Juliette Drouet, a French actress, was madly in love with Victor Hugo, the French writer. She and I share a bond which most women, I think, do not. Juliette was the mistress of dear Victor. She was forced to pretend she was his secretary and that she had no feelings for him. In one of her most famous love letters to Victor she said:
“You are not only the solar spectrum with the seven luminous colors, but the sun himself, that illumines, warms, and revives! This is what you are, and I am the lowly woman that adores you.”
She felt that Victor warmed her heart, just as Will warmed mine. Because her love for him was forbidden, she was forced into recording her feelings in letters to him. Just the same, my love for Will was forbidden because of the thriving caste system in middle school.
In 8th grade I could no longer hide my feelings for Will that swelled in my heart and dreams. On an unwrinkled, wide-ruled piece of notebook paper I wrote:
You are one of the greatest boys to walk the halls here. You are not only smart and athletic, but you are also very kind. I have never met anyone like you. I look up to your accomplishments at school. Just being around you makes me smile. When I think of you, it almost hurts because I like you so much. I really like you.
Your Secret Admirer.
These were my sincerest thoughts, and were meant for only his eyes. Clearly, my plan did not thaw out as I thought. (He would realize I wrote it. He would be touched and realize his feelings for me. He would find me after the football game against Montgomery Academy that afternoon, and he would tell me he wanted to go steady with me.) Instead I put the letter in the locker next to his because my friends assured me that I was putting it in the correct locker. Obviously, I had to rewrite the letter to insert into the correct locker, along with writing another letter to Bobby, the class creep, letting him know the love note was not meant for him.
With all mistakes corrected, 8th period rolled around. As I entered English I could hear Karly King, Will’s girlfriend, reading my deepest emotions to her cohort of mean girls (who were only my friends during volleyball season).
They looked at me and began to laugh. I should have cried. I should have run out of the room and spent the next 45 minutes in the bathroom waiting for school to end. I should have ripped her blond hair and slutty clothes to shreds. I should have insulted her intelligence. I should have perished from the most extreme embarrassment for a 13-year-old to incur. But I, I am better than that. Juliette and I stand by our feelings. I proceeded to my seat, heart aching, fighting off any type of humiliation.
Perhaps those girls knew it was me who wrote the letter. Perhaps it was a sign when I slipped the letter into the wrong locker. But I stand by my actions today, just as I did then. Because if there is something I have learned from Juliette and her book of love letters to Victor, it is that feelings hurt more being held within than never being expressed.
Victor never left his wife. Will didn’t leave Karly. But I now have a little practice in writing love letters for when I get the chance to write the love of my entire life, my NJB.