At one point or another, everyone feels alone in this world. They are not literally alone though, it is merely a feeling created in their mind brought on by some sort of disappointment or frustration, and goes away as soon as they are able to get in touch with one of their friends.
Carl was alone though. Literally. His life was a disappointment and frustration, and he had no friends to whom he could confide in and alleviate his pain. How could anyone in this world truly consider themselves that alone though? There are coworkers, sports teams, internet message boards, even suicide hotlines that one can call in order to hear a human voice. Unfortunately for Carl, he was an unemployed loser, who was so socially inept that he had alienated even the online community, and the suicide hotline was understaffed, so there weren’t enough people to take his call. What Carl did have though were pens, stamps, and envelopes.
“Dear Dame Judi Dench,” one letter began. “In the movie Notes on a Scandal, your character Barbara says that when she’s on a bus and the conductor accidentally brushes her hand, she feels a jolt of longing go straight to her groin. That’s exactly how I feel. I don’t have a Sheba Hart in my life though. Will you be my Sheba?”
This poor man actually believed that someone famous would want to be friends with him, and correspond with him. Judi Dench was most certainly not his only victim. The recipients of his letters were as diverse as Oprah to Derek Jeter.
Of course he got generic form letters from some of them, but not one famous person he wrote to personally responded. Not once. Yes, it was true, Carl was a complete social misfit, but he meant no harm, and it would have been kind if at least one of these glamorous people who he so admired had taken the time out of their busy day to at least acknowledge the fact that he existed.
This went on for many years. Carl himself had lost count, but he was forty-four years old, and had been sending letters since Michael Jackson had looked like a human being, so it had been at least twenty years of letter writing for him.
For fifteen or so of those twenty years, Annabelle had been a postal worker whose job it was to sort the mail into different piles depending on where it was addressed to. A few times a week she saw the letters from Carl addressed to the celebrities.
“Wow,” she thought. “This man must have connections.”
It didn’t dawn on her that if he truly did have connections, he probably would have had the phone numbers or email addresses of these people, but she was not the sort of person for whom things dawned on. She was so tempted to surreptitiously open one of the letters to find out just what business it was that this man had with all of these eminent people, but she at least had the sense to realize that tampering with the mail is a federal offense.
She did become incredibly infatuated with the idea of this Carl. A man of the world who all the celebrities depended on to function. He was their money manager perhaps, or their lawyer. He had a mansion in L.A., a penthouse in New York, a chalet in Switzerland. He wore Prada suits, carried a Fendi bag, drove a Jaguar, and had the most beautiful wife who was a former super model. He was tan and robust, and wore his Ray Ban sunglasses always on top of his head, over his tousled sandy blonde hair, smelling of wind and surf.
This fantasy was so out of control it almost hurt to think of him, because he was so unattainable in her mind, yet so close because she had his address. It took months and months, but finally she gained the courage to do this. She wrote him a letter.
Carl sat on his raggedy old couch reading his love letter. He was forty- four years old and this was the first time he was receiving a letter addressed specifically to him that was not junk mail. And it was a love letter of all things.
I am not worthy of your time, nor your energy. You are probably the most wealthy and most busy man, because you are so important to all these important people. I am a lowly mail sorter who merely sees who you are writing to, and I am honored to be helping you in your job. I imagine you as being my dream man, which no doubt you are, and I cannot help but be depressed by the fact that I will never know you in real life, and find out why you are so important. I would love you if I knew you.
Sincerely and with Love,
Carl sat still. Someone had recognized his humanity. It wasn’t a response from the sort of person whom he had wanted it to be from, yet to his surprise he was not disappointed. He was in fact happy to receive this letter and know that somewhere in this world, someone was thinking about him. So he wrote back.
Despite the fact that you may be just a lowly postal worker, you are not a lowly person. You are in fact one of the most wonderful people I have ever met in the entire world, because you stopped to think about another person, and actually told them what you were thinking, which made them feel good about themselves. Creating positive thoughts in somebody’s mind is the best thing that a person could ever do for another person, and for you doing that for me, I thank you.
Sincerely and also with Love,
He was slightly more eloquent than one might assume, considering how much of a loser he was regarded as. But perhaps it was his candidness which bothered people. At his fast food jobs he disturbed his coworkers by telling them how important they were in society for serving food to hungry people, which is of course a human being’s most basic need. It’s ridiculous to think that someone working at McDonald’s could care at all about anything such as that, no offense to those who work such jobs, so they complained to management that he was harassing them, and got him fired so many times that he was unable to find work. A similar thing happened on message boards he browsed, mostly ones pertaining to Star Trek. Poor Carl had hit an all time low when he was rejected even by the Star Trek fans, again, no offense to those who may like that particular show.
All week Carl had ants in his pants waiting for a reply from Annabelle. Her response had made him so elated; he temporarily forgot about his obsession with various celebrities and only thought about her. Just as she had created an elaborate image of him in her mind, he created one of her in his mind.
