I light the wick of the grey wax with a gas lighter. The intersection of two generations, yet I cannot define what generation is embodied by letter sealing wax, and defining the gas lighter is even more daunting; I envision my parents and the parents of my parents as children, holding the lighter, the flame reflecting a thousand times over in their eyes. Perhaps Prometheus, bored with having his liver eaten daily and hoping for a new punishment, gave man gas lighters against Zeus’s command. Maybe this was what Zeus had feared: man becomes so full of himself that he reduces the laborious process of making fire with flint, twigs, and logs to the push of a button, maybe he knew it should not be this easy. There should be some weight to it, some meaning to the flame which has the potential to consume all. Now I can feel the flame’s heat creeping towards my fingers, but the wax is stubborn (probably because it's cheap) and refuses to drip. I’m confident the letter sealing wax generation never dealt with insolent wax. The flame singeing the fingers, though, is something we surely have in common.
I plead with the wax; each second that the flame burns near my wooden desk inside my wooden room is another opportunity to slip up carelessly and burn the whole wooden house down to the foundation. The neighbor’s house down the street felt fire’s wrath, is now destined to sit in ruins. I pray that flame wasn’t caused by letter sealing wax. That flame had weight, its birth must as well; disasters of mythical proportions should have deserving origins: a tiny wax-melting flame, or a spark from an appliance left plugged is not worthy of that destruction; a torch thrown in a fit of rage is far more fitting. But life is not the stuff of myths. Fires are started by flat irons left plugged in. The tiny causes the catastrophic and we are left with millions of what-ifs: relationships are stilted from miniscule cracks, single uncomfortable moments; friendships become irreversibly awkward over a poorly-timed backhand comment.
By now the wax is dripping onto the letter, nowhere near the center. I blow the flame out once, it returns with a vengeance, twice, and it is gone for good. I press the silver stamp, marked “A,” into the wax. It too is cheap, mass produced; I feel myself fall in with the thousands it names, lose all identity beyond that single letter: perhaps when examining the envelope he will not remember me, will stare at the “A” eagerly, hopeful it is from some other woman. Perhaps I wish I was writing to some other boy. But I had chosen him. I left the boy who did not joke, whose apologies were fake flowers stinking of plastic and colored dyes, were false flames burning in plastic candles: unable to cause disaster, true, but worthless without any risk; those flames burned bright only when jealousy piled on tinders. But, there is no point in dwelling, I tell myself, better to let it smolder and die out, better to focus on this letter.
I flip the envelope over and curl two initials, I and then F. I envy the women whose letters curve like living petals effortlessly; mine instead wilted flowers poorly pressed by an amateur hand: dead and limp, yet still somehow forced. The seal on the back makes matters worse, adding ridges (I should have known to add the seal last, I scold myself). But what better way to represent us, though thought a fitting pair, we lacked life and fell limp. I think of the bus, the grey seats, the hum of the wind, how we sat together. I remind myself that when I fretted, he cracked jokes which never landed; my smile faltered as I, uncomfortable, stared ahead, and he sucked in air, trying to reclaim his words. The only trace of them was the stiffening of my posed smile, false like the painted face of a porcelain doll, hardening like clay in the flames of a kiln. He noticed. He thought me sensitive but still cringed to see my face stiffen, rivaling the statues in Athens, knowing that he was the cause; he apologized profusely in his thousand little ways: a drawing, a video, jokes, a barrage of messages (yet no letters, why is it that I now sit here writing a letter to him?) He meant it, certainly, he did. But these apologies lose their worth when there is no feeling; then all that is left to do is sit side by side in silence. Why, then, do I now sit addressing a letter, albeit messily, to him?
It’s no matter, I comfort myself, the initials are still legible. Though, he may cringe when he sees the penmanship, a reminder of my shortcomings, that I am not the letter-curving woman he sought. A sardonic smile, finally one not posed, settles on my face: I should write a thousand more unhappy letters on the envelope, a thousand letters for a thousand false apologies. But I don’t write more: better instead to let it smolder and die out.