Falling in Love via Hand-Written Letters & Mixed Tapes

I met Peter on a plane going from London to New York City in November 1998. I was in an aisle seat, Peter was to my right in the middle seat and his buddy was in the window seat. I was living in London on my way to NYC to meet my then-beau with whom I’d met going from Amsterdam to Brussels that summer (that Europass was totally worth it! And wow, the memory of Amsterdam and Brussels is good!) 

Peter was not immediately exciting to me on that plane ride physically but we had a nice energy between us and spoke the entire trip. I mean, to me he dressed like a total slob with torn jeans, a ripped up t-shirt and a flannel - an indie dude in the late 90’s. You get the picture.

And because I was so thrilled to be going to NYC for my first time (and able to shop at an Old Navy - seriously!), I didn’t “notice” Peter until way later.

But we exchanged contact information before landing at JFK - which back then was our home addresses.

After that magical trip to NYC where I bought as much Old Navy as I could and was overtaken by NYC in general (also I was in the very beginning phase of an obsession with Frank Sinatra because he had died earlier that year and I was catching up on his music and NYC heightened it), I went back to the UK. 

Immediately, Peter and I became pen pals relying on the written word across the pond to get our messages across. And within the first few letters I forgot what he looked like and fell in love with his prose. 

I found myself just wanting to write him letters all day and night. I’d wake and immediately go to a cafe to smoke cigarettes, drink coffee and write him probably the silliest of letters about me and my life. And felt that each of my letters was being waited on and read with the warmest of love and affection, too. At the time, I worked at the Rainforest Cafe on Shaftesbury Avenue in the West End of London - in the thick of energy - but always ran home after work to see if a letter arrived with a little bit of anxiety and hope! That was so much fun!

Dan and I at the tip of Lower Manhattan in Battery Park looking out to the Statue of Liberty.

Dan and I at the tip of Lower Manhattan in Battery Park looking out to the Statue of Liberty.

Peter’s profile on the beach.

Peter’s profile on the beach.

And then he started making mixed tapes for me and it was over because I had no way to stop falling in love with this. The music he sent just blew my mind. I always really enjoyed independent music but had no real way to get access to it. It’s like in order for you to become fluent in a new language, you need to date a person who speaks it and then you become fluent in it as well over time.

And that’s the point I wasn’t able to turn back. 

I had only the memory of his face from that flight - I couldn’t remember what he looked like - but it didn’t matter anymore because I was going to love him no matter what. 

I fell in love with Peter basically with the “Heart Cooks Brain” song by Modest Mouse. A very fitting song. 

Around this time I realized that my then-beau and I were not gonna make it together. I had no desire to move to Long Island and so that was that. Sorry, Dan!

In Spring 1999, I moved back to Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada (where I’m from) and tried to figure out my next steps. But not before falling into a deep sadness after living in London for over 2 years!  {Talk about a tough transition! Just the month before I was sitting at the piano at the home of one of Elton John’s back-up musician’s singing with wine and seeing Ewan MacGregor on stage in the West End! Amaze!!}

By then we incorporated speaking on the phone but we both wanted to see each other again so I came down to DC that spring 1999. I knew during that trip I would move down here but didn’t know how. I knew I didn’t want to marry to move here, too.  

So we left it for the time being and I moved out East to just outside of Toronto with my friend Marissa and stayed with her and her flight attendant roommates for four months. Eventually I figured I would find a way to stay in the states and just moved down to Washington, DC with a one-way ticket from Canadian Airlines friend and $50 Canadian cash in my pocket.

Sometimes you just do what you need to do for love and it works. Well, it worked for three years and it was a fun ride while it was happening and thus began my time in America.


Jessica Sandhu