Twitter. A new follower that I followed back direct messaged me and offered a free book – a romantic escape to sweep me in the world of true love. I saw Bambi when I was a kid so I didn’t reply. But the truth is, I don’t need a literary romantic escape because it sounds pathetic. I don’t believe in true love because it didn’t happen thus far and I am now too old for fairytales. So I’m not interested in romantic books in which soulmates find each other, conquer a few obstacles and live happily ever after. If I was, I wouldn’t be a cynic. Which I am.
I was just about to take a nap when he walked in. He looked tired. Not from work as usual but as if he didn’t sleep well. That’s why I need my nap – I don’t wanna look like that. Like him. He could use a proper shave, too. He looks unhappy. I wonder what’s bothering him. I probably shouldn’t because I doubt he ever wastes any time thinking about me here. Or any of us for that matter. Yeah, he’s not losing sleep over me, that’s for sure. But I can’t help but wonder. It’s my curious nature. I wonder about a lot of other stuff, too. Like why am I here? But I bet that everyone wonders about that so it’s not like I feel special over it. I like to spend time here alone. I know why he comes and what he is looking for, but he is not gonna get it. Not today. Not tomorrow. Actually, not in the near future. Enough is enough. I have a plan. I know that he is looking at me. He wonders why am I still here and how come I didn’t run away at the very sight of him. I wanted to take a nap. But he doesn’t understand that. I avoid his look. A friend of mine here – he was big and burly – he always returned his stare. He told me. Although I think the unshaven here never really stared at him at all. Glancing is not the same as staring. Has nothing to do with it really. But my burly friend had a short fuse and attacked him. I saw it happen. It was brutal. He was deemed dangerous after that and taken away. I don’t know where. I miss my burly friend. We were friends with benefits as they say. Now I get my benefits from someone else, someone I’m not very fond of but he does the job. Unshaven keeps looking. ‘You are not going to find them’, I tell him but he ignores me. I wish he would finish his little raid and leave already. I could have been fast asleep by now. I need my nap. I can barely keep my eyes open. Tomorrow I’m going into hiding. I wish I could tell him but he needs to leave me alone. He’ll probably think that I have left him for good but I’ll be back in about three weeks and he will be surprised and happy to see me, I think. Me and my little crew. He is looking in Nina’s bed. She will be pissed when I tell her. Oh, he got one. Happy now, mister I-don’t-care-how-I-look? He is looking at me. Don’t make eye contact, don’t make eye contact. He’s coming over. Don’t touch me, assface. Y’see, nothing there for you. Hey, where is that shiny yellow circle he had on his finger? His wife had one, too. I don’t wear anything like that. Actually the closest thing is this yarn that he tied around my ankle. For whatever reason. He looks old. Maybe I should show him where I put them. Cheer him up. Nah. I want baby chicks so I’m sticking to my plan. It’s not my job to make him happy. Maybe his neighbor can make him happy. His wife is always touching beaks with the neighbor. He must be a good man. Who knows. I don’t really understand anything they do, these fucking humans. And all I want is to take a nap.
(Inspired by a true story)
Marty read ‘The Post Office’ by Bukowski and decided to become a postman. He applied for the job, got a call back, passed all the tests including Exam 473. He knew he would because 473 are the last three digits of his social security number and that was surely a sign. Marty is an avid reader. As a new postman, he reads all the postcards before he places them in the mailboxes. People are skiing in Colorado, France and Switzerland and are happy about it. He would be, too. Somebody witnessed a street mugging in Mexico. Or was it New York? Marty wonders where would Bukowski go on a winter holiday. Marty is starting a book. He is going to call it ‘The Mailman’. It’s going to be about his adventures at work. He’s been at the job for a month now and has never met any of the mail recipients. Nobody is ever home when he delivers. Everybody works so no sex for Marty. His book is stuck. A postman’s job was supposed to be exciting. Where are all the women? One day he rings the bell of an apartment to deliver a small package and a man opens the door. He is Asian but Marty cannot tell the difference between Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese or Korean so he doesn’t know from where. Even the food is the same to him. He sees that the man wears a kimono.
‘Are you Japanese?’ asks Marty handing him the package.
‘Yes’, says the mail recipient in a kimono. He signs the receipt.
‘Is that a book?’ asks Marty.
‘Yes’, says the Japanese man.
‘Oh, I read a lot, too.’
‘I don’t read a lot.’
‘What book is it, if you don’t mind me asking?’
‘The Art of War.’
‘Oh, are you going to war?’ Marty’s attempt at a joke flies unnoticed by the Japanese man.
