In “When Words Fail,” Celena Cipriaso gives a heartfelt tribute to her long-lost teenage pen-pal Lee, who introduced her to the idea that “Led Zeppelin speaks to everyone,” that the Sox aren’t that bad, and that if we all had friends who were exactly like us, life would be boring indeed…
“We didn’t speak for those three weeks at writer’s camp at UVA. Instead, we eyed each other from across the room, we heard each other’s name in conversation, and we knew each other by height: You were the tallest; I was the shortest. You were one of the older kids, having just graduated high school, while I was one of the younger kids, just about to start my junior year. You seemed older and quiet, while I was loud and rambunctious. We didn’t speak to each other until the last night, when we were each wandering from floor to floor, passing around our writer’s camp ‘yearbook,’ collecting the signatures of strangers who briefly became close friends and who would be strangers again by the next day, promising that we would K.I.T. We passed each other in the hall. ‘I hate the Sox,’ I admitted to you [you were wearing a Sox hat]. You replied, ‘Well, if all we had were friends that were just like us, life would be boring.’ I think this made me immediately like you. You asked me if I wrote letters and I told you, ‘Not well, but I can always get better.’ And you told me that you were a great letter writer, maybe one of the best, that you would write me great letters if I wrote you back. I didn’t question why we agreed to write letters to people we barely knew back then, but that’s what you did when you were sixteen and at writer’s camp looking for other writer friends. We exchanged addresses and spent hours talking that night. Within the first month, you sent me a letter, a great letter. It was long, your handwriting was cramped, and I learned you loved Led Zeppelin’s ‘Stairway to Heaven.’ You asked if I’d ever heard of it, so I went on the Internet and looked up the band. I wasn’t really sure if they would be something I would like–they sounded like a band only boys would like. I wrote you back, telling you that I liked Fiona Apple and Fleetwood Mac, but I didn’t really know this band named Zeppelin. With the next letter you sent, there was a box; you had made me a mixed tape with ‘Stairway to Heaven’ as its first track. You told me that this was a song to hear alone, and that the first time I heard the song, I wouldn’t fully hear it; that I would only feel it, sense its mood. And that once I did that, I would understand that Zeppelin speaks to everyone. I wasn’t sure what that meant, so I did what you told me: shut my door and just let the music play. As the music filled the room, I thought of you, sitting in your room alone, like me, and I wondered if you felt as I did–alone, reaching, those teenage years lasting forever, the loneliness spanning before us, and wondering, just wondering, if there was one person out there who understood this same feeling…”
CELENA CIPRIASO is currently a writer’s assistant at All My Children (yes, the soap with Erica Kane). She began her writing life as a poet and playwright before becoming a screenwriter. She pursued these goals at the dramatic writing program at NYU. She soon realized she sucked at writing fiction, so she decided to start writing nonfiction. Her theatre and spoken-word pieces have been performed in various places throughout New York City and along the East Coast. She has been published in the HarperCollins anthology Yell-Oh Girls! Emerging Voices Explore Culture, Identity, and Growing Up Asian American, a Vassar literary magazine called Asian Quilt, AsianAvenue.com, and RollickGuides.com. She is currently working on her first memoir, and one of its chapters (“The What If Drink”) was published in the online literary magazine World Riot. She’ll always remember the last time she saw Lee, riding away in her car’s back window. And if she could talk to Lee now, she’d say, “The Red Sox aren’t so bad. I’m even kinda a fan now.” Check out Celena’s blog at http://www.skirt.com/user/17899/view
Read the rest of Celena’s letter, and 35 others, in P.S. What I Didn’t Say: Unsent Letters to Our Female Friends, now available on Amazon and at bookstores nationwide!