riley ferver


harper lee,

sometimes i think you’re everything like i am.

i started to kill a mockingbird three times before i finished it. i do that sometimes. i wait, unintentionally, in the same way i hated act two of hamilton until last year and now it’s the only part i really listen to, now i understand that the trial on is the best part of your book, and that’s an unfair comparison because i’m guessing you don’t know what hamilton is. but you might. it came out in ’15, so not even a year until you died.

i finished your book in the purple--that part of the light where you can see the party but the party can’t see you. i finished it there, in the purple of my grandmother’s deck in december, two days until new years and breathing in the secondhand smoke of some relative’s cigarette--i’ve probably only met them twice--and trying not to shiver at the many things that night brought me; i read go set a watchman in a day the next summer in the light of my aunt b’s fifteen passenger van with children screaming around me. we were the zoo going to the zoo, we were, and harper lee, i think you would have liked us.

because i think you lived in the purple too. and maybe at some party my family dragged me to through the years, you were there. unknowing. and we stood in the purple together, and we crossed in the quietest way. and it’s a choice. you chose to stay there when you well could’ve been the richest writer in beverly hills but hell, you didn’t even live in beverly hills, you didn’t even visit. and that’s purple, where girls like us stay for a while. only your while was your life.

when i’m older, in college and then after, ma’am, i’d like to live in new york and calabasas.

scout was never sixteen. the books lapsed over that, you can tell me, or it just wasn’t interesting enough, but the thing is scout is a character. and if sixteen wasn’t written, it is simply a fact: she. was. never. sixteen. she never ever realized the way it felt to have books knocked out of your hands in hallways and sit with boys at lunch because the girls don’t like you (but they call you a whore for sitting with the guys, as if you had the choice). scout never fell in and out of love and each time thought it was endgame--don’t tell me it’s in go set a watchman, i read go set a watchman. and it wasn’t sixteen, and it couldn’t even have tried. and you were sixteen once and i know that, but i wonder sometimes how.

my birthday is october twentieth. my best friend’s november twenty-fourth. her birthday party fell exactly in the middle of those two dates last year and when i asked her about it, she shrugged. i have become a fixture at her parties. sometimes i feel bad, i’m the best friend, i should hype people up. but usually i sit by the photo props and read one of her father’s hardbacks. she doesn’t read. i’ve finished trying to make her. she read the outsiders once, but she won’t read you. i’m sorry.

she went to homecoming with a boy; he came to her party and left early, and after that she came and sat with me. she’d hung christmas lights on the ceiling in preparation the night before. in that moment, they were purple.

she said, let’s swear off boys. i told her in that moment i was talking to another, and i bet i could have kissed him that night because it’s not every day a boy gets so close to you that you can smell lifesaver mints on his breath and the expensive kind of men’s shampoo and his jacket smelled like alcohol, harper lee, but he swears he’s never drank. i’ve only drank once, a red champagne taste, and it was sweet and warm. summer and winter at the same time, but my friends didn’t believe me when i told.

i could have kissed him that night.

scout never got that. she and dill couldn’t have worked, i know, because she was a child and they were children and things don’t work that way. she was a child until she wasn’t, it came so quickly, see, but sometimes it just feels sweet and warm to be the in between; to sit in the purple and scrawl letters to dead authors on the walls, on your leg, on the back of a spare napkin and this letter has written itself to you over the course of nearly half a year so the fact that i’m only writing it down now is appalling. i was never one to hold in my words.

harper, we’re the kind of girls who do just this: we sit in black clothes in purple lights and fidget with hems on our sweaters. we live on the brink of what some suburban trophy girl might think of as her dream life, and it’s been fine getting dragged along to board meetings and parties with people i don’t know and don’t think i’ll likely ever see again. and fine, wonder if you want about why at the end of the day why i find constants in scout and you and all those teachers i treated like absolute crap and failed to realize any potential, not any at all. wonder why it is i want to leave so bad and gosh i got so mad when i read your wikipedia page that you never ever left. harper, i got so mad. you should have left.

go ahead, you and the whole rest of the town can wonder when i do.

but someday, when i drive all across the country to get to california, to get to seattle, hell, to get to new york the long way around if i so desire, i’ll stop in monroeville. and i’ll put out a camellia for you and hope to god you remember the reference. after all, it is your own.

all the best, harper lee, and in consideration of love and affection,


Riley Ferver is sixteen years old and lives by the Chesapeake Bay. She likes to seem intimidating but really just wears big hoodies and watches too much Gilmore Girls. A three time award winning playwright, she loves directing, playing guitar, singing, writing poetry, critiquing poetry, and the overpriced sushi at Harris Teeter.