This letter was from a charming man who I met on an overnight train ride in Tunisia seven years ago. Our initial meeting was slightly abrasive, I had been followed, proposed to, stalked, and was quite disgruntled by the male species in general. So when he asked (in clear and dignified English) if he could sit next to me, I responded, "fine, but only for five minutes." We ended up conversing for most of the entire eight-hour train ride, and eventually fell asleep like spoons (without touching). I wrote him once, then twice, and was sad to find my second letter returned to my mailbox. He had moved and so had I.
I can’t find him anywhere.
Wherever you are, I hope you are well.
From Gafsa Tunisia, November 23rd, 2000
I have just received your letter two days ago. I hope I am not writing too late, which is not a habit of mine actually. I really enjoyed reading your words, some of which I had to check in my dictionary while reading. In fact, though I am now teaching English at a secondary school (as I hope you still remember) I had to review some of the expressions and words which we –teachers- do not teach or those not scheduled in the course of English our pupils should be taught.
This is a chance for me to consolidate some of the lexis I have learned at university but not using at work. I hope my style is all right and does not show any defects. You will be the judge!
It has been a really long time since I have written such a long English letter. Maybe this was due to my laziness or the lack of inspiration. What is certain is that I had no motivation. In fact I used to have an English pen friend in the 1990’s beginning. I stopped writing when the Gulf War began. From that time on, I didn’t have any English speaking pen-friend or girlfriend to whom I can translate not only my thoughts, reflection, and daily routines, but also my feelings and problems.
For me, this is the essence of friendship or any other type of human-human connection, whatever name we give it.
I believe that to make this link more solid, one-when writing to people he considers part of his/her real life – should make this medium i.e. writing more personified so that it’s receiver feels like no other creature on this “old world” as you called it, has read or received such words before. That’s what makes it a letter for him and not all the others.
Sorry, I just wanted to tell you I prefer a personified letter. I hope you see what I mean , though to tell you the truth you have written some lines at the end of your letter which were so meaningful to me. At least I know that I am the guy whose company was in no sense boring and most importantly ROMANTIC.
This does not mean that the rest of the letter was not capturing. On the contrary, it made me have a clearer idea about a young girl who is American and whom I met one day in Tunis, on the train going south. A clearer portrait of a human being who is so innocent, direct, and sensual that I still see the memory of our journey now at the same time I write this letter. I hope this will give you great pleasure.
I still remember what you said about your parents and their relationship. This you described in such a free and indiscrete manner. I can still see you laying on the train chair with your feet hanging on the side window glass, not caring for the other passengers. At the time this was a little embarrassing, since most of the wagon passengers had the idea that you were with me (which was not the case unfortunately).
That was my first feeling in the train, but deep down in me there was great delight.
It was as if I were attending a show, watching a “spectacle” or simply looking at a charming young woman in action. Yes Felicity, I am a man who like to attend such “shows” not of fiction, but those of reality; a reality which I think is nature. You were this reality. Yet what is most interesting about this show, is the fact that I was part of it.
You may question me, am I clear or visible to people? I would answer that you may be another person; you may have parts of yourself you are concealing. It is also possible that, like most earth dwellers, you hide part of your face or most of it under a mask. All of these probabilities could be true. This is what reason says or teaches us. But do we always do what our reason dictates?
I think that it is up to me to decide who you are. Of course you have a say in all of this, however don’t we take the shape and face other want us to see, talk to, or love.
I’m sorry, maybe I am turning into a philosopher. This must be due to astrology.
I am a cancer as you know. This was one of the subjects we talked about on the train. Another specificity of people who belong to this astrological sign is that they are, as you mentioned, very ROMANTIC.
Please write me, the sooner possible.
Nabil Ben Hamouda from Tunisia