Last night, while searching for college transcripts (long story), I found a stack of The Ex’s love letters to me, tucked away in my grandmother’s desk.

He wrote copiously in those days, scrawling whatever came to mind on any available scrap of paper.  His letters were not mushy or treacly, but they rang with honest sincerity.  He spoke of our bond growing ever stronger, of the future he envisioned, of how he loved me.  He even wrote poetry; re-reading his work, I’m surprised at how good it was.

But with the clarity of hindsight, it’s obvious what was missing from his writing: passion and desire.   His letters and his poems sweetly and lovingly described our journey together…and of his hope for greater discoveries.  He sensed, even then, that there could be more.  He believed he would eventually find completion with me, for he loved me with all he had at the time; he ascribed his lack of experience to our missing smolder.

Twenty years later, we’ve learned that, while love is a good starting foundation, without that spark, it’s almost impossible to sustain a marriage over the long term.  And so, while our love remains in the form of a solid friendship, the search for passion and desire continues for both of us.

So many years of rejection and disappointment left me convinced that The Ex’s bitter accusations as our relationship died were true: I was a cold, frigid, passionless bitch that no man could possibly want.  And so, when post-divorce affair penned his passionate pleas, including richly romantic poetry, I fell willingly into his arms, because overriding rationality and sanity was this thought: Someone wants me.

Afterwards, as I recovered from losing his love and interest, a well-meaning friend pointed out the obvious: I was in love with love and not necessarily with the man.  I didn’t believe her at the time, but I now realize she almost had it right: I was in love with being loved.  I loved the man for loving me, for sensing something desirable in me.  I chose to trust his words, for they were so very eloquent, even though I couldn’t quite trust his actions.

It’s too soon to analyze my latest romance dispassionately, but it, too, blossomed, in part, because of heartfelt messages laden with need and desire.  I loved my love’s writing, for it was like him: direct, honest, true, sincere, imbued with his own passion.  I’ve saved every perfect email message – more than 800 – but as of yet, I cannot bear to re-read any of them.

I do, however, read his one handwritten letter, written after we said farewell, over and over again.  I run my fingers along the sharp indentations of his pen strokes and examine the changes in his penmanship, imagining these as the moments in which he stopped to reflect upon his next line.  I’m sure he wrote cautiously and carefully, attempting to convey love but finality, too.  And I sometimes wonder what a fully-realized, handwritten love letter from him – one that didn’t speak only in past tenses, one that celebrated our present while dreaming of our shared future – might have been like to hold, touch, read, savor.

I will never know.  But I know how I would respond, for I write to him regularly during my 2 a.m. witching hour, infusing my letters with everything that’s in my heart: how I miss him, need him, want him, love him.  My words aren’t necessarily sad, just replete with my yearnings and, I admit, my intense physical hunger for him.

After I pour out my longings, I tear up my letter and return to my bed.  Alone, awake and filled with rampant desire, many more words…seeds for the next letter…already begin tumbling about in my heated thoughts.