Dear, I made a pot roast last night in the slow cooker. I added vegetables, because vegetables are en vogue, if the food shows I watch are to be trusted. I shaved parsnips and carrots and made them smooth. I tried to imagine your face, the soft skin below the prickly indignant stubble. Maybe the only stubble you have is on your legs. Dear, if you would only write or call or find me in this great big world, I would know such things.

Dear, the flannel sheets have been keeping me warm. I never should have bought the cheap purple sheets. Coarse, not to mention completely nonabsorbent for my 2 am nightmare sweats. I am sticking with flannel for now. I think you would approve, but again, it's hard for me to know. You really must get in touch if you want me to know what kind of sheets you like best.

Dear, I am doing my darndest to explain the big hole in my chest where my heart used to be. This does not go over well, in general. I may stop trying to explain, because all it does is worry others. But I like to think you would understand. I'm trying to grow it back, but a heart doesn't grow as fast as hair or fingernails. Even plucked eyebrows grow back at a faster rate, and that's really saying something.

Dear, I miss you most on the couch at night. I watch documentaries about plane crashes and submarine disasters and cocky young men rolling like pigs in the mud to earn the right to become Green Berets. I would like very much to watch my programs with you beside me. I would not even mind if you teased me about my peculiar TV-watching habits, because it would just mean you had been paying attention. We could watch whatever you like too. I don't mind. I just want to put my head in your lap. I want to hear you say, Oh, that guy, or What is he thinking, sleeping on a special opps mission like that?

Dear, I would like for you to fix the toilet and unclog the shower drain. I would also appreciate some help with the back porch purge, in the spring. I would love to hear you say, A fence? That's easy, I can do that myself, don't worry. And then come home one muddy April day to find you digging fence post holes in the backyard. Dear, if you looked up from that task to see me smiling at you, and you smiled back? I think my heart would burst, to think that you knew what you were doing, and that you knew what you were doing for me, and believed easily in my gratitude.

Dear, I studied gender roles at the college I loved, of course I did. Upon further life study I still wish to cook your favorite meals and bake you a pie and mend your shirts and tend to our social calendar and the thank-you notes and the chickens we do not have yet, because we are not a we.

Dear, it's quite possible you will never get this letter. I can't hold that against you. It's possible you have written me reams of letters that I will never see. Wherever you are, I wish you could know that you are not forgotten, not a bit. I wish you knew that someone out there believes that you could build a fence happily and without grudge. I am not perfect, but I am not averse to trying to be, once in a while.

Dear, it is true that I groan when people brag of celebrating their wedding anniversaries on Carnival cruises or at Sandals Bora Bora. I am not above eye-rolling. But, Dear, Chicago is always playing in the supermarket, and you know what that can do to a person who's lost something she can't replace. A person like that takes an hour to find the Mrs. Dash, then starts bawling when she hears "Hard To Say I'm Sorry," and has to pull it together before she can even think of finding diced tomatoes or frozen 2-for-1 bags of shrimp.

Dear, I wish you were here, even though I don't know who you are. Maybe we've met. Maybe you've met my sheets. Maybe we haven't met and will never meet. If the fencing company takes Mastercard, the dark smudge where my heart used to be will lighten some in time. But I'd rather fetch you a beer and watch you wiggle the fence posts into the ground. Don't worry (not that you would, because you're not like that), I will make it up to you, however you like. I'm good that way, and there's not much you couldn't ask for.

Dear, there is one thing. A threesome would be out of the question. I never want to see your face contort with desire for anyone else. I don't need to see that, the way one really doesn't need to see a nuclear mushroom cloud, or a puppy being run over by a car. I have my limits. But all good women do.

Dear, the blizzard is coming. I don't mind the cold and I don't mind the shoveling. I do mind that there are hundreds of coupled-off souls who can tear the grocery list in half and meet back at the register to get home before the snow starts, and that you and I are not those people.

Dear, I apologize if I know you, but I cannot recognize you. Of course, you should apologize too, if you have become unrecognizable. It is the saddest of sad things, when people can't recognize each other. I know, times are tough. Thinking does not come easily. I am choking on old memories and expired wishes and need to get a drink of water and clear my throat.


Dear, here comes the snow. Stay warm. You are loved. You have always been loved. Wish you were here, whoever you are, whoever you've been.