(This one continues the post below, which explains the concept and gives you number 10-6. If you're just dropping in, I suggest you read "It's the Little Things" first.)
5. Writing a letter to the friend of a friend. A boy (let’s call him College Friend) fell in love with me, and as such things go, I was in love with someone else who didn’t love me. College is complicated like that. So College Friend began to exhibit strange and self-destructive behavior. He’s the only guy I’ve ever known who was a bulimic. He constantly praised the virtues of his Hometown Friend, so I thought that maybe someone who knew him better might be able to have a talk with him and help him get his head screwed back on straight. (Those who know me from this period know that I have omitted the story of my own Great Depression, which was not a small little thing, but a steel-edged speed-freaky time out of which I was just emerging…anyhow, I knew the power of sane friends.) And so on a pretense, I got Hometown Friend’s address and wrote the most awkward letter I’d ever penned. How do you tell someone that his best friend is killing himself very slowly and maybe he could do something? Please? I didn’t expect much of a response, but I felt I had done what was right. I was surprised when I got a return letter the next day, articulate and anxious for College Friend’s welfare. That correspondence, starting as two people with nothing in common but the mutual concern for a third person, blossomed. I met Hometown Friend, who didn’t like me because I was too punk. (Maybe it was the blue hair.) We continued to write. We met again and this time, there was a celestial click. We dated, we became lovers, we lived together, we contemplated marriage. We were romantically involved for almost a decade and remain close friends. And we continue to write each other at least every couple of days. What happened to College Friend, the one who loved me enough to make himself vomit after each meal we shared? He disowned both of us, gained valuable sexual experience with my roommate, formed a band, and wrote a lot of fast, bitter three-chord songs – but at least he stopped puking. Mission accomplished.