Thursday, February 20, 2014

The mail

A click. A displeased grunt. Paper shoots through metal and my mail slot spits out a mess. Thin sheets entice with cardboard meals. South Dakota return addresses announce exclusive offers. For me. How nice. I stare through the window adjacent to the mail slot and catch my reflection. If only my parents had prudently named me "Current Resident."

Rain slicks the brick walkway up to my front door. The mailman trudges onward, back to me, wearing every possible shade of blue, head trained on the wet concrete, plotting no missteps. Wind rustles leaves and rattles the tin flap over the mail slot.

I spy an error. At the intersection of brick and concrete lays a fallen solider, a single letter slipped from the carrier's satchel. It awaits help, half-consumed by a depression in the concrete where water puddles; none comes. The man is parked down the street and I hear his mail truck sputter to life and depart.

I open the door. Droplets whip sideways onto my forehead and arms. I shield my eyes with a hand and slip-slide down brick to the street. My robe and slippers are vanity, soaked sponges before I make the sidewalk. Each movement is an Olympic trial in agility to prevent disaster.

The letter is wet but not irredeemable. Water soaking through the envelope drips down my arm, under my robe, under my cuffed sleeve, under my watch. I slide the half-pulp mass under my shirt and retreat. The oil in my hair wages a losing battle and surrenders to the inevitable as chunks of itchy brown droop down my face.

Survival. Inside I peel off my clothes until only my boxers remain; the rest go in my bathtub in a pile above the drain. I watch my clothes and pretend I have contracted a nefarious melting disease where my loved ones can only gasp in horror as what's left of my life trickles down the drain.

I recover the letter, lay it on my bathroom counter, and deduce. The return address is melted by rain, but the recipient address is still visible and that of my neighbor three houses down. A Statue of Liberty "Forever" stamp peels up from the envelope, glue half-dissolved.

Inside the envelope I find one note and one mass of wet paper. The mass used to be a note, I suspect, torn to pieces, now fusing back together thanks to the rain. Thick black ink in heavy strokes bleeds away and stains my hands. I set this pile aside to dry.

The note, on the other hand, is intact if damp, a purple Post-It folded in half and scratched with thin blue think from a fast hand. I unfold and read:

"Here's your letter back. Stop writing to me. Any more and I'll go to the police."

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