(read aloud to the autographed picture on my dresser)
Dear Billy Boyd,
Thank you for coming to Cleveland, Ohio. Ours is a scrappy city, but we have the heart and soul of good Midwestern hospitality. I hope you have enjoyed your short visit. I am sorry that it is so cold here, but if you look at what it was like last weekend, you will see that we did our best to warm things up for you. I hope you found the persistent, fluffy snowflakes more magical than menacing. Long winters are just a part of the charm up north.
I am sorry that I did not come to see you at the convention this weekend, although you probably didn’t notice. It is very hard to be 24, you see, and finally come within reach of a teenage dream. Ten years ago, this all would have been different. My best friend–my Merry–would have only lived a few miles away from me. One of our parents probably would have driven us, despite the weather, and funds for the adventure would have been covered in full, because they love us so. We would have faced the snow with the childish abandon, and the zit starting on my forehead would have been the last thing on my mind. We probably would have squealed and walked around with fake accents all day. You would have either found us charmingly adorable or painfully adoring.
Ten years makes a difference.
Mr. Boyd, I want you to know that, if my hours at work hadn’t been unexpectedly cut due to weather-related cancellations–if I wasn’t already so sick of driving in the snow–if I wasn’t plagued by insecurities about my haircut, my face, and the way my pants fit–if I thought I would have had anything intelligent to say–if I had a printer to print the tickets–if there wasn’t an 8% tax on admissions–if I didn’t have to eat or stay warm or pay for the Internet—-if being an adult wasn’t so gosh-darned hard, I would be at your side in a second.
I hope you can take heart knowing that you were the only person in the entire convention I would have cared to visit. I hope you will forgive my absence when you hear that I have had a total of three consecutive stress dreams about this decision. You smelled very good in all of them, and you solved a murder in one of them. I want you to know that I almost jumped off the bus yesterday and sprinted to the Convention Center. Even now, I am being slain by pangs of guilt knowing that you are sitting but three miles from my apartment.
When I imagine your night in my city, I imagine you going to my favorite downtown pub for a drink with your other famous friends. Because I know the place pretty well, it’s not hard to imagine myself there, too. I walk up to the wooden bar and lean against it, a twenty dollar bill crumpled between my hands. As I wait for the bartender, I fold and unfold the bill, staring intently at it to avoid making eye contact with strange men. With all the wood tables and stools, the light around the place seems almost golden as a familiar Scottish voice cuts through the noise.
“It comes in imperial pints?!”
This isn’t just a letter for you, Mr. Boyd. It’s also written, with love, to my younger self. Ten years ago, I had a best friend I called Merry. (She called me Pip.) We played Tig and called our separate high schools Gondor and Rohan. I was never a Frodo or Sam, with a great mission and purpose laid before me. I was never wise like Gandalf or graceful like Legolas. I was always just naive and goofy, thrust too soon into something I didn’t fully understand and trying to make the best of it despite my many errors. I was always just a Pippin.
In another universe, I had the courage and money to meet you at the convention. I shook your hand and made a weird face when I tried not to smile too big. In another universe, I ran into you at a bar and stuttered my adoration for you over loud music and strangers’ conversations. In this universe, however, my dreams came true when my friend–my Merry–met you a few months ago and thought enough of me to send me a picture you had signed. When I opened the envelope and saw your face, I cried because there you were. I cried because I felt like a kid again. I cried because, despite everything I’ve done and all the mistakes I’ve made, I knew that one of the people I care about most in this world loves me back.
So, Mr. Boyd, I hope you met a lot of interesting people this weekend. I’m sorry I couldn’t be one of them, but you know how that is. Teenagers just don’t realize how hard it’s going to be later on. I don’t know where I’m going in life, and I don’t know where I’m going with this letter, so I’ll just close with a note of thanks. Thank you for the magic. Thank you for the music. And thank you for the memories.
Regretfully Not Yours,