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She sat by her desk, her thin ankles delicately crossed, keeping her feet hovering above the cold floor. A generic green lamp shone a warm glow on the notched and stained wood. She always kept the other lights off in the room while working at the desk. The sole illumination gave her the feeling of being encased in a bubble of light: protected yet standing out in her dark surroundings. With precision only attainable by practice, she scrawled words in jet black ink onto the parchment paper. She used a calligraphy pen and brush. Ball-point had seemed too impersonal to her — it did not capture every tremble of the hand or flourish of the wrist. Beside the paper lay a black notebook. Its disintegrating spine was a testament to its countless openings and closings. Her head shook rhythmically back and forth — notebook, paper, notebook, paper — as she carefully copied a page's contents. Once the transcription was complete, she sealed the letter in an envelope that was already labeled with an address.
"What do you do on a typical Friday night?"
"I stay at home. I read, relax, watch some television. Sometimes I rent a movie."
"Do you ever go out with friends?"
"Only on rare occasions. I'm not a very social person."
"What would you say is your favorite pastime?"
It was only late afternoon and, it being early autumn, she knew that the sun would stay out for at least another hour, maybe two. She crossed the street and held close to the brick wall as she turned the corner. She made a beeline to the vibrant red mailbox that sat at a slight angle at the end of the block. One side of it was marked with small graffiti tags and the other was pasted with two identical stickers depicting some rock band she had never heard of. Its metal was dingy and scratched except for the handle of the slot, which was shiny from the oil of letter-writing hands. She slid the envelope into the slot stopping halfway, as she always did, before releasing it completely into the mailbox.
"What kind of writing?"
"I like poems."
"And what do you write about?"
"Stuff. Mostly my life and my past. Sometimes my feelings on things."
"Would you be willing to read me one of your pieces?"
"Would you be comfortable with reading someone your diary?"
Before turning around to return home she caught a glimpse of the park that bordered the next avenue. She wasn't sure if it was the crisp clean air of fall or the sight of the sun peeking through the trees that called to her, but she headed towards the green. From the point where she had arrived on the sidewalk, three winding paths lead off through the grass. The one that would take her north twisted its way to the tennis courts and did not appeal to her. Neither did she want to take the one traveling south, as it ended at the library. Its stuffiness would defeat the purpose of her impromptu stroll. The middle road, which did not follow any compass bearing for too long, seemed the most pleasant.
"Do you ever share your writing with anyone?"
"Yes. I send off one poem to my old house every week."
"Your old house?"
"My childhood home. My sister would read them."
"And does your sister still live there?"
"No, she moved away when she got married...sold the house."
"But you still send the letters every week?"
It turned out that the path she had chosen weaved past the playground. It was based in a sandbox with plenty of treats for young children: a jungle gym, monkey bars, a swing-set, and a big yellow slide. Even though it was getting late, the area was filled with little shrieks and laughter. Her pace slowed as she watched a girl invite a quiet boy to her game of tag. She remembered how easy it had been to make new friends and explore different things. Now the idea of being asked to join a group made her shoulders tense up and her teeth clench. She turned her head away and continued on the road.
"Do you know the people who occupy the house now?"
"I don't have a clue."
"I am having some trouble understanding your thinking."
"Mailing my sister my writing was like I was confiding in her."
"Do you still get that same feeling?"
"I guess. Someone is still holding my secrets for me. I've always imagined them being hidden away in a shoe-box. Collecting dust but close to all their other mementos."
Reaching the opposite side of the park she came upon the beat-up kiosk that sold several publications. Most of the piles contained tabloids or celebrity magazines, but one could find the odd reputable newspaper. Scanning over the front pages there was one blurb that caught her eye. She snatched up a copy of The Gazette and thrust $1.25 into the hands of the drowsy clerk. Walking away, she flipped frantically to the page that contained the main article. It took only a second for her heart to stop. Her eyes sped so quickly over the paper that it was a surprise she could read it at all. But she managed to take it all in. The title read "Toronto woman looking for mystery writer". And there, at the end of the article, sat an excerpt from one of her poems. An excerpt of one of her secrets.
"I was wondering if you had seen The Gazette today?"
"I looked through it, yes."
"And did you see this article: 'Toronto wo—'"
"Do you intend on replying to it?"
"Most certainly not!"
"Because I don't want to put a face to the writing."
"What problem lies in that?"
"It allows her to form opinions about me. To confirm any assumptions she had made. It allows her to know me."
"What a shame."
Her vision blurred in and out with panic as she walked home at a fast pace. The newspaper was clenched in her sweaty palm, the ink transferring to her hand as if not to let her forget what was written. Arriving at her place she slammed the paper down on her desk. She walked to the bathroom and began to fill the tub with warm water, holding her head as she turned the facets. Before slipping out of her clothing, however, she returned to her desk. She flicked on the lamp and let the glow swarm her body. She stared at the paper unflinchingly now. Suddenly, she grabbed a pair of scissors from the top drawer and messily cut out the article. She pinned it to the cork board above the desk. Just in case.