Thursday, November 29, 2012

"Phony Love Affair" by Anonymous

Phony Love Affair
Anonymous/Unknown

It all started at a dance that I'll never forget.

I suppose I fell madly and incurably in love with Chuck the very instant I saw him. It took all the nerve I had to get someone to introduce him to me. As we stood together with the music beating softly in the background, I was grateful that its sound drowned out the pounding of my heart.

"Hya," he said.

That was all. But it was plenty.

I took a deep breath and asked him if he'd like to dance. He hardly looked at me as he replied.

"I guess so," he mumbled.

Once in his arms on the dance floor I was more certain than ever that Chuck was the boy who could make me happy. I knew that the music would have to stop but I kept praying that it wouldn't. I tried to read Chuck's face to find out whether I had any effect on him at all. But there was no way of telling.

"Nice band, isn't it?" I said as calmly as I could.

"Uh-huh."

I tried another tack.

"You're from Rhinelander College, aren't you?"

"Uh-huh."

I was frantic and furious. The precious seconds of the dance were ticking away and I was getting absolutely nowhere. As if in desperation, I blurted out:

"I live only fifty miles from Rhinelander College!"

But Chuck kept right on dancing.

And then the dance was over.

My magic chance was gone forever. Chuck managed to say something about how nice it was to have met me and I replied with words equally meaningless. I was utterly miserable as I realized that my evening was a glorified nightmare: even worse, I had to confess to my inner self that I was a complete flop.

There was only one tiny bit of consolation. Some of my girl friends, particularly Lucy and Virginia, had noticed Chuck and me dancing together. There's precious little that girl friends don't notice. Secretly, it was pleasing to me to know that they had seen me with Chuck. But I dreaded the questions that I knew they would ask. Some of the questions were very embarrassing: some made me want to run away.

"Did he make another date with you?"

"When are you going to see him again?"

"Did he invite you out to the college for a weekend date?"

And so on and on.

But I had answers, plenty of answers. At least, I made them up.

"He's simply crazy about me," I lied bravely.

The girls wanted details, details and more details. So I made up my story as I went along.

"Chuck and I are very good friends. I made a real hit with him," I babbled on. "I've always been wild about college boys but Chuck is something special. What's more, he thinks I am, too."

That would show them, I thought.

Naturally, poor Chuck didn't know a thing about the way I was flaunting his name about with my girl friends. I got a swell kick out of watching Lucy and Virginia as I reeled off my fantasy. To say that they were getting spellbound would be putting it mildly. They were just plain flabbergasted.

"You don't mean it?" Lucy cried incredulously.

"I don't? Well, just listen to this!" And then I told them that Chuck said this and I said that. I kept it up until I was sure they were believing me. For a fleeting moment I felt ashamed of myself, ashamed that I had to lie to build myself up in my girl friends' eyes. As I talked I mentally pictured Chuck back at college. I was probably the farthest thing from his mind. At that very moment, perhaps, he was making a date with some other girl—maybe with that brassy blonde who had tried to glue herself to his arms the night of the dance. I wondered what he really thought of me. I wondered... oh, so many things.

All that week at school the girls kept asking me whether I had heard from Chuck. I tried to avoid a direct answer but they persisted. They wanted some proof—some token—that the story I had told them was true. Well, I resolved to myself to give it to them.

I decided that Chuck was going to write me a letter. Not just an ordinary letter—but a love letter! Now, they'd really have something to talk about. What was more a letter would be proof, written proof that Chuck was now my own personal property.

I planned everything as carefully as I could. On Saturday morning I got on the bus that would take me to Rhinelander. The bus rattled and shook for nearly two hours before we reached the outskirts of Rhinelander. I started to feel jittery and nervous as we slowly climbed the hill on which the college stood. The college was just as I had imagined it—picturesque and quiet.

I couldn't resist the temptation of scanning every face to see if it were Chuck's. Yet he was the last person in the world I would want to see. What excuse—what explanation—could I give for being in Rhinelander? He'd imagine that I was following him but that was far, far from the truth.

