It will be too long for some, not zeitgeist-y enough for most and is guaranteed to be despised by at least one cantankerous amateur literary critic in Reading, England, but while snow's falling I like to fantasize that long-form fiction will not be murdered off by the 140, that love and the meandering bits leading in and out of it won't be erased by SKINS.
Meet Saul. And Pippah. They are old. They are in love.
(Intro excerpt from "It Does Get Easier, It Seems")
Saul liked to imagine the start of their correspondence was simultaneous--that two pen tips touched down on papers miles apart at the exact same moment, each respective owner perfectly in synch.
Pippah was more practical. She usually wrote in pencil.
Pippah was more practical. She usually wrote in pencil.
Saul and Pippah were prolific writers of love letters. Neither could ever recall any formal rulings on mail. It was understood that emails required more technical savvy than either was willing to develop. Text messages seemed both unromantic and unrelenting on aging thumbs. So soon after their first departing both started putting pen to paper, doing so with such regularity that letters began crossing paths en route from Idaho to New Jersey and back, landing daily in each mailbox like doves gone home to roost.
Pippah never worried about what to do with Saul's notes. Left to her own devices by John's commitment to online poker, she could pass his squeaking chair parked in front of their sleek computer, the youngest item inanimate or otherwise in the entire aching house, with a dozen bits of correspondence taped to naked windsock breasts and he would never notice, if he managed to tear eyes from the incoming river of cards flowing on the screen. John never really had any curiosity about the details of his Pippah’s life--those which did not pertain directly to him, anyway. Pippah had ceased feeling alienated by this shortly after their honeymoon.
Each afternoon after the mail arrived, regardless of John's household whereabouts, she separated Saul's latest letter from the bills and magazines and placed it next to a glass of juice. Once the rest had been sorted through appropriately, she settled down at the head of the kitchen table to calmly read his words, sipping juice and swallowing intimacy in full view of the world. Sometimes John would pass through looking for a snack or to answer their only telephone, but he never asked what Pippah was doing and she never volunteered commentary. When her reading was done she'd walk the carpeted path to the bedroom with Saul’s pages and accompanying envelopes, each slit open at the top with jagged efficiency, adding them to a pile kept neatly in their closet. After the first two dozen or so made it through her door Pippah began binding them in orderly six-inch stacks, each tied with a piece of ivory ribbon and placed in a designer shoebox. Over time the stacks doubled, tripled, quadrupled and then so on, until a romantic army of promises, missives and proclamations living in Chanel and Prada houses lined Pippah's top shelf. There they rested, lazy sentries beautifully camouflaged, whispering their contents to dresses and dusty purses.
Her lover, however, did not have the similar luxury of privacy. Iris had married Saul with pure intentions, blind enthusiasm and enough conditioned cynicism to suspect her husband would falter in exactly the way he did, even if it happened years beyond when she'd have felt it really mattered. It may have been woman's intuition, or a keen awareness of her shortcomings. Maybe it was the kind of self-fulfilling prophecy one summons with years of subtle doubt. Regardless, she was suspicious by nature, forever combing the depths of his pockets and back of desk drawers for insight into her husband. Iris rarely unearthed more than receipts and forgotten newspaper articles, sometimes old postcards or photographs from friends. Four different times she spoiled her own birthday surprises and twice ruined anniversary presents. Once she came across pornography, holding the yellowing pages of a nubile form pulled from a men's magazine between her fingers, but the prints were so old and irrelevant by then that she labeled them benign, returning the nudes to their original homes after glaring at the girl a moment. She never found anything, in fact, that painted Saul as anything but a stand-up spouse and otherwise mundane man, a beige carpet sample lined up among her friends' patterned marital narratives. Still she kept on digging, indulging sick curiosity like others do small children.
Saul always knew, of course. He couldn't pinpoint how, exactly--it might have been when one closeted birthday gift was found resting askew, or when a Playboy centerfold was crinkled at her edges after he unearthed her--but after many years, traces of his wife's covert investigations transformed into a dull awareness that, though they would never discuss it, Iris did not trust him.
Knowing there was no box, pile, space or spot that would or could go undiscovered, Saul initially considered shredding each of Pippah's letters, eliminating the potential land mines from ever being laid. But as he held each scrawled page from her hands, some laced with the sort of sparse poetry only he would ever know Pippah Allenson to be capable of writing, he found himself unable to destroy them, superstitious that with their burning some piece of her would die--that the softest parts of Pippah would turn to ash with his hard deconstruction.
One afternoon early in the affair a stack of ten letters grew into eleven, a number too great to continue hiding in the slim space between the rug and his night-stand's feet. With Iris in their garden Saul paced their bedroom furtively, wondering where to stow them before she came inside. He put his nervous head in his hands and hinged his legs over the far end of the bed, taking a moment to think. Raking gnarled fingers through thick, peppery hair, he stared from shoes to mattress and then back at the letters next to him, stomach twisted with anxiety about his paper mess. As he sat a sudden flash jumped in the corner of his eye--a little spot of sunlight reflecting on a tiny trail of zipper, peeking out where the bed's dust-ruffle had accidentally been pulled back to expose it. Pulling the ruffle back further with a fingertip, he found the zipper ran a flat equator around the entire length of bed. Once undone it exposed two interlocking sections of memory foam bedding, the pieces of cushioning he and Iris slept on every night. With a careful hand and eye the bed's entrails could be zipped back up cleanly, the zipper covered with the pale sheets and dust ruffle again.
And so began Saul's practice of placing Pippah's letters within the depths of his marital bed, the one place his wife would never dream of looking. In between the memory foam papers hid like desperate fugitives, more gathering in hushed solemnity as each month passed by, until one day Iris and Saul Silverman slept on a firm foundation of years of Pippah's posts.