by Jules Stapleton Barnes
I’d written the letter in many different ways and on many different days before. I had never quite got around to sending it.
I lived across the bridge in the 60’s breezeblock accommodation named A.K Davidson Hall.
On the brink of a new millennium I had big aspirations and a colourful imagination, but everything in my cell-like room was a dull brown and off-white.
White thick, brick walls, brown carpet and a brown mattress about as thick and comfy as a piece of toast.
I was not long into my new life away from home for the first time and despite the striking similarities to a prison, my new environment felt liberating and full of possibility.
One morning, prompted by a free schedule and a flurry of brave feelings, I began scribbling the words that I had written a thousand times before:
“Dear Mum and Dad,
I have to come to know and accept, and finally celebrate, that I am gay.”
Stirling University campus was sheltered and protective, cosseting us with picturesque vistas, hills rolling up the sides and a loch that reflected everything.
Dumyat hill was like a friendly old relative, nagging you to get up and get more fresh air.
It loomed over your curtain-drawn bedroom as you slept off the cheap booze and thrills of student life. The path around the loch provided a well-trodden route for all kinds of conversations; dates, break-ups and blips of loneliness.
That morning, I took bold strides across the loch bridge, making a bee-line for the shiny red post-box waiting at the other side.
This iron box, was solid and reliable, packed with news, requests and revelations and words to connect us students to far-away friends and family. What goes in never comes out the same way.
Gripping my letter I wondered how far I would get this time.
It was so comfortable in my hands, my words, my news and I wasn’t quite ready to let it go.
I told myself it didn’t matter if I never let it go, I knew what the words meant, and that surely could be enough.
I could even hold it close to the dark gap in the letterbox, with no intention of letting it go.
Tempting myself with the possibility of pushing my revelation out into the world, never to be returned to the confines of an envelope again.
But a sharp fear of reality would pull me back, time and time again.
I would feel the weight of it in my hands. The honesty leaking through the paper as if just being near it brought everyone closer to the truth.
I couldn’t imagine it being in anybody else’s hands.
As I praised myself for braving it this far; over the bridge and standing just centimetres from the letterbox, a breezy acquaintance sprung up beside me.
In one swift move, a person whose name I cannot remember snatched the letter and posted it straight through the dark gap and down into the cast iron box.
“Post it already!” she chirped. “What was it anyway?”
“Oh my God,” I said.
I remember blinking hard and hearing my lashes crash against my eyelids.
Off it went. There it goes. Out of reach and on its way to changing everything.