ends.

During that summer I moved from Warsaw’s downtown to the suburbs with my parents and they enrolled me in a school closer to our new house. So it was only in September when I came to our old school to say “hello” to everyone when I discovered in terror that you supposedly were neither coming back nor in touch with anyone. This is how our friendship ended. Not on a positive note, not on a negative note, not on any note, like it had never happened. Just like that. It had ended in late spring but I found out about it in early fall.

It’s unbelievable how communication failed us a decade ago. Those were the early 2000s and it was an odd period when sending a letter already seemed suspiciously ancient, but emailing on the other hand was suspiciously modern, almost as if there was this fear in the air that the correspondence could be sucked into some other dimension. So we basically would have had had to see each other in human form to be in touch. I even had this dream once that the teenage me went back to second grade in a time machine and gave you my number. And when I woke up, it didn’t come to my mind how foolish the dream was, but instead I immediately thought, “Damn, I gave him my old number. I’ve moved since and he won’t be able to reach me.” And it’s even more terrifying how modern means of communication failed me. I mean, have you ever heard of Facebook? Or Twitter? How did I manage to find some people from my kindergarten, who are as insignificant to me as last winter’s snow, but didn’t find you? I searched all the German “Facebooks,” I emailed all the Polish communities in Germany. I was so desperate to scour the web and find you that I came upon something called Orkut. Orkut, for God’s sake. But your online presence is just as non-existent as you’ve been.

You left me with no evidence that you’d even existed, besides that ridiculously cute photo of yourself that you glued to my 2002 Valentine’s Day card. You gave it to me with a theatrical wink. I have a few memories of you, which become vaguer and vaguer every single day, so to keep you alive in my head I just think about some casual characteristics that you may possess, based on my general observations of the human race and the world around me. How long does it take you to smoke a cigarette? Do you murmur a punchline of a joke to yourself and smirk before you actually tell it? Have you ever eaten marshmallows covered in coconut (my latest culinary discovery)? Have you read The Great Gatsby in German (my latest literary discovery)? Can you curse in French? I think that throughout the period of time that we haven’t been in touch, I have made up a new you, or many new yous in my head. I’ve also had many theories about your profession, but all of them sound just as attractive and interesting: a lawyer, marine biologist, community gardener, investment broker. As to how you may look however, I’m afraid to go there in my head, or maybe I’m subconsciously waiting for it to be a surprise. Or I just assume that cute boys turn into handsome men.

Do you know what really messed with my head though? In early December of 2009, I went to your old apartment (don’t ask me how I found the address; desperate times call for desperate measures) and got in touch with its landlady, who I deduced was your aunt of some sort. Very hostile at first, she told me she wasn’t in position to give out any information about you, a private citizen, and then called me on New Year’s Eve to tell me in a surprisingly pleasant tone how she’d contacted your mother and how you were now busy moving to a new city, but would email me soon after you were done with the move. The New Year’s party came, I locked myself in the bathroom with my best friend and lots of champagne, and before I got a chance to share my story, she said, “You know how I don’t believe in all the superstitions? But my mom went to a fortune teller this week, and she said our great loves will return this year!” Like, are you fucking kidding me? As you can guess, you never wrote. All I’ve found out for the past two years from your reluctant aunt was that she and your parents had some differences and she doesn’t even know where you live anymore, except it’s somewhere outside of Europe. Is she aware, the poor thing, that “outside of Europe” ranges from Mauritania to French Guyana, all the way through roughly 144 countries? But that experience also got me thinking that maybe things are never ”meant” to be, or maybe just not meant to be in this case. So many signs point to the conclusion that I’ll never find you, but who knows? Many things point to many other things and then something invisibly twists their fate. Like that New Year’s Eve. Or the first time I was getting on a plane, a man behind me called his wife and told her he had a prophetic dream that the plane would crash. Guess what, loser. You landed safely.

I also thought throughout the years that maybe I should blow up the scale of my search for you. But then even if I were Lady Gaga and had 30 million Twitter followers, there would still be a chance that you were one of those few people who had never heard of her. If we exist in the same niche, maybe we just simply keep missing each other, like the simplest detail or routine is distracting us from meeting. Three years ago I went to New York on two separate occasions and bumped into the same stranger in completely different places and circumstances. Was I so focused on his hair and leather satchel that I didn’t notice you walking by on the other side of the street?

I turned to Google, I turned to God to find you, and nothing. I wanted to tell you that some tiny particle of my body still misses you. And I just hope it doesn’t miss the idea of you.

Image courtesy of Flickr Commons

Anna Baranowska is a writer based in Warsaw, who likes to make side trips from the daily life to New York or Bangkok. Her articles have been previously featured in magazines such as NYLON Singapore, Mint Magazine UK, and Vice Magazine Poland.