An Orphaned Envelope.

About two years ago, during a late summer afternoon in the San Francisco Public Library, I went looking for the Collected Works of Amy Hempel.

I found it and sat down in a cubicle between two homeless men to read. But then, wedged in the binding between pages 102 and 103, I found a small envelope:

The kind of envelope that accompanies wedding invitations—already addressed, stamped and ready for an RSVP. To a Ms. Carol M. Bustros, of New York’s Upper West Side. A bookmark pregnant with possibility. What could I do but take it? With the plan of sending a letter to this stranger who had once also read Amy Hempel. Or knew someone who did.

I still have the envelope, and am determined to send it off this summer.

What does one say to a woman named Carol, who may or may not still live in New York? What kind of letter would you like to receive from a strange girl in Colorado, who can’t resist a game of penpal?

“I have written letters that are failures, but I have written few, I think, that are lies. Trying to reach a person means asking the same question over and over again: Is this the truth, or not?” ~ Amy Hempel


9 thoughts on “An Orphaned Envelope.

  1. My mother’s name is Carol, pretend you know me better and would like to send her a message! (Then of course send Bustros the goods.)

  2. I know I would love getting a letter like that. Those kind of surprises do not happen often enough. It’s like leaving photos of high school friends you don’t talk to anymore scattered around the city (in bookstores, cafes, on park benches), hoping that just one of them will find one…or, even better, someone who knows them will find it. It’s building connections or creating smiles that you might not be able to see.

  3. Wow, what a cool find! Do you listen to Radiolab? They did a story about a couple who found a bunch of old letters in a field and it led to some interesting stories and discoveries. If you have not heard this story, let me know and I will point you in the right direction.

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