Luckily, there were few people on the campus. Mostly a cluster of college boys here and there. I opened the door briskly and tapped my foot impatiently to get the attention of the old man behind the counter.

"Yes, miss?" he asked.

"I want some stationery. Rhinelander College stationery," I managed to blurt out.

"Certainly. Any particular shade?"

"It's a gift for my brother. I'd like something very masculine, you know. With the college seal on it."

"I understand," he replied as he went off.

In a few seconds that seemed like centuries to me the old man returned with my stationery. I hardly looked at the packet. All I wanted to see was the seal of Rhinelander College. Now I had my equipment ready.

I carried my stationery to the railroad station. I knew this was the last place in town that Chuck migth be apt to be at. I sat down in the deserted waiting room and took my fountain pen from my handbag. Using the stationery box to lean upon I started to write my love letter.

Naturally, I disguised my handwriting so that absolutely no one in the entire world could ever even suspect that I had written the letter myself. By pressing very hard on the pen and holding it at a special angle I managed to create a very fine imitation of a boy's handwriting.

"My Darling Diana," I began to write...

I breathed heavily as I plunged into the body of the letter.

"Knowing you," I wrote, "is the most wonderful thing that's ever happened to me. Since getting back to college after our never-to-be-forgotten dance I've been thinking of nothing else but you. How long must I wait for the next time we meet? Please have pity on a man desperately in love and let me see you soon."

Then I added a few paragraphs about how beautiful I was and how much I meant to him. I signed it with a flourish "Your ever loving—Chuck."

I sealed the letter carefully and wrote my name and address on the envelope. Across the back I boldly wrote out Chuck's full name and Rhinelander College beneath it. I dropped the letter into a mail box and took the bus back home.

I slept very happily that night. I knew that on Monday morning there would be a letter for me, a love letter that I could show to Lucy and Virginia and anyone else who doubted me.

Fortunately, the mail came to our house before I left for school. I was so excited on Monday morning that I could barely gulp down my breakfast. My mother asked me what was the matter.

"Not a thing," I said.

Then I heard the mail man's call. I rushed out and brought in all the mail. My eyes raced over the envelopes until I found the one that I was expecting. There it was. It was postmarked "Rhinelander", of course. I was almost as happy as if Chuck had actually written to me.

Lucy and Virginia waited a long time that day before they asked the question I knew was inevitable. Up to now I had wished that they wouldn't constantly heckle me about Chuck. Now I was impatient for their taunts. Finally, Virginia said sweetly:

"How's your boy friend?"

My answer was so satisfying. "Oh, fine," I said. And then I added calmly, "As a matter of fact, I just had a letter from him this very morning."

"A letter!" they chorused. Again, they wanted details.

"Yes. A very sweet letter."

For the next few minutes I puut on a great act about not wanting to show my personal mail to anyone.

"It's private," I insisted.

But they pressed on. I agreed to show them the envelope. They saw the post-mark, college seal and Chuck's name and address. This was the proof they needed, the written proof. But they wanted more. Couldn't I tell them what he had written?

I pretended that Chuck's words were much too sacred to be shown to strangers. "But Diana," Lucy pleaded, "We're not strangers. We're your best friends, aren't we?"

"Well———," I stammered.

Then I yielded. Seeming reluctant, I told them some of the things Chuck had written but not before I had sworn them to absolute secrecy.

"Chuck would be very angry," I pointed out, "if he knew that I discussed this with even my best friends." They understood but they were hungry to see the letter itself. Couldn't they just peek? Please?

I let them see part of the letter and the signature. It was better, I thought, that they guess about the parts that my hand kept hidden from their view. Finally, I carefully placed the letter in my bag and left.

My stock went way up as the days went on. I was proud yet secretly angry with myself. Yet there was nothing I could do except to continue the make-believe. That was but the first letter. Every Friday night I would write another letter on that same stationery which I kept hidden in a dark corner of our cellar. And on Saturday morning I would take the bus to Rhinelander and mail it.