‘No, I just read’ he says.
Marty looks at his Japanese signature on the receipt sheet. It looks like a delicate piece of art surrounded by bureaucracy.
‘It’s beautiful’, says Marty. ‘Your signature is beautiful.’
‘Thank you’ says Japanese mail recipient.
A door next to his apartment opens and a young woman walks out. She says ‘hello’. The Japanese man nods. Marty says ‘hello’ back and smiles. She smiles, too. She is not pretty but Marty finds her beautiful. She lives in number 5 and nobody ever writes to her. She receives bills and advertising. Her name is Myra. Marty thinks that’s the most beautiful female name he’s ever heard. Sometimes Myra receives lingerie catalogues in the mail. Marty thinks she’s probably ordered something from them before and now they keep sending her catalogues. He wonders what she ordered.
Marty buys a book at the bookstore and mails it certified to Myra. He puts the city as the sender. He also buys a ‘thank you’ note to include and wonders what to write in it. After some thinking he writes ‘thank you for keeping the neighborhood safe’. He then wonders if that makes any sense and what is Myra doing to keep the neighborhood safe. Presumably she is not committing any crimes, so that’s her way.
The next day, the book for Myra appears in his mail batch. He rings Myra’s doorbell to deliver it. He hopes that Myra is home and is happy when she opens the door. Myra is surprised to receive a package. Marty hopes Myra will like the book. He tries to start a conversation. Like most people he mentions the weather. It’s cold. ‘It’s the end of January’ she says, ‘It’s supposed to be cold.’ She hands him back the signed confirmation. She looks at him straight but does not smile. She’s prettier when she smiles. Her lips part as she takes a breath and Marty thinks about kissing her. She says ‘bye’ and shuts the door in his face.
Marty knows all the names of all the people in the neighborhood. Myra Smith is his favorite. Today she received a new credit card offer with zero percent interest rate. She must have a good credit and Marty is glad for her. He drives his funny mail truck very slowly when he passes by Myra’s condo. He hopes to see her but it never happens. He wonders if she’s read the book.
One day Myra gets another certified package. Marty shakes it. It could be a book. Or a box of chocolate. He checks the sender’s address but it’s a PO box in the city and the sender’s name is ‘sender’. He takes the package to Myra and rings the bell. Myra opens. She wears a terrycloth robe. Marty thinks that there is some black lace peeking underneath but he cannot stare so he’s not sure. Myra also wears red lipstick and Marty watches her beautiful lips as she signs the receipt. She is not surprised like last time. She hands him back the receipt and looks him straight in the eyes. Her eyes are dark but feel like looking at the sun. He looks away.
‘Thank you’, she says softly.
‘You are welcome’. He glances at her wishing he could take her cherry lips and keep them forever.
‘It’s very cold outside’ she says.
‘It’s February. It’s supposed to be cold.’ He immediately regrets those words wishing he’d said something more friendly, more agreeable.
‘Not on Valentine’s Day’, she says.
The Japanese man hears voices outside and peeks through the fisheye. Marty is ready to leave but makes himself look at her ruby lips again. A memory for the road.
‘Would you like to come in?’ says Myra. She smiles and gently bites her lower ruby lip. Marty looks at her not pretty but so beautiful face with cherry lips. He smiles. She’s read the book. She wants her mailman.
‘Yes’ says Marty, ‘I would like that very much.’
Through the fisheye, the Japanese man watches as Marty enters and Myra shuts the door behind him. ‘That sonofabitch’, he thinks in Japanese.
Imagine the luxury of waking up at nine o’clock every morning and not be tired, rushing, running, forgetting things, running back, running forth, running out, be late, not be late, be almost late, have sore muscles, pull a muscle, step in a puddle, ruin your blue suede shoes, curse Elvis, breathe too hard, get hiccups, hiccup in the elevator when everybody else is silent, run out on the 12th floor, bump into a man, watch all your papers fly out of your hands, pick up the papers close to you, meet the eyes of the man you bumped into and realize that you are not in a romantic comedy and he is not John Cusack, say ‘it’s okay’ when he apologizes for being in your way, and ‘thank you’ when you accept the papers he gathered, half smile as you leave, gather speed as you approach your office, sit on your desk with your papers, decide to watch Grosse Point Blank again. “You are a handsome devil”. Not me. I, I wake up at six, it’s only three hours difference. Fifteen hours a working week. Sixty hours a month. Seven hundred and twenty hours a year. Roughly. If you wake up at nine, I wake up thirty days earlier than you. You, you sleep through January like a bear because your clock rings at nine. The hibernation clock. You son of a bear!