Clean and Elegant

Clean and Elegant

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Yours til I'm a Post-Modern Literary Genius

Hi Everyone! Sorry to leave you hanging on the Magical Rock Vagina Cleanse. I'll announce the fascinating conclusion soon. The following post was meant as a Facebook status update for my new business, Deep Cleans by Erica J. Schmidt. Deep Cleans involves me sparking joy in other people's houses. As fate would have it, the post ended up being a little too long for Facebook, and so I decided to publish it here.

Yours til I'm a Post-Modern Literary Genius

Parting with the written word can be difficult. Everyone possesses at least one shoe box if not several crates of old course notes, journals and handwritten letters. Certainly going through these boxes later on can bring laughter and deep joy. Also, everyone wants to channel this material into the book they’re going to write in all their spare time. And how is that book going, everybody?

When I opened my boxes from Halifax last week, I came upon a FedEx envelope of a romantic personal correspondence from 2005. At a CPR course, upon performing a pretend secondary body check, my partner concluded, “Well, looks like you’re in pretty good shape.” Once the course was over, I delivered a rambly verbal machine gun speech. In it I must have mentioned how I believed that we could change the world by writing letters, by being pen pals. My CPR partner’s name was Cavan Van Ulft and he was eager to try and change the world with me.

For the next month or so, we wrote letters back and forth. He was living with his parents in Nepean, while I was working at an Easters Seals Camp. Cavan Van Ulft sent each letter in a brown 3 by 5 Manila envelope.
“Miss Erica Schmidt,” he would write in the first address line. Beneath this, he’d write a flattering and eloquent caption.

“Warning! May be habit-forming or addictive,”
“Post-modern Literary Genius,”
“The prettiest girl on the prettiest street in the prettiest town in Ontario.”

Cavan's Letters
His letters were always meticulously composed and handwritten on plain white paper. Both of us always wrote back immediately upon receiving the other's letter. My stationary varied from long thin strips of cardboard to red and blue paper, in case either red or blue were his favourite colours. I sealed many envelopes with frog stickers. “Sealed with sticky frogs,” I'd written on one envelope. Another time I included a lock of my hair.

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Dear Cavan,

Maybe your favourite colour is blue, or maybe it is red. Or maybe I should send you a fill-in-the-blank worksheet for you to send back to me. So that I will know your favourite colour. I could also ask you whether you prefer my sentence fragments to be written on stationary with straight lines on it or on blank sheets of blue and red (or some other colour) My next though might have been, do you maybe wish there were fewer sentence fragments and more complete sentences. Or vice versa. Unfortunately, however, this potentially brilliant series of complete and fragmented sentences was interrupted by a phone call.
It was you! I had piece of lettuce stuck in my teeth the whole time and you never said anything! How embarrassing. After flossing and brushing away lettuce and gingivitis (if I’m lucky), I have laid myself down in preparation for sleep…

My Letters
8 July 2005

Re: “Money is nice but it can’t hold hands.”

Dear Erica,
Your letter was beautiful! Thank you so much for sending it. I read it over and over. And the gifts you included in the envelope are amazingly thoughtful. It is very postmodern. Especially the bumper sticker.

(The bumper sticker was inscribed in blue and black markers, “Everything comes down to one thing,” it said. “The single key to mastering human existence is.”)
It is very postmodern. You know by now, no doubt, from my list of favourite things, that my favorite style of art is suprematism, so I am very into ambiguous messages that require input from an audience to be understood. So I think it’s just great. And also very clever…
You are constantly surprising me, exceeding my expectations, and delighting me. You are pretty irresistible, as far as I can tell. So don’t you dare stop – ever.

The Post-Modern Bumper Sticker
There are few people in the world who can compete with me in their eccentricity and intensity. Likely, Cavan Van Ulft was one of these people. The last time I googled him, it seemed he was trying to become the prince or ruler of an obscure island somewhere in the arctic.

During one of my days off at camp, I went on a “date” with Cavan. My parents drove me to Ottawa and dropped me off at the Rideau Center, where Cavan and I wandered around and he revealed his taste in jeans. Cavan was nice enough; however, I realized right away that my imagination had gone overboard, and that our in-person experience was doomed to be infinitely less exciting than our riveting correspondence. As tactfully as my 19 year-old self knew how, I told him so in my next letter.

Within a few days, I received a priority post FedEx package at camp. It contained all of my letters. The frog stickers, the postmodern bumper sticker, my lock of hair, photos of my dog.
In the weeks that followed, Cavan sent me several emails with the words, “PLEASE SEND MY LETTERS BACK” in the subject line. I believed this was ridiculous and have kept the correspondence ever since.

Rereading Cavan’s letters now, I now appreciate that they are absolutely exquisite.

19 July 2005

Probably as a result of the intense heat wave that we have been going through, the scent of your lock of hair has permeated both pages of your last letter and its envelope. In the slight breeze that's been blowing in my back yard, it has made everything around me smell like you. It is absolutely delivious. The only problem is that I frequently get lost in thought while sitting outside re-reading your letters and I think slightly sunburnt... because I kept taking deep breaths and zoning out and losing track of time. But it's wonderful nonetheless...

Everyone should be so privileged as to be the recipient of such generous and inflating epistles. I feel some regret at writing Cavan off as some crazy nut. I think he does deserve to get his letters back. After inhaling one last spark of joy from my favourite missives, I am going to try and track him down, to return his side of this unreplicable correspondence, and to wish him well.

The End.

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