I am Always Leaving

By Maya Lionne

When Dinah asked Lucy to write something for Tanya’s birthday gift, Lucy went to work immediately, not with actual writing, but with searching the stacks of correspondence in her room for a particular set of letters from several years earlier. After hours of sifting through piles of letters, envelopes, and envelopes without letters, Lucy found what she was looking for: a stack of letters, bound with burgundy ribbon, envelopes yellowed with age and prolonged exposure to sunlight on a windowsill in her old apartment in New York, where she developed the habit of leaving letters until the piles grew too large and threatened to block out the light. She sat down, removing them from their envelopes, the paper still faintly smelling of an odd-but-reassuring combination of her mother’s perfume and her father’s hands, which were perpetually crusted with wood glue and soldering flux, and a few other scents that brought back memories long filed away.

*****

Dear Marius,

We miss you! Munich is still cold, though your father and I wish you could see it right now. There’s an outdoor art exhibition in the street right outside our apartment, filled with wonderful sculptures of fish, sharks, whales – all sorts of neat things. We walked through the street yesterday, and we had a wonderful time. Your father tried to sneak in a beer when I wasn’t looking (or when he thought I wasn’t looking, anyway.)

We regret that you had to leave the way you did. Please understand, we just wanted to be supportive. We know it was hard for you, growing up intersex, wanting to get married to Emma right after high school and not being able to, never feeling like you fit in – in either locker room. Just know that we’re here for you whenever you make a choice (or if you never make a choice, we love you whatever you choose!)

Please send us more photos of Paris! We loved seeing your pictures of the cathedrals, and your father says he knows that cafe you went to, the one with the windmill. We hope you are well, and that you’re enjoying your stay in the City of Lights.

All our love,

Mom and Dad

***

Dear Marius,

Last night. Last night was…well…a first for me, let’s put it that way. You were great, don’t get me wrong, it’s just…I’ve never slept with anyone who…I guess…didn’t have one part or the other. It’s just new for me, and after last night, I think I could get used to it. I’m sorry to leave without breakfast, I’ve got to work early. Kisses, and I’ll call you tonight, 

Rene

***

Dear Marius,

Your pictures were beautiful, particularly that little redhead you found, she’s cute! We can’t wait to meet her, when are you bringing her home? It’s getting colder here at home, is it cold in Paris? Are you still enjoying your job at the placement agency? I know you mentioned it was hard, but it also sounded like it was soul-filling. I certainly hope so.

Your mother has been hounding me day and night to buy a better set of headphones for the home theater system – she says she can hear static on the low bass, but you’ve heard the headphones I have – there’s nothing wrong with them! But, heaven knows that once your mother decides something is wrong, right? Is Rene like that – always wanting everything to be perfect? Sometimes I think it’s a curse, but then I think about where my life might have gone without your mother, and let’s just say I’m glad I didn’t make certain other choices when I was a young man. Thankfully, it seems I don’t have to worry about that for you.

Take care of yourself, and let us know when you’re bringing Rene home for a visit!

All our love,

Dad

***

Mon cheri Marius,

I’ll be home late tonight. Leave the kitchen light on if you’d like to have dinner…and leave it off if you’d care to skip straight to the main event.

Hungrily,

Rene

***

Dear Marius,

Just wanted to write really quickly and tell you we’re both so happy things are working out so well with Rene! Any plans for the future, *wink wink*? When are you coming to visit? Keep sending the pictures, and we hope to see you soon!

All our love,

Dad

***

Mon cheri Marius,

I’m sorry you went to bed angry last night. Please don’t be mad, but I have to work late again tonight. Don’t wait up for me.

See you tomorrow,

Rene

***

Dear Marius,

I’m glad to hear you love your job, that’s terrific! It took me a lot longer to find a job I loved, and that was when the economy was a lot stronger. Your father says he’s just glad you’re doing something you love, even if it doesn’t pay a lot of money. We’re sorry to hear you won’t be bringing Rene home when you visit, but we understand about work schedules and all that, and one of you is better than neither, right?

I saw some tulips poking out of the ground yesterday – looks like it’ll be an early spring. Are there any flowers in Paris yet? The weather service says it’s going to snow tomorrow, but I don’t know if I believe them.

Have you continued your painting? You were such the artist in high school, but we haven’t seen any of your work in a long time. Would you like us to send you some supplies? Your father says he’s been itching for an excuse to go to the art store so he can repaint our furniture – again. (You can just tell me, and I’ll sneak down there after work tomorrow for some paints, a canvas – whatever you need. Just don’t tell your father, or I’ll have to deal with different-colored chairs!)

We hope you’re well, and that you and Rene aren’t working too hard!

All our love,

Mom

***

Dearest Marius,

I don’t know how to say this, so I’ll just say it: I met someone. He’s an architect who works in the same building I do. We’ve been eating lunch in the same cafe for a few weeks, just faces recognized at first, then we got to talking, and we have a great deal in common.

I want you to know I didn’t cheat on you. God knows I was tempted, but I thought I’d be honest with you and tell you that while I love you dearly, I…I think I need someone else. My beloved Marius, I know there’s someone out there for you. Whether they’re in Paris, Rome, Seoul, I don’t know. But they’re out there.

I hope you find them.