She was blonde. About 5’6 or so, slender, with large breasts, but not those that are comically large like Pamela Anderson’s. She was single and took in orphaned dogs and cats to care for because she was so kind hearted. She probably fed all the neighborhood kids too, and her postal coworkers, and donated to every single charity she could think of. When, oh when, would she reply to him! Had he put her off like he did every other person? Something appeared in his mailbox. It was an envelope with a letter inside.
I have never been happier in my entire life. I was so happy that you replied that I cried and then peed in my pants. Nobody has told me that I am a wonderful person before. In fact, most people make me feel bad about myself. My supervisor always tells me that I’m sorting the mail too slow, my mom always tells me I’m an ugly old maid for never marrying and giving her grandchildren, I only have a few friends and they always make me feel bad for being so busy at the post office, and say I’m being a lousy friend by not having enough time for them. I could go on, but I’d probably bore you, since I know you have a really important job to attend to anyway. So my point is, I want to thank you as well, for telling me I did a good job at something, because I never hear that.
This poor woman. It was hard to imagine that there was someone out there who felt as inadequately about themselves as he did. Of course he was still the one in the worse situation, as she was employed, had a mother who talked to her even if it was with harsh words, and she implied that she did have a few people whom she could truthfully refer to as her friends. Still, it was the same basic emotion that they were feeling. That of loneliness and an emptiness that felt eternal.
My deepest sympathies for what others say to you. As easy it is for me to say, and as difficult as it will be for you to heed this advice: just do not listen to them. People who are nasty to other people are like that because they feel nasty about themselves on the inside. Their criticisms are reflections of themselves, not of you. Try to think more positively and just do your best at everything. Sometimes things are beyond our control.
When he went over his letters before he sent them, Carl realized that he was much more insightful than he had ever considered himself to be. Other people’s non-responses had led him to essentially stop before he even started, with discussing how he felt, and his opinions, therefore he never got a chance to explore what his perspective was. His letters to all those famous people were so juvenile, because it was all one sided and he had nothing to respond to or discuss with them, but Annabelle allowed him to put all of his thoughts out there to be considered.
I listened to your advice. I told my mother it was not my fault that I have not yet married, I need to be with the man who is just right for me, I will not settle for just anything, and that makes me a strong person because I know exactly what I want and will stand up for it. As for my supervisor, I just told him that sometimes he is too mean and rather than motivating me to work harder, he just makes me want to go home, and to my surprise he actually toned it down a bit. As for my friends, I don’t know, maybe they’re not my true friends if they cannot respect the fact that I need to work and earn money for my rent. Maybe I should find other people who will respect my life’s choices to be my friends. Would you ever consider being my friend?”
I am your friend. Why would you think otherwise?
“Because you haven’t offered to meet with me in person,” was all she wrote back in the next letter she sent to him.
Carl thought long and hard about what she had written, and did not immediately respond as he normally did. Those poor celebrities, they must have been so lonely not getting any mail from Carl now that he was distracted. Meeting her in person would shatter those faux realities they had created about each other. Was it really the best idea to do that? When that guy James Frey admitted that large portions of his book A Million Little Pieces were false and that it could not accurately be categorized as a memoir, many had maintained that it did not matter that he had lied. The message of hope that the book brought people, regardless of the veracity of the plot, still rang true, and that was all that mattered. That was how Carl viewed this situation. Who cared if she thought he was some bajillionaire advisor to the rich and famous and he imagined she was the most beautiful person ever employed by the U.S. Postal Service? All that mattered was that she had made him feel as if he was an actual human being and he had empowered her to assert herself to those who mistreated her.
I regret to inform you that I have been called to the nation of Qatar on urgent business that I cannot discuss. I must leave tomorrow morning, which unfortunately means that I will not be able to meet with you in person. I hope that you continue to follow the advice that I gave you about sticking up for yourself, and that you remember forever how wonderful you made me feel about myself during a period of time in which I was feeling very low. I hope that one day we can resume our correspondence.
Best Wishes in Everything,
Carl cried as he wrote this final letter, and Annabelle cried as she read it. Had she done something to make him not want to ever meet her or was she telling the truth? She resolved to believe that he really was jetting off into the sunset to Qatar, because he had ended things so sweetly. However much pain it caused her to feel, because she was reminded of him, she actually did follow his advice to the best of her abilities and stopped being such a doormat to those around her.
Carl was the one who had the truly happy ending. In spite of the giant gap in his resume, Carl was able to secure employment at a local Wendy’s and after several years, save up enough money to go to a local community college, and get a real job in management.
Perhaps it was the celebrity community which had the happiest ending, for now that Carl was working, he no longer had the time or the inclination to send fan letters to people who did not care and would never respond. His focus was on those who actually knew him, and cared about what he had to say. Now that his communication skills had improved, Carl did in fact have friends who loved him.
Carl’s life was no longer filled with disappointment and frustration.