Viktor didn’t consider himself a Lutheran, but the ephemeral pleasure he got from having a front row seat to “the greatest freak-show on earth”, as he called it, was nothing to be scoffed at. Alberta in her turtle-neck dress, bought on his card, in some online boutique catering to pear shaped women with brown and grey hair, was only exasperated by her viscose coat that caused her skin break out in small red blotches, which she never seemed to notice.
Sally was the complete opposite of this. Viktor was sure of that, though not as sure as he would have been if he’d ever actually met the 43-year-old podiatrist, who was also an agnostic and a virgin. That last fact had caught him off guard when she mentioned it casually in one of her earlier letters. He was split in thinking it was a good sign that she was bringing up the topic of sex with him and in thinking that perhaps she was vastly disfigured or genophobic.
Sally seemed to have a watertight alibi for still holding her V card, though. She’d battled a reoccurring case of cancer for the early part of her adulthood before being taken in by a religious cult who claimed they could heal her. Whether they were the cause of her triumphant recovery or not is debatable, but she was still alive and had been in remission for 18 years now.
Sally was in the cult well into her mid-thirty’s and they believed sex was for procreation only and didn’t believe in procreating in a world as damned as ours. So, Sally knitted sweaters and tended to the medical needs of the other members of the cult. She had no formal medical training, but she had a way about her, a prowess for pouring herself into the aid of others. During the year of her 35th birthday, the leader of the cult surrounded the camp with a band of trumpets and insisted that the members commit a mass suicide to wake the world up to it’s evils. Sally was embarrassed when she revealed to Viktor that she’d actually considered it for several hours and had only come to her senses when one of the young patients she’d recently nursed back to health shot herself in the throat, blowing off her head in front of her.
After she left the cult, she was severely depressed and sought treatment for PTSD. She’d even spent the better part of her 36th year at The Fairchild Institute. It was right after her time there that Viktor began writing and sending letters on a whim. Sally’s older sister Amanda had been pen pals with Viktor in elementary school. That was back when the schools where encouraging children to practice penmanship. Viktor was lonely and lost and the only relief he found was in writing, but the writing somehow ended up seeming empty, too, with no one to read it. He wanted it read. He didn’t care who read it, as long as it was read. If it was read, it was real. If it was real, he was real. So he dug into his safe and found the old letters from Amanda, copied down the address and sent out his first one. It was a short story he’d written about an experience he’d had at a patisserie over an almond/raspberry pastry.
Viktor never expected a response, never even believed that Amanda would still be living there, but he hoped someone would take the invitation he’d written on the envelope seriously and open it. He had written:
(or ANYONE who’s still at this address)
4953 S. Winter Ave.
West Valley, Virginia
Viktor had written three letters to this address before receiving his first response. It was a brief but tender and heart-felt letter explaining that Amanda had passed two years earlier in a car accident and that it was her sister Sally living there now, responding. Sally said that she was overwhelmed by the letters and couldn’t bring herself to write back right away, but that she felt he deserved to know that there was someone reading them and wanted to encourage him to keep writing.
Viktor teared up when he read her response and he wasn’t the crying type. In fact, his last tear fell in the 9th grade when his dog, Rover, died of old age. Viktor wrote Sally faithfully every week from then on out and at first Sally rarely responded, but eventually she began opening up to him, writing by-weekly and then weekly responses as well.
Viktor never believed in soul mates and Sally had resigned she’d die alone, but by chance or by fate, though they were miles and years apart, they found each other- came together and learned to love each other from words hand-written on a thin, blue-lined page, ink blotted incongruity sealed with saliva and carried with a stamp.