|photograph by Nina Leen, 1947|
Mr. Swanson was a man who kept to himself. It's not that he wasn't liked by the other residents of Huntsboro, but he was a private man. Out of his mouth came only what needed to be said and nothing more. His home was always tidy and he lived alone--but it hadn't always been that way.
You see, when he was young, Mr. Swanson was not "Mr. Swanson," but just Jack. There was a girl, too, his practically betrothed. Of course, Jack hadn't exactly asked her to marry him yet, but everyone knew they were meant for each other. After all, in the summer of 1957, there was still time to be young and free and merry. Still, everyone treated them as a married couple, even if Jack wasn't quite ready to commit yet. 1957 slipped into 1958 and still it was just Jack and his girl. But then...
November 28th, 1958. A fight on a cold night. A screen door splintered from being slammed. Two shattered hearts from words screamed.
It was no longer Jack and his girl after that night. She was gone--where, nobody knew--and Jack became Mr. Swanson, a man that kept his words close and feelings closer. When he died, the church pews were packed full of people wishing their last respects. After the service, there was the obligatory sympathetic twittering from the little groups of women, while their husbands stood with their hats in their hands, necks stiff against starched suit collars, and looked longingly towards the exit.
It was fitting that Mr. Swanson passed from this world to the next in the house he'd shared with his girl, back when he knew the touch of love. They said he'd never stopped loving his girl, and it was true. In his heart, his name was still Jack and his girl was still with him. Mr. Swanson died with words of regret on his breath, but it didn't have to be that way. When he died, there was one thing he didn't know about: the letter.
"November 29th, 1958
I still love you. Ask me to stay.
PS I'm sorry about the fight last night."
It was unopened.
Story number one in the beginning of a voyage into the realm of short stories.