ESCRITORIO PÚBLICO PARA PATITO FEO
The escritorio público is a public letter-writing desk most often set up on sidewalks, though sometimes invited into museums, galleries and other cultural spaces. The escritorio usually consists of a folding table made by the man who built my house in 1920, on which I set up my grandmother’s Olivetti Lettera 22 typewriter, writing paper and envelopes. I type letters in either Spanish or English for passers-by, charging $2 for a letter, $3 for a love letter and $5 for an illicit love letter. While I type I wear a skirt suit designed and sewn by my sister which fits me perfectly though she never took any measurements as she was making it. The cat-eye glasses frames I use are from the Óptica Universitaria in Mexico City, which carried glasses frames from the 1950s and 1960s that were salvaged from a warehouse fire decades ago: the shop closed its doors some years back, after selling out its entire stock.
For this enactment of the escritorio público, I used a borrowed typewriter, a small card table, my usual get-up and glasses, and a different pricing scale as I was typing to benefit Ugly Duckling Presse. I typed for approximately 3 hours and wrote 9 letters of varying lengths and had many conversations with friends and strangers and was warmly interrupted by amicable visitors countless times. Among other missives, I wrote an illicit love letter in florid 19th-century-esque language, a blessing for a new apartment, a birthday letter, two letters to future and present selves, and a letter to an 8-year-old friend promising not to use so many bad words in front of him in the future, and gently explaining that some adult situations require strong language.
Letters are a slow and deliberate and thoughtful form of communication. Over the years I’ve been writing at my escritorio público, I have written enticing letters of invitation, notes of apology for late payment of fees to the DMV, graduate school letters of recommendation, entreaties to ex-wives to come home, vitriolic rants to ex-wives, letters to the Parole Board requesting that a dying man be given parole to live with his brother, birthday greetings to dogs and people, love letters to people to whom the sender has never confessed her or his affections, love letters to partners of many years, love letters to dead men, love letters to future selves, love letters to unborn babies, and innumerable other kinds of missives. I will write any letter you desire, address the envelope and affix the stamp: the sender must seal the envelope and mail the missive, for these are and are not my letters, and they are not mine to send.