A love pressed be­tween the pages

The Hamilton Spectator - - FRONT PAGE - JEFF MA­HONEY

Like the good Hibernophile he is, Mike Cun­liffe has a nat­u­ral taste for quin­tes­sen­tial Ir­ish au­thor Roddy Doyle.

You know, the one who wrote such clas­sics as “The Com­mit­ments” (if you haven’t read it, maybe you’ve seen the movie) and “Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha” (for which Doyle won the Booker Prize).

So when Mike found a hardcover copy of Doyle’s “The Bar­ry­town Tril­ogy” in mint con­di­tion at the Value Vil­lage at Queen­ston Road and Cen­ten­nial Park­way, he snatched it up. It was only $5.99.

Tril­ogy. That’s three sto­ries, right?

Well, to his sur­prise, Mike got a

fourth out of the deal. Value Added Vil­lage.

As he leafed through the pages be­fore tak­ing it to the cashier, some­thing fell out.

A piece of pa­per, folded in half. He put it back in the book and made a men­tal note to see what was on it, once he got back to the car.

“Usu­ally I go on se­niors Tues­day,” says Mike. But it was a Wed­nes­day and he went shop­ping on a whim with a col­league at the Hamil­ton Chil­dren’s Aid So­ci­ety, where he works, on their lunch hour.

Back in the car, Mike un­folded the pa­per. The pa­per had fallen out of the book, and now out of the fold of the pa­per spilled some­thing else, a dried red rose, the pa­per and rose hav­ing been pressed be­tween the pages ... for how long?

The an­swer stood at the top of the now un­folded piece of pa­per. June 2, 1994.

Mike read the writ­ing on the pa­per to his col­league. A love let­ter. It be­gins, “My love, With this rose I pro­fess my undy­ing love for you.” Al­ways lead with the heart.

It is writ­ten, in a neat and grace­ful hand, in red ink. This, of course, was be­fore tex­ting.

It goes on. “I have been do­ing some se­ri­ous think­ing about where our re­la­tion­ship is head­ing. I want noth­ing but the best for both you and my­self.

“If you could fathom how much you have changed me and made me happy, then you would prob­a­bly be able to un­der­stand why I love you so and never want to let you go. This is self­ish, I know, but I can­not but help feel­ing this way. When­ever you are ready, I would be hon­oured and so happy to spend the rest of my life with you. I love you with all my heart.”

It is signed, sim­ply, Bill, fol­lowed by eight Xs and eight Os, al­ter­nat­ing.

Mike, says, “Af­ter I read it, she (his co-worker) said, ‘Oh, you’ve gotta find out.’” So he called me up. “We couldn’t stop won­der­ing,” says Mike.

Did the book be­long to Bill? Did he write the let­ter, then lose nerve, per­haps sav­ing it in the book for a day when he had worked up the courage to send it?

Or did Bill de­liver the let­ter to its in­tended reader who then, priz­ing it and mean­ing to guard its pri­vate na­ture from the eyes of oth­ers, stashed the trea­sure in the se­cret and pro­tec­tive cham­ber of a book’s mid­dle pages, only to, many years later, for­get it was there and bring the vol­ume to Value Vil­lage?

Mike’s in­trigued by the sen­tence, “This is self­ish, I know ...” “What does he mean?” As I write this I won­der, was Bill’s beloved about to pur­sue a job or other op­por­tu­nity far away; was this his grasp­ing last ditch ef­fort? Is that what he means by “self­ish?” Or per­haps some­thing for­bid­den?

We might never learn. Or maybe some­one’s out there. Bill? Bill’s beloved? Any­one for whom this rings a bell? Please let me know.

Maybe we can have a fol­lowup by Valen­tine’s Day. Or maybe the tril­ogy’s “fourth story” will re­main pressed for­ever in the un­open­able pages of its own mys­tery.

“I’m a romantic,” Mike says, with his broad Gaelic smile. “I want happy end­ings. I like to think they got to­gether.”

CATHIE COW­ARD, THE HAMIL­TON SPEC­TA­TOR

Mike Cun­liffe found a love let­ter and a pressed rose in­side a copy of “The Bar­ry­town Tril­ogy” he pur­chased at Value Vil­lage. He’d love to know who wrote and re­ceived them.

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