September 25, 2009

The Mailman

At the age of 6 I became obsessed with our mailman.

He was a tall, gray-haired man with kind eyes and—looking back—was likely on the verge of retirement. I decided I liked him immensely because he reminded me of my grandpa. I wanted desperately for him to be my friend and possibly my new grandparent, but he wanted very little to do with me.

I began by waiting for him on the front porch every day. Around 11am he trekked through our yard littered with my Big Wheel and naked Barbies in various positions of fornication. I felt slight embarrassment over the Barbies in the 69 position on the second step, and self-consciously kicked them into the bushes as he approached. He handed me our stack of mail and I beamed and gave him the most polite “Thank you” I could muster. “You’re welcome,” he said simply, and headed toward the next house. Soon this daily ritual became unsatisfying.

I noted that he started his route each morning by getting the mail out of the big blue post office mailbox on the corner, so the next time he arrived I was waiting on top with my legs sprawled on either side of the little door. “Good morning,” he said, as he bent down to unlock the front and retrieve the letters and cards inside.

“Good morning,” I chirped in a sing-song voice, packing all the love and affection into my greeting that I could.

Now we were finally getting somewhere. Soon I would be perched on his lap as he told me stories of his childhood. His wife would be inside baking cookies, and I would be invited to stay in the spare bedroom they had set up just in case a nice little girl came to live with them.

He placed the mail in his truck and hoisted his bag onto his shoulder. I hopped down off the mailbox and began to follow him, sure that my companionship would soften him up. I lagged about 10 feet behind, and waited politely in the yard as he went from stoop to stoop placing letters in the box. Occasionally I would run up behind him and sniff his blue shirt, curious as to whether he smelled of Juicy Fruit gum as my grandpa did. When he paused to sort through the letters in his bag I would surreptitiously pick my nose as I waited patiently and watched him. He eyed me warily and continued along his route. I wasn’t allowed to wander more than a few houses away, so at the Westfall’s place I would wave and holler after him, “Goodbye! I’ll see you tomorrow!” He never answered and never turned back.

One day I was later than usual coming outside, and—to my joy—discovered that he was eating lunch inside of his mail truck down the street. I trotted over to the window and knocked on it. He glanced up at me and then went back to the bologna sandwich and the newspaper he was reading. To entertain him I did cartwheels, jumping jacks, and Pop Warner cheers on the sidewalk next to his truck. I never saw him look up once.

I couldn’t understand it. I was trying as hard as I could and he wasn’t interested in taking me home with him. Why couldn’t he see that I could fill the empty space in his life? In anger and frustration, I wiped a booger on his window and stomped off dramatically. I would have to think carefully about my next step.

On a night when my stepfather was on a particularly cruel rampage, I curled in the corner of my bedroom and tried to think of a way out. I needed someone to take me where no one could find me. Suddenly I knew that the mailman could help me; I just had to make him understand the urgency of my situation.

The next morning I climbed out of bed and tore a page out of my Wonder Woman coloring book. With red crayon, I carefully printed the words, “Mailman, Help me get out. Please. Love, Amie.” I tip-toed out of the house and anxiously waited on the front porch for his arrival. He just had to help me, and I began to cry as I imagined the relief I would feel once I arrived safely at his house.

Like clockwork he arrived with his mailbag, and I thrust my letter into his hand. He looked down at it and frowned. I sniffed and wiped my nose on the back of my shirt, looking at him expectantly. I imagined being whisked away in his mail truck amidst the Publisher’s Clearinghouse winner notifications and the Hills department store sales flyers. He cleared his throat and handed my note back along with a small stack of junk mail. As he turned his back and walked down the steps, I sat down where I was standing and started to cry.

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