I want to keep this short because I want to write Elphinstone. I want to send him all my diaries, even the old ones where I was young and foolish, so he’ll know everything about me. Even the pages I wrote about him—what I thought when we met, what I thought he thought of me, how our thoughts mutually changed.
I got his most recent letter this morning, and I’ve been thinking all day about how I will respond, the sentences changing shape to accommodate new anecdotes, like the first-year who tried to hide her mistransfigured tinderbox’s wiggling tail by clamping her hand around the offending backside. (It didn’t work. It tickled.)
He wrote, in his letter, that poets compared women to flowers—so he would compare me to a sprig of heather, tall and straight and slim and able to take a strong wind. “Also,” he wrote, “the stem is like your green robe, and the pink flower your face. I fear I am not a poet, for I have not crafted my description in a way that increases either your or the heather’s beauty. Perhaps I could compare you to a well-written edict, the kind the Ministry only creates once in a generation.”
I used to imagine falling in love with the type of man who might write me poetry. I find myself liking Elphinstone’s prose much better. Our letters remind me of the conversations we used to have when we worked together, all fast and fun and me feeling like I never thought so carefully or cleverly in all my life. I don’t feel like I have to be careful around him now, though. I’m old enough—we both are—that I can just be myself.
Perhaps that’s how I’ll start the letter: “I used to imagine falling in love with a poet.” It’s a very clever way of putting it, because he’ll understand that I haven’t quite said that I love him; only that I used to imagine falling in love with someone who did well what he just did poorly. He’ll also understand that I am thinking about loving him. Perhaps even imagining it.
Or I could simply write that I’ve been wanting to write him all day, because I can’t teach a class or go to a meeting without my mind simultaneously working out how best to describe it to him. My first-year student kept her fingers as closely pressed together as her teeth, trying not to let the tail—or her laughter—escape.
I should just write it. I’ll write it all, however it comes out of my quill. There are shops in Hogsmeade that sell enchanted quills that will write love letters for you, no doubt with better poetry than Elphinstone’s. I can’t imagine why anyone would want to buy them, and lose the pleasure of writing their own.