Melany Perez

If you wanted to find me on campus you could probably follow the origami paper boat trail I leave behind, somewhat of a Hansel and Gretel-like situation. I fold paper boats from whatever’s foldable, like dining hall napkins, a scrap torn from my notebook’s last page or a persistent post-it note on my desk that has been trying to remind me to send that email for the past month. Other times, I just fold pieces of paper that have my wild thoughts scribbled on them. 

Throughout this past week, I’ve encountered the question, “Why a paper boat?” more times than I can count. I suppose it’s only fair to ask myself the same question: why do I write on little pieces of paper and fold them into paper boats? I guess, the adorable tiny paper vessels that I fold are not merely aesthetic, I fold them around my thoughts, my frustrations, my yearnings. Unsent letters, that’s what they are. Letters to people, to things, to the ideas that pop into my mind at the most inconvenient moments.

Just the other day, I penned one for my stubborn problem set. I told it, very clearly, that there was absolutely no reason for it to be as long and tiresome as it was. It was my way of saying, “Hey, can you be less of a headache?” Instead of being overwhelmed, I simply put all my frustration onto a torn out notebook page, a much better alternative to ending the night in the library with an incomplete problem set.

Then there was the time when I felt compelled to write to the mozzarella sticks in the TD buttery. Yes, you read that right — the mozzarella sticks. And yep, from the TD buttery. I made sure they knew how much I appreciated their crispy, cheesy goodness. Their delightful crunch put a twist to an otherwise extremely “meh” day. Of course, I couldn’t leave out the fryer that gave birth to those golden delights, so it received its own letter as well.

Sometimes, when I’m not lost in the joy of munching on mozzarella sticks, I turn my thoughts inward and write to my younger self. I get to be kinder to myself than I can be when I’m in the moment. It’s as if I’m sending warm hugs back in time, a time-traveling pat in the back to my former self.

I only have one rule with these unsent letters — I never go back and read them. They’re like tiny time capsules, carrying my emotions and thoughts away from me. Their purpose is not to be read but to serve as vessels for my unspoken words, floating away into the unknown.

Last night, I wrote the things I couldn’t bring myself to say in person. My letter was to an old friend. The unsent letter, in a way, was a reminder of how I had confided in them about my perpetual role as the second choice. As life’s unpredictable path validated my words, making it clear they would have consistently preferred another, I just put this cruel twist of life between the crests of a post-it note.

As I watch all these unsent letters float away, making their short-lived journey on the surface and carrying my thoughts with them, I think that as long as there are physics problem sets to conquer, mozzarella sticks to savor, and unspoken words to share, I’ll keep folding my life into those tiny paper boats. I will always set them adrift on the water, and find a light-hearted escape in the magic of unsent letters.