'Always' is the lie we're happy to commit to paper. It eats back at you, as you sit among the scattered relics of affection, the thin-sheeted proclamations in tight spidery handwriting like autumn leaves unswept.

It's the 21st century but there is so much life and love in the written word. We're used to spitting our thoughts onto screens, but ink needs to sink into paper; the world slows down.

You can force your heart out through your fingertips much faster over the keys than through a pen.  Like rushing a fine coffee, your fingertips have no time for the precious oils to extract, for the pressure to build up; your typing hands don't cramp, your unused muscles don't rebel against your thoughts. The electric love email has no time to mature; it has no presence, no materiality.

The written word, though, crackles with life. The process of committing it to paper has something more visceral and real about it, an emotional pain wrung from the unfamiliar physicality of disused muscles and neglected handwriting. Only in the whorls of ink in fibre can we properly trap our emotions. It's no longer the words themselves that encode our feelings; it's their shape, their size, their personality that is an extension of ours. In the slip of the nib, hastily scrawled out, we find a hesitation. In the cramped aside we find clarification of something left unsaid in the moment. As our thoughts whirl, impassioned, we follow letter shapes as they drift apart and lose their focus.

Each letter is a fragment of our hearts, a testament to the moment of its creation. When you claw these moments back you briefly inhale them, whether they still hold true or are now poison. They are fragments of a person and a time, and although the time passes and the person changes, these fragments are stills, snapshots, of the people we love.

So I read you again. I've lost track of how many times. I know the asides and the errors and the scratched-out mistakes.

And I run my fingers through your gift-tags scattered on my desk. "All my love", and ''They say absinthe makes the heart grow's hoping".

And I fold you again. You fall into yourself, like you know it's time to go.

And I slip you into your thin envelope.

And I slip the envelope back into the satchel, pushing past the brown paper bags that hold my letters to you.

And I put the satchel back on the shelf.

And I go back to my life without you.


Tom Dullemond lives in Brisbane with his wife and family, and writes whatever springs to his twisted mind, from literary to speculative fiction. He has published several short pieces, one of which was recently reprinted in The Year's Best Australian Fantasy and Horror 2012. His first children's book, The Machine Who Was Also a Boy, was published by eMergent Publishing in early 2013.