Lovelessness turns a person mean, bitter, as strange as an animal in a world of humans. Pay attention and they'll start to come out of the woodwork; the old man hunched on his porch six hours a day, the black boy who weighed 300 pounds by the time he's 13, the sour-faced woman on the train, all the folks who wrote their own pleading letters to Nathanael West's Miss Lonelyhearts. Watch for them in the streets, in restaurants alone, especially the supermarkets. Once you have marked them, you'll see that they are an army. They pass by your door from morning to night. All you have to do is open your eyes.
See the thing in their eyes? Do you see it? It's so foreign that it's obvious. We're not like that, of course - shining eyes, decent teeth, a charming way with words. We've gone through lovers the way a child goes from one toy to the next, each one outstripping the next. We could charm the pants off of anyone - and probably have in our youth, just for the hell of it. Perhaps we've finally settled on someone and started a little family, a life of our own and now our old lovers are funny stories that we tell by a quaint fireplace in a charming tavern when old friends come to visit.
And the letters - maybe we've kept them in an old shoebox, maybe we burned them in a fit of pique. Maybe we were just careless and now who knows where they've gone? But really, we should have kept them.
By all means, keep the letters.
These others, this army of the loveless - they'll never know what it's like for us. We'll have discarded and forgotten more love and adoration than the loveless ever dreamed could exist. We have romantic histories to make the characters in movies look chaste and old-fashioned, while they are a people to whom a mere kind word kindles something in their breast that can last a decade. They're not like us who can take a kindness or leave it, depending on the day and our blood sugar levels. And yet, you can't really share your surfeit of love with them. You'll wish you could, but it's an impossible situation. "People," an former girlfriend of mine used to say, "they break your heart."
We should keep our letters as a gesture at least - not to our own vanity or history, not to reminisce ourselves, God forbid, but to show that we have seen these people, these Eleanor Rigbys of the world, to show that we have thoroughly read and understood 'A Rose for Emily', that we have lived inside their lonely skulls and empty breasts, even if just in imagining a life without love and pleasure and desire, even if it's just our little compassion game, and that we know just how lucky we are.