Hi. Just… checking in, I suppose (I’m actually you, aged 22). I’m (you’re?) in bed, eating cereal and trying to finish an article that just doesn’t want to be written (the usual). You’re alone, because you’re pretty much always alone: voluntarily when you’re surrounded by people and involuntarily when you wish you had some company. Anyway, that doesn’t matter (although I hope, by 40, you—or I?—have worked out how to balance the hermit life).
I’m just writing to check in. I’m interested in what sort of woman you are. You weren’t really any sort of woman at 22; hardly a woman at all, in fact. I wonder if 18 years shaped you into the sort of woman who wears a signature perfume and wears lipstick, or if you wear long skirts and keep chickens. Maybe you do all those things. I hope you do all those things.
I wonder if your mail is addressed to “Ms. Longworth” or “Mrs. Byrne.” Did you change your name in the end? I hope you did get married to him after all, and I hope you stayed married. I hope he still loves you as he loves me now. I hope he always makes you feel like the most precious, wonderful thing. I hope you both remember how agonising it was to live thousands of miles away from one another. I hope he returned home when he went to war. I hope he carried on saying “I love you” every day, and I hope you said it too, and that you always meant it.
If not, then I hope you’re happy anyway.
I hope you haven’t got too many wrinkles. I hope you didn’t get too many grey hairs. I hope you didn’t get fat. But—maybe I hope you never lost that 10 pounds. Maybe I hope you gained it. I hope you forgot to care. I hope you wear the clothes you want to wear rather than the ones you think you should. I hope you don’t wear sweatpants every day. I hope you carried on sunbathing and smiling and eating. I hope you still have a lot of hot, sweaty, sexy sex. I hope you still wear a bikini on the beach. I hope you’re aware that you look pretty darn good naked.
I hope you still love your tattoos. I hope you got more. I hope you have children who run their fingers over the ink on your skin and ask questions about what it means. I really hope they’re intelligent, loving and kind. I hope you let them have pets, and play in the mud, and drink a small sip of your wine with their dinner. I hope they know all about the grandmother I know they’ll never know. I hope you taught them to pronounce their words properly and love reading. I hope you loved teaching them, too.
I hope you’re good at being an adult. I hope you learnt to drive. I hope you quit smoking. I hope you got better at stopping yourself from having thoughts you shouldn’t have. I hope you read lots of books. I hope you like your job. I hope you never had to work in retail again. I hope you don’t fret about money, and I hope you give what money you have to the people that you love. I hope that you can go out for dinner whenever you like.
And I hope you didn’t lose sight of your dreams. I hope you achieved some of them. I hope you wrote that book; I hope you published that book. I hope you got to go and volunteer with orangutans in Borneo. I hope you got to see lots of beautiful sunrises. I hope you lived near the sea for a while and wrote some more really bad poetry that no one will ever know about.
I guess, more than anything, I hope you made people happy, and you gave something back to the people you love. I hope you loved freely and openly. I hope you met amazing people—but most importantly, I hope you didn’t lose the ones who were always important.
And I hope you know that I love you, Amy. I’m rooting for you. I hope, at 40, that this will finally mean something to you.