Dead Letter Office
The Cover

dead Letter Office is a column of letters written by Todd Hutlock to a friend named Jimmy, who may or may not exist. The column details real-life experiences regarding work, life, and how Hutlock's obsession with music runs them both.


Happy New Year, buddy!

Anyway, to answer your questions:

I’ve known her for about eight years now, and I’ve pretty much been in love with her since that first day I saw her. I don’t know what it was, but I’ve never felt it before or since, really. There was just this instant sort of connection between us; an electricity. I’m normally pretty relaxed, if not downright aloof and formal/numb with strangers, but something about her just tipped me slightly off-center that night and I haven’t been the same since. Something about her smile and the way she moved and her eyes and her hair—it hooked me and never let go.

So we worked together for a few years and developed some sort of a bond, I think, that went beyond just mere co-worker status. (I’m sure she might describe all of this differently though, so please keep in mind that I describe this all from my point of view only, and any speculations as to what she was thinking are strictly that.) But there’s no question that there was some deep feeling between us, though I’d be hard pressed to say exactly what it was. However, through a truly staggering number of circumstances—which I’m not going to get into right here, thanks, they take roughly seven pages—we never really got together and went on a date. The closest we came was one utterly perfect Sunday afternoon when we met for coffee. I walked up and she was sitting outside with a copy of the UTNE Reader, which I still find sort of remarkable, just because I’d never actually seen a human being reading it before. Only known lots of people who said they did. Clearly, there was something more to this woman than I thought, and trust me, I already thought pretty highly of her.

Anyway, I really couldn’t tell you what we did that day, but I said at the time that it was the best Sunday I ever spent and I think I pretty much stand by that one today, all these years and many Sundays later. To paraphrase Kevin Rowland, I think the Italians have a word for it, but I don’t speak Italian.

But no, we never went out before. And strangely/painfully enough, we both ended up married to other people. And I’m relatively certain that I’m speaking for both of us here when I say that we never forgot about each other. Even when the Humidor shut down and we went our sad, separate ways and lost touch for what must have been at least a couple of years, give or take the odd awkward times I ran into her around town with her son or friends or both. And when I say we never really forgot each other, I don’t mean in a sort of a wistful, sweet little memory kind of way. I mean in a right-up-in-the-middle-of-your-brain-so-you-can’t-sleep sort of a way. She haunted me.

In retrospect, it wasn’t very fair to my actual wife. (We signed the divorce papers on December 21st, by the way, and are still great friends, no lie.)

So now, through another series of events so totally unlikely and yet somehow so undeniably right, we are together at last, and this last Tuesday we went on our very first date, after all of this time. It was sort of silly, considering we’ve been sort of hanging out for the last few months solid, but picking her up at her house and taking her to the movies was so brilliant.

Now here’s the part I need to tell you about, James.

Up until that night, I had been in her house exactly twice. Once, I didn’t even come beyond the side door. The second time, I ventured into the kitchen, but couldn’t really even bear to look at the rest of the place, lest it all not work out and I would be stuck with even more painful memories to drive me slowly insane for years to come. But this night, as it was our official first date, I went in, all the way, and took in the whole place.

It was a bit overwhelming to finally see it all, to be in her space. My mind was racing, and I was frantically taking it all in, my brain desperately clutching for something, anything to latch onto. And then, in what is playfully referred to as her future wine-drinking room, out of the corner of my eye, I saw it: her vinyl.

It wasn’t much, but more than most people have and just the fact that she had any vinyl reassured me in some small way that I had made the right choice and that this was all really meant to be. But the kicker was the LP that was facing outward from the shelf.

The Undertones. Hypnotized. Holy shit.

I don’t know what struck me so hard about it. It is just such an odd choice. I suppose it is just another one of those things that seem to constantly be popping up with us that continually reinforce that original connection on a cosmic/molecular level.

I mean, who really loves that album besides me? And I do love it. Most people I know swear by the first LP, or own one of the million comps just so they could have “Teenage Kicks” on something. Some even love those slick, soulful later albums, which to be fair are much harder to love but almost a bit of a “hipster” choice at the moment in my eyes.

But not her. She had the neglected second album, the “odd man out” of their back catalog. It would be like having one Clash album and it was Give ‘Em Enough Rope. Which, I must confess, I would find equally intriguing and totally brilliant. And perhaps she had that, too. I didn’t look at anything else.

And that cover! With the bibs and the lobsters! (I happen to know she likes lobsters, so maybe that’s got something to do with it.) But still, that’s a brilliant reason to buy it as well! I mean, it is the goofiest shot ever! What were they thinking?

Maybe there is some totally normal, unromantic reason why she has it, but I don’t think I even want to know. Just let me keep dreaming them up on my own. There are signs everywhere I look for her and I—always have been—and this was just another one of those as far as I’m concerned. My life with her is going to be totally amazing and I can hardly wait to become one of those couples that makes everyone around us sick to their stomachs. Frankly, I think we’re already at least halfway there. Hell, if you get sick reading this, you’d actually be helping my cause!

Hypnotized. God damn. Life is great sometimes.

Your man in the Midwest,

By: Todd Hutlock
Published on: 2005-01-10
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