“Write me every day.”
She looked at the man she was sitting next to at the diner. He bought her favorite milkshake, as he always did on Friday nights. She looked at him with one part affection, two parts sadness.
“I can’t take your typewriter. It means so much to you.”
“I’ll get a new one in New York. I want you to write me.”
He had explained that his new job in the Big Apple is the greatest opportunity he will ever have. He’ll be writing for the top newspapers in the city and he’ll be hundreds of miles away. They spent the summer together, getting to know each other and spending their evenings downtown at the diner. She was going to get a job as a secretary, probably, after school. But he was going to New York. What would she do without him?
After their milkshakes, he walked her to his house. His portable typewriter sat in its case and he carried it to the porch and handed it to her. It was heavy. Heavy with all the words it contained and all the potential for communication. The only method of connection between the two after he flew off to a new state. The summer ended so quickly. It was already getting cooler.
“Every day,” she said.
At first it was love letters. The clickity-clack of the typewriter echoed in her house as she spilled out all her thoughts. School, college, family, jobs. She became a telephone operator, which wasn’t her ideal job. Meanwhile, he wrote back on the letterhead of his new company, boasting about his amazing accomplishments and promising to visit home sometime soon. She spent most of her days waiting on the porch of her parents’ house for the postman. On days she didn’t hear from him, she wrote again. Clack clack clack, “I miss you.”
“Can’t you write to him in ink pen? It’s much quieter,” Her mother would say when it was past midnight.
But it was his gift to her, this mechanism for communicating.
Weeks later, his letters became few and far between.
Months later, newer typewriter models came out, but she didn’t want to upgrade.
Years later, men began asking for her hand in marriage. Her parents made her marry a man who owned a record shop.
Years later, the newer typewriters became lighter and easier to use. But she still wrote to the man who stole her heart that summer. On his Underwood Portable. She figured he became too busy and eventually settled down too.
In 1970, she put the Underwood in her attic. She never told her husband how she got it. He bought an automatic typewriter for the family.
In 1998, they bought a desktop computer. Communication was faster than ever before.
And in 2013, her grandson gave it to an antique shop, retailing it at $900, for its rare and vintage qualities.
The words typed on the Underwood remain hidden in its past. She felt no connection to it after her grandson gave it away. All the love letters it contained were preserved in the keys and even if you purchased it from the antique shop, you wouldn’t be able to decipher the words, frozen in amber. Now just a commodity on a shelf.
It was preserved in her mind as it was on display. But that’s the way she wanted it.