Exploring foldable words

Foldable Words

Packing up the household for a recent move, I was delving into shoeboxes, photo albums, and file folders that had not been opened in decades. One of my discoveries, found in an envelope at the back of a file drawer, was the paper sleeve from a drinking straw, imprinted with a saccharine message:


This flimsy slip of paper seems like an odd scrap to preserve for the ages, but when I pulled it out of the envelope, I knew instantly where it came from and why I had saved it.

The year was 1967. I was 17 then; I’m 71 now. Transposing those two digits takes just a flick of the fingertips. I can blithely skip back and forth from one prime number to the other. But the span of lived time between 1967 and 2021 is a chasm I cannot so easily leap across. At 17 I was in a great hurry to grow up, but I couldn’t see as far as 71; I didn’t even try. Going the other way—revisiting the mental and emotional life of an adolescent boy—is also a journey deep into alien territory. But the straw wrapper helps—it’s a Proustian aide memoire .

In the spring of 1967 I had a girlfriend, Lynn. After school we would meet at the Maple Diner, where the booths had red leatherette upholstery and formica tabletops with a boomerang motif. We’d order two Cokes and a plate of french fries to share. The waitress liked us; she’d make sure we had a full bottle of ketchup. I mention the ketchup because it was a token of our progress toward intimacy. On our first dates Lynn had put only a dainty dab on her fries, but by April we were comfortable enough to reveal our true appetites.

One afternoon I noticed she was fiddling intently with the wrapper from her straw, folding and refolding. I had no idea what she was up to. A teeny paper airplane she would sail over my head? When she finished, she pushed her creation across the table:


What a wallop there was in that little wad of paper. At that point in our romance, the words had not yet been spoken aloud.

How did I respond to Lynn’s folded declaration? I can’t remember; the words are lost. But evidently I got through that awkward moment without doing any permanent damage. A year later Lynn and I were married.

Today, at 71, with the preserved artifact in front of me, my chief regret is that I failed to take up the challenge implicit in the word game Lynn had invented. Why didn’t I craft a reply by folding my own straw wrapper? There are quite a few messages I could have extracted by strategic deletions from “It’s a pleasure to serve you.”

i tsap l easuret o ser veyou ==> I love you.

i tsa pleas ur e toserve you ==> I please you.

it sapl eas ur e toserve you ==> I tease you.

i tsa pleasure toserve you ==> I pleasure you.

i tsa p l e a s ure t os er ve you ==> I pester you.

i tsa p l e asur e toser veyou ==> I peeve you.

i t sa p l eas u re t os e rve you ==> I salute you.

i tsap lea suretoser veyou ==> I leave you.

Not all of those statements would have been suited to the occasion of our rendezvous at the Maple Diner, but over the course of our years together—17 years, as it turned out—there came a moment for each of them…


1 point

2 Points

^^ Post useless without pics!

1 point