To the guy whose coloring book I borrowed 25 years ago and never gave back,
Hey man, I know we haven’t spoken or much less seen each other in the 25 years since I borrowed your My Buddy coloring book and never gave it back to you, but I just wanted you to know that I’m really, really sorry.
It may have been 1987, but that morning seems to me like it happened only yesterday. I remember it more vividly than any other event from my childhood. We were sitting around waiting on our first grade class to begin. You were flipping through the brand new coloring book that you had begged your mom to get you for weeks. You were so excited about finally getting it that you pleaded with her to let you bring it to school and show everyone. She made you promise not to let anyone else touch it, and threatened to make you sorry if you did. You were such a good friend to me that even after all of your promises to her, you reluctantly let me borrow it. I promised to give it right back, and I’ve owed you an apology for the last two and half decades for not just breaking that promise, but for betraying your trust.
A couple of minutes after you gave the book to me, my dad came into the classroom to take me away to a new school. In the confusion of things, I put the book into my bag, along with my pencils, notebooks, and the entire life that I had known up to that point. Everything was happening so fast that I honestly just forgot to give it back. It wasn’t until I got home that night that I realized that I still had your book and hadn’t even said goodbye. Now, I know it must have looked like I knew all along what was happening, but I swear to you that I had no idea that he was coming. I had never planned on our friendship to end that way. Your friendship meant more to me than any coloring book could have, even Masters of the Universe.
I want you to know that I never meant to steal from you. I had every intention of somehow tracking you down and returning it to you. I wanted to show your mother that not only were you a responsible human being, but that even at the age of six years old, you were able to choose your friends wisely. The problem, of course, was that I was also six. My vocabulary hadn’t matured to the point that I could eloquently explain to my parents why returning this coloring book was so important, so that made getting it to you extremely difficult right from the start. Years later, even after my family moved four states and eight hours away, I knew that a true friend would have found a way to get it back to you. This was in the days before Google or Facebook, so obviously I was at a technological disadvantage.
It wasn’t until I got ready to leave for college that I finally gave up hope of ever finding you again. I was heading out on my own for the first time, and my entire life seemed so uncertain. I just couldn’t bear the responsibility of that burden any longer, and I am truly sorry for giving up on you. I want you to know that even though I no longer have the book, I still often think about you, as well as the pain and hurt that I must have caused you. How hard has your life been because of me? How many relationships have you lost because of trust issues? Did you ever color anything again?
I know it’s too late now, but I need you to know that I never once colored in that book throughout all of those years. I knew that it was yours, and it was wrong of me to ever ask to borrow it. I know that now, and I’m really sorry.
Oh, but if you still want the book, I’ve found an exact, unused copy on eBay that I’ll gladly buy and send to you so that we can just forget this whole nasty business ever happened in the first place.
Steven Ricard is an aspiring grad school student who once saw Ted Turner eating at Ted’s Montana Grill. His website, www.st7n.com, consists of a list of the books that he’s read this year and not much else.