Monday, Feb. 17, 2003, 1:22 AM

The unexamined love is not worth living

I have a box of letters from old lovers. Actual letters. Not printouts of emails. No, I have the real deal written by hand in pen and pencil in print and cursive lettering. Sometimes with drawings or doodles or clippings of some sort included. These are little time capsules full of feeling and pain and happiness and love. And they are all written to me. It is much more fulfilling to go through a stack of envelopes, take out the letters, unfold them and

I can't accurately describe it tonight. I can't explain how it is different and better than leafing through emails. How it contains more love and passion. How each cursive stroke is imbued with desire or pain. The way it feels to hold it in your hand and know that some person, some lover took the time to write to you and you alone. Took the time to address the envelope and send it on its way to your mailbox. The words fail me. I am sorry, this will have to wait.

I had a conversation with a friend today. A college friend with whom I had lost touch. A fellow Humanities major, a friend at arms and a flame who burned bright in my life. I unfortunately never had, or took, the opportunity to get burned by that flame. Ours was the intense relationship of innuendo, language, locked gazes across crowded rooms and always managing to keep one or the other of us immersed in a relationship that acted as a hindrance to our passion. I was oft given to thoughts of an impure nature, but we each had too strong a sense of morality to succumb to desire. Alas, college came to pass and our time together with it. The friendship was strong after college and I was in attendance at her wedding and letters, like those mentioned earlier, were exchanged.

The infatuation remains. It always remains. A creative mind can be your own worst enemy. In my mind we have embarked upon all manner of encounter, have indulged in every indiscretion and have intimate carnal knowledge of the other. Thin limbs writhing in a heap on the floor, or in a car, or against a wall or silently in the room while current lovers slept within easy earshot. In dreams and in waking fantasies these acts have been played out. And I wonder if ever the opportunity really arose, if ever the time was right or our moral character wrong, if ever the fates intervened and the planets aligned and the fabric of possibilities were the covers that hid us from view would it be as good? Could we know each other in the Shakespearean sense of the word? Sure we could, but would we? Will we? Sigh.

I think it must be this way for other people. The tension and possibilities, like the thrill of the chase, are the things that drive desire and satisfy like no other. The only way anticipation can ever be diminished or spoiled is in acquisition. Was the Apple of Knowledge really worth the price?

You bet it was.