On Writing a Letter I Never Really Sent - After “Dear Mr. Brockett” from issue 295.1

Nicole Callihan

A dozen years ago, I lived in a high-rise that overlooked the gaping hole where the World Trade Center had, only the year before, stood. It sometimes occurred to me that if the towers were still there, I wouldn’t have so much light, but I loved the light anyway.

It was a company apartment, which is to say: my husband’s boss and his wife and their toddler watched as people held hands and jumped from the burning buildings, and kept watching, until finally they realized they should grab the gun and the jewelry and all their money and climb down thirty-nine flights of stairs to get the HELL out of Manhattan. They picked me up in Brooklyn, and we headed to the Hamptons where, courtesy of Y2K, they had prepared so well for the end of the world that we had enough batteries and canned beans to last us until the reckoning.

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When, after things were cleaned up, they offered us the apartment for a song, we took it. I’m not sure how I rationalized it—the three bedrooms, the view (with windows north and west, if you looked west; the world appeared totally undisturbed), the location—but I did. We made a home of it, though I remember feeling like I was playing house. The fresh flowers, the organic greens and long-stemmed wine glasses, the pretty apron with the tiny crimson apples: I was so surprised with where I had ended up.

In college I had a professor who told me to just get married. Get it over with, he said, so you can work on the poems. He was speaking in reference to D. Brockett, of “Dear Mr. Brockett” (published by NAR in the Spring of 2010) who I didn’t marry at all, but instead left bewildered and shaken at London’s Victoria Station. I had been studying abroad and had learned to use semicolons and umbrellas and had come to want a life that contained more. More what, I’m not sure. Windows? Stairs?

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Reading this epistolary essay now, I’m haunted by that time in my life: all my class anxiety and artistic anxiety, anxiety about everything, it seems, but the very real and horrific state of the world on the other side of the glass. There’s a line late in the essay where I worry “that I’ll be found out.” I’m not sure what it was I feared would be discovered. Or maybe I am. Maybe I know exactly what I feared and I’m still trying to find a way to say it.

I remember mailing the letter to Mr. Brockett. Al gave me his address in Puerto Angel, and I’m almost certain I attached the right amount of postage. He didn’t respond. All these years later, I’ve moved back into Brooklyn, and we’ve become Facebook friends where we “like” each other’s photos (his of guitars and bread in various states of toasted-ness and mine of my girls on mechanical ponies) and wish each other well from afar.

In the strangest moments, I wave wildly at him on Public Blog Posts. Ahoy, Mr. Brockett! Look, no hands!!!

Nicole Callihan’s first book of poems, SuperLoop, is now available from Sock Monkey Press. Find her on the web at www.nicolecallihan.com. Nicole is featured in issue 295.1.