Rene

***

Dear Marius,

I must admit, your mother and I were a little worried when you told us that you had quit your job and were moving to New York. We’ve never been there, but we’ve heard a lot of wild stories about The Big Apple, and we hope you’re being careful. Where in New York are you living? Have you found a new job? Did you get the care package your mom sent? Don’t tell her, but I snuck a little something extra in there you probably can’t find in New York (or maybe you can?) Do you remember the Kinder Eggs you liked when you were young? I sent you most of a box (sorry, I couldn’t help myself. I got a toy robot in one of them! *bzzt hello Marius, I am your father, bzzt!*)

Speaking of young, we were surprised to see a picture of you in a dress! We haven’t seen you wear a dress since you were little, and your hair hasn’t been that long in years. You look beautiful! Do you mind if we ask what changed your mind? Your mother wants to know if she can send you a dress. Is that okay? Just let us know what you need!

Summer is lingering, I’ll be glad when it leaves. Your mother likes the sun, but I’ve had enough of sweating through all my shirts, I’m ready to settle in for a nice, long winter’s worth of movies. That reminds me, have you seen any good movies recently? Are the cinemas in New York different than here in Munich?

We hope you’re well, and that you’re painting your heart out! Keep sending pictures, and send us something for the living room (preferably a movie poster, wink wink)

All our love,

Dad and Mom

***

Dear Ms. Kirsch,

We regret to inform you that despite your excellent qualifications, we have decided not to offer you an interview. We received over 600 applications for this position, and while all applicants were given due consideration, because of time and budget constraints, we are only able to interview the top 20 applicants.

We wish you luck in your job search, wherever it may take you.

Regards,

M. Kurtzman, Kurtzman Humanitarian Services

***

Dear Ms. Kirsch,

Thank you for applying to the Lowry College of Fine Arts. We’re sorry to inform you that while your body of work is impressive, we are not able to offer you admission for this term. We welcome you to apply for future terms, and may the muse be always favorable with your work.

Best of luck,

Samantha Lowry

***

Hottie at the bar last night at Paris is Burning,

I couldn’t catch you before you left, and I’m sorry, I wanted to say something all night, but…well, the ball craziness and all, you know how it goes. Amy St. Lowe is a friend of mine, she said she’d get this to you.

Call me Claire (555) 612-0133.

***

Dear Marius Lucy,

Wow! The photos you sent from the ball (is that right? ball?) were incredible! What a lively event, such colors, such outfits – how often does this happen? How many balls have you gone to? How long do they last? Do you know how many people attend? It looks like quite a soiree!

What made you decide to change your name, if you don’t mind our asking? Have you made any other changes? (stop us if we’re being too nosy!) We both think it’s great that you’ve been wearing pant suits, but I’d still like to send you a dress, if that’s okay. What color would you like?

Things are quiet here in Munich. Your father’s been grumbling, but I know he enjoys going for a walk in the park with me to see the autumn colors. He’s thinking about retiring now, can you believe it? Me, I’m still a couple years out, and even if I wasn’t, I’m not quite ready. I like being kept busy, and unfortunately (or fortunately?) your father’s super-low maintenance.

Do you know if you’ll stay in New York? We were very sorry to hear you didn’t get accepted to art school, but from the looks of it, you’ve found your own creative outlet. Is there anything you need? Shipping my sewing machine to you would be terribly expensive, but I can get one online for you and have it shipped, if you like. Your father says we can just fly it to you when we come to one of your balls, but I told him I wasn’t sure you’d appreciate having your stodgy old folks at your event. But if you’re okay with it, I’ll say the sewing machine box is my carry-on!

Keep on winning those trophies, and we’ll talk to you soon!

All our love,

Mom and Dad

PS – Who’s the girl next to you, in the white dress? Is that the Claire you mentioned?

 ***

To Lucy Kirsch St. Lowe (℅ Augustus St. Lowe,)

I met you at the Winter Extravaganza Ball a few weeks ago – tall, white feathers, martini – you remember? Congratulations on your trophies, you took home quite the haul! You’re the envy of several houses, I don’t mind telling you. Augustus has been a wonderful mentor for you, and you can tell him I said so.

Now, I know you just got accepted into House St. Lowe, but I remember you talking about how you don’t stay in one place too long, and how you’ve wanted to see the west coast for a while now. As it happens, I live out west, just south of Portland, Oregon. I have my own house out there, and if you’re interested in joining the western ball circuit, I’m happy to say there’s a place in my house for you. I’ll be staying here in New York for another week or so. Come see me before I leave, and we’ll get the details sorted out.

Fabulous and fierce,

Ulyana LaCroix

***

Dear Lucy,

Your adventures never cease, do they? New York, a week in Chicago, and now you’re off to the west. Salem, Oregon, huh? We’ve never been there – what’s it like? Is it anything like New York or Paris? Will you be attending balls there? Are you enjoying the sewing machine? Your mother’s concerned it was missing parts, but I’m pretty sure we grabbed everything before we left. If we missed anything, we’ll send it on.

We were so happy to see those pictures of you! We’re sorry Claire decided not to go with you to Salem, but who knows – maybe that special someone’s just waiting for you when you get off the plane. In any case, you’re young, you’re gorgeous, and you’ve got all the time in the world. And whether you choose to live the rest of your life as Lucy or you decide to go back to being Marius, you can live your life knowing that your mother and I are behind you 110%.

We hope you enjoy Salem, and that the pictures you send will be every bit as the photos we have decorating our living room (your mother loves the movie poster painting you sent, and me? I couldn’t be happier with your rendering of Metropolis!)

All our Love,

Dad and Mom

*****

Dear Tanya,

I know it might seem a little silly, us living in the same house and all, but I’ve included some blank paper, and an envelope with this (ask Dinah if you can’t find them in the book somewhere.) Please write me back. I’ve moved so often that the only thing I have to anchor me anywhere other than memories are letters. You’ve read mine. I’d like to read yours.

May this be only one of many happy birthdays,

Lucy Kirsch LaCroix

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