“With” and “at” – simple prepositions to describe the significant disparity between two social relations. I really need no further words than “with” and “at” to clarify my position, but you may need them to understand. I have email relationships with two men who, for different reasons, are significant to me. The first is with someone who can never be more than a friend to me – no need to reiterate the reasons. We’ve been having an email conversation that feels as if it’s been uninterrupted (except for one long week) since the end of January. The words we write aren’t particularly beautiful and our lines are not rewritten numerous times to perfection, but there’s a natural flow and honesty in our communication that brings me pleasure and compels me to respond. He asks me questions, he listens to what I say and, when he thinks about me, he dashes off a quick note of little consequence telling me so – “How was your day?” In other words, he talks “with” me.
The second email relationship, and snail-mail as well, is with someone who claims to Love (with a capital “L”) me. He has convinced himself he “knows” me and he thinks he understands the words needed to win my heart. His missives are painstakingly labored works of beauty. His desire to convey deep feelings through these exquisite words makes the final product a shallow writing of pretty words – nothing more. Reworked to death, there is no intrinsic truth left in them. He has told me that he writes to me because “he has something he needs to say”, not to hear what I think or evoke a reaction. Although, at other times, he claims when I read his letters, they will “make me weep”. He has never brought tears to my eyes. He writes for himself and, consequently, rarely receives a response from me. He sends what he wants regardless of my entreaties that they are not things I desire to read – random articles from the New York Times with notes that say, “Thought of you” or “Thought you’d like this”. He doesn’t hear me say that I’m not interested. In a word, he talks “at” me.
And so, Mr. “At’s” emails have become a bore to me – something I read dispassionately and quickly delete in the “trash”, while I wait impatiently for a word from the other – anxious to discover what we will chat about today. For me, words of Truth will forever trump words of Beauty.