The ToB, presented by Field Notes, is live!

It's the 2023 Tournament of Books, presented by Field Notes! Yay! It’s time to Rooster!


Post-Traumatic Postcards

Apologizing for the mistakes you’ve made isn’t easy, unless you limit yourself to a paragraph. LESLIE HARPOLD keeps the sorries short and sweet, even when the regrets are long-lasting.

Dear Chris W.

You came up to me in the bar the night we met in 1991 and introduced yourself by saying, ‘Whitney tells me you’re my soul mate.’ Somehow I thought saying yes would be too freaky, so I said ‘She says a lot of things.’ I meant ‘Of course I am.’ I’m not really sure you were or are my soul mate, but I can tell you it would have been interesting to see where the conversation went.

Where are you now?

* * *

Dear Hilton Hotels:

Sorry I stole those ashtrays from your rooms. I’m not giving them back, but I do feel sorry. I won’t do it anymore.


* * *

Dear Sharie L.,

I have no idea why you took the fall for me in 10th grade, but I really appreciate it. Why did we think it was a good idea to put rum in vanilla bottles and take them to school so we could drink at lunch? We weren’t big fans of high school, were we? I think the rum was to help deaden the pain on the days high school wasn’t big fans of us. Still, we turned out okay in spite of everyone’s predictions.

Girls still wanna rock,

* * *

Dear James,

Why couldn’t you be more like Johnny Knoxville? The Bad Boy Mom always warned me about who, in spite of all predictions to the contrary, became a famous millionaire, and creative genius? Instead, you’re the Bad Boy who Mom always warned me about who never was supposed to amount to anything and didn’t. Drill press operator is a noble profession, but since I know you really wanted to be a painter and see the world, it’s hard knowing you’ve only made it as far as, but probably not even across the Mississippi.

Crime Doesn’t Pay,

* * *

Dear Every Boss I’ve Ever Had:

I can’t think of one conference call that ever made anything better.

Hold Please,

* * *

Dear Bobert,

I’m sorry we lost touch, it was my fault, I accidentally threw away the last letter you sent with your new address, and I never even tried to write the old one in case there was a forwarding. Please write me again and tell me, quite literally, everything you’ve done and thought since we were 19. I’m sorry to use our playground nicknames, coined when we were just eight years old, but I want you to be sure it’s really me. I have a feeling you’re still the kindest, smartest, and funniest person I’ve ever met, and I haven’t talked to you in almost twenty years. I want to know you didn’t change that part of who you were. You looked just like Opie when you were a young kid, do you look like Ron Howard now?


* * *

Dear Major League Baseball:

Once I accidentally rebroadcast part of a game without your permission. It was only 15 seconds, and it was college radio, so please don’t sue me.


* * *

Dear Ken F.

I didn’t realize you were asking me out until I recounted the story to five of my closest acquaintances and they all tried to hit me in the head. I’d like to revise the answer to ‘Call me next time your friend has a party,’ or even better if, like today, I’m feeling very brave, ‘Why wait for her to have a party? Let’s do something this weekend.’ I had such a crippling crush on you through that project I could barely think, and any talking I did I’d like to take back, as I was exerting a Herculean effort to get any words out. I have no idea what words came out, but I’m sure they were all wrong. I know we are both in our thirties, but how do you feel about a do-over?


* * *

Dear M.

I can’t wait until you’re married so I can tell you I love you, and not worry you’ll take it the wrong way. It’s a shame being a grownup is so complex we can’t be kind to one another without fearing the repercussions.

xo, L.


TMN Contributing Writer Leslie Harpold was a pioneer in web design and online publishing. At the time of her death in 2006, she lived in Grosse Pointe, Mich., where she was working on a novel and “dreaming alternately of an über-urban or ultra-rural future, as she is not one to do things by halves.” More by Leslie Harpold