As the letters went on they became more and more romantic. I found myself reciting poetry and quoting from great lovers. And every Monday morning the mail man would bring me the letter I had gone to so much trouble to write.

According to my girl friends I should have been the happiest girl in the world. Here I had a fine college boy like Chuck madly in love with me and practically at my feet. Actually, I was miserable about everything. How long could this go on?

"When is Chuck taking you out?"

I knew that everyone would soon be asking that question. A romance of letters alone may have been all right for certain people in history but not for the people I knew. There had to be "dates" and I had to do something about it—soon. I decided that Chuck and I would meet on Friday nights. He was through with school on Friday afternoon and could easily come over. Again I had to pretend.

On those Friday nights when I was supposed to be out on a heavenly date with Chuck, I'd complain to my mother about a headache and then go up to my room. I'd turn out the lights and pull down the shades and just lie in the dark silence. And then I'd wait for the long night to be over.

My letters would discuss our "dates" in glowing terms. If Chuck were to skip a "date," I'd simply write that he was busy studying for exams.

And so it went on. I had a stack of love letters, all of them faked. I had a string of dates, all of them just products of my own imagination.

Worst of all was the pretense of happiness I had to show in front of my friends. Here I was so utterly unhappy, so desperately tired from playing the absurd game I had started, and yet I had to act as though I were having a perfectly glorious time. There was no one to whom I could turn because there was no one to whom I'd dare admit that my romance with Chuck was nothing but a hoax.

What could I do?

After painting Chuck so glamorously, I could hardly come right out and say that I had given him up. Why? Why should any girl in her right mind give up a boy like Chuck?

To keep on with my myth was becoming more and more difficult. Bus rides cost money. I began to hate myself for spending hard earned cash just to mail a letter to myself, a letter that was dishonest at that. Besides, where would all this lead to? I was on a dead-end street and I knew it. How I wished that I had never taken the first bus ride to Rhinelander!

Poor Chuck, I thought. What about him? Little did he realize that he had a girl so wildly in love with him that she would write herself love letters and dream up imaginary dates.

That Saturday morning I reached Rhinelander as usual. I took a last glance at the letter I had written. I'll never forget the closing paragraph:

"And so, dearest Diana, I want you to know that I loved you, still do and always will. Your decision to give me up pains me very deeply and will leave a scar on my heart. If you should ever change your mind about me—please, please let me know—and I'll come running. With all my love now and forever, Chuck."

I walked slowly around the campus on this, my last trip to Rhinelander. The tears in my eyes blotted out a clear view of the buildings and the trees. I was burying a love that had been very precious to me and I couldn't help wondering how I would face life without the strength that my romance, however much a lie, had brought me. I realized that although the letters and the dates had all been false there was nothing about my love for Chuck that wasn't real and honest. No power could ever destroy that love. It was my only comfort in my gloom.

I stumbled on towards the mail box, my eyes barely open. I waited a brief second for one of the college boys to drop in the letter he was mailing. My letter—the final chapter in my romance—had to be mailed in complete privacy. I approached the box when suddenly I was electrified by a voice that rang out.

"Diana!"

I turned my head and looked.

It was Chuck. Yes, the real Chuck.

Despite all the words that I had been writing these many weeks, I couldn't find a single one now. I stood in silent awe.

"Gosh, it's good to see you," he said briskly.

"Chuck, I———." I couldn't complete the sentence.

I was too numb to say what I wanted to say. I smiled as best as I could. I can't remember exactly what we talked about. I know that Chuck took my arm and walked me around the campus. He pointed out the various buildings but I hardly listened. I was busily tearing my "final" letter to shreds.

"You know," Chuck said crisply, "I always did want to get your address the night of that dance."

"My address?" I asked in some amazement.

"Sure," he added, "I wanted to write you."

I nearly cried inside when he said that. But all I answered was simply:

"Chuck, I never did like receiving letters!"

And then we made our first "real" date.

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