János Háy - Lou's Last Letter to Feri's Wife
It hardly need be said that it's not always a good idea to write to your lover after they have spurned you. Hot and thick emotions tend to cloud the mind's natural tendency toward, well, sensible action. Or a lack of action, which is often the right choice in these matters. János Háy's short story, Lou's Last Letter to Feri's Wife, comes in the form of a very angry letter from Lou, who has recently been rejected, to Christine, who wishes to return to her husband.
Lou is incredulous that Christine wants to make up with her husband and leave him in the cold. “For the children” is a reason he can't, and won't, accept. What about all the women he gave up on to be with her? She wasn't the most attractive, or the most sensible, or the most available, but he did it anyway and why can't she see that?. The eternal cry of the broken hearted. Why can't they see it?
Lou is angry. His letter is full of those short, sharp words we write when our pen is traveling far faster than our brain. Háy captures the frenetically energetic composition of the rough first draft, and we know – though poor Lou may not – that he finished the letter, nodded at it as though it were a complete encapsulation of his thoughts, and then off it went to Christine. We're sure he is convinced it says all he wants to say, but – well, if he'd just left the letter another day, perhaps he would have been calmer, and approached the topic with a little more tact and sensitivity.
I told you not to go do it, not to go and not sleep with him, ever, and you telling him all the time that you can’t, not now, and also, that you’re tired and got a headache. Right? Even Feri’s not that moronic. He’s not gonna believe that crap about you bleeding all the time.
Oh, Lou. You aren't going to win her back with salt, but we can tell that his current state of mind won't allow the use of sugar. He is convinced she's wrong, and as is sometimes the case in such a situation, rather than pour his heart out about why he's the right person for her, he has instead convinced himself that the best way to write the letter is to go into great detail as to why she is wrong, and how stupid she is being by making a decision he disagrees with. Bad move, Lou.
And Feri, he can’t go say to me, Lou, who gives a fuck, understand? ‘Cause all you were after was my body. Why did you have to tell Feri you just wanted to see what it’s like with another guy? I got feelings too, you know! And that you took me for a ride all along. And when you loved me so much, it was just a charade and I wasn’t your sweetie, your cutie, your bunny ears that you’re never ever gonna leave and who saved you from that unhealthy environment that he, Feri, made for you, and you could sit in a proper car at last and not a jalopy that’s got the wind whistling through the floor boards. Ain’t I the one that saved you from thinking of yourself as an old woman that’s no good for nothing any more except washing the kids’ dirty clothes and cooking dinner and that gets her bottom smacked only because she’s blocking the way in the hall? Was this all a lie? That you think I’m interesting? That I’m such a great guy and everybody likes me and knows who I am? That you’re dying of boredom at home?
Háy's Lou is, we suspect, somewhat uneducated, and resentful of the fact. He sees in everyone who has an education the scorn of 'stupid' people like himself – even if they aren't, of course, in any way interested in his schooling or lack of it. He has a chip on his shoulder, and is more than happy to cause a ruckus to have his voice heard. Lou's letter becomes increasingly violent toward the end, but it's the violence of sad posturing, the exaggerated language of the sad, hurt and lonely soul who we know, with great certainty, won't be doing any of the things he is threatening and really just wants to be heard.
He didn’t dare say to me, fine, Louie, fine, if that’s what you want, I’ll be there and may the best man win. He just fucking cried into the phone that I shouldn’t hurt him. He was so repulsive I told him, go to hell. Understand? I told him I don’t give a shit. Besides, I couldn’t touch his clammy skin anyway, I couldn’t kick in his pathetic face anyway. Feri, he’s a yellow prick.
The great quality of this short – very short – story, is Lou's voice. He is such a strong voice, well-defined and perfectly articulated. He writes the way we would expect a person like him would write. It's all stream-of-conscious rage, all hurt lashing out at everything and everyone. Lou is hurt, and so he wishes for others to be hurt, too. But we can tell he just wants Christine to say “I love you” to him, and then the hurt will dry up. She won't, and we know it, but somewhere along the way Lou has become convinced that if he berates her enough, she'll remember her feelings and return to him.
Sorry, Lou. It's just not meant to be that way.
Lou's Last Letter to Feri's Wife by János Háy is a short story from Words Without Borders' August 2010 edition, Writing from Hungary issue. All of the work reviewed is freely available online.
Other stories from the Words Without Borders August 2010 edition, Writing from Hungary issue include:
---Esterházy, Péter - Kornél Esti’s Bicycle Or: The Structure Of The World
---Kornis, Mihály - The Toad Prince
---Lázár, Ervin - The China Doll
---Parti Nagy, Lajos - Oh, Those Chubby Genes
---Tar, Sándor - Slow Freight
Also of interest: Index of short stories under review