Monday, April 18, 2005

Pick-Up at the Post Office, or Some Doors Are Better Left

LAST THURSDAY AT THE GLENRIDGE POST OFFICE, I stood 7th-or-so in line waiting for an important package. The package would be my second correspondence packet from Anne Waldman, my mentor in the NEC MFA in Poetry Program this semester. This month's packet: The Booklength Poem. I was in line because the Priority Mail envelope - though decidedly not booklength - would have been too large to fit in my matchbox-sized P.O. Box.

But the 1st packet's size didn't stop the Post Office from stuffing it into my box after it disappeared for no less than nine days in its bureaucratic blizzard of boxes, postcards, and envelopes. Countless phone calls -"Are you sure you didn't pick it up, sir? We show it was received" and "It must be here somewhere. What was your name again?" - and numerous in-person visits put me on a not-too-friendly first-face basis with the entire Glenridge staff.

But that's another story. Today, I was here, 7th in line, to pick up my packet.

As I waited, noticing the new Marian Anderson stamp and contemplating naughty uses for bubblewrap, she tapped me on the shoulder.

"Are you here to pick up a package?"

Did I make that much of a scene last month that they're sending agents out to intercept me before I reach the counter?

It took me a second to emerge from my bubblewrap fantasy and realize that the postal clerk had not in fact singled me out, but instead was just making her way down the line.

"Yes, actually I am picking up a package." I handed her my driver's license.

"M_rv_n? M_rv_n H__th?" the young woman stammered with moon-sized eyes, as if she had discovered a lost star. Though I have developed a little notoriety as a writer, I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, famous. It was a little unnerving.

"Yes?" I said.

"You don't remember me?"

Oh no.

In truth, I had no idea who the woman was. Some drunken fling? If that was the case and I said I didn't know her, I was one syllable away from getting slapped.

Cain't a brother just pick up a package in peace?

Before I could say no:

"_e_ia... I'm _e_ia __llia__s' sister. You don't remember me?"

I scanned the database which, here on the other side of 30, is getting muddier and muddier by the day.

First, _e_ia __llia__:

Your Junior Prom date.

Next, her sister:

Did _e_ia have a baby sister? Who was this woman claiming to know your high school prom date? Was she a stalker?

I decided to go along for the ride.

"Oh, now I remember," I lied.

"I can't believe it's you. Don't just stand there. Gimme a hug!"

Before I knew it, her arms were around me.

"How's your brother doing?"

Ah, now it finally clicked. Though I couldn't recall her name, I now remembered that this woman had a HUGE crush on my baby brother. They were in the same grade. Which meant the last time I saw her, she would have been 11!

And she had the nerve to ask if I remembered her...

"Oh, he's doing well. He an engineer and lives in ____ia."

"My sister's not gonna believe I saw you." She beamed. "Let me go get your package." She scurried off.


The clerk returned with my package: Anne Waldman. I couldn't wait to tear into it.

"Well, it was good seeing you," I said. "How's your sister doing?"

"Oh, she works in Ohio for ___or & _a__le. She's doing good. I'll tell her you asked about her. I can't wait to tell her I saw you."

Then came the awkward moment. Would I keep in touch? I looked beyond the swinging door.

"Take care," I said.

"Oh, you, too," she said.

And, I exited without another word - without taking her name - and closed the door behind me.


Anonymous said...

Ayo, you need a CARD to pass out at such times! If you're too bashful to claim "writer" as the occupation line, put "raconteur" on it and leave 'em wondering...You are too funny, my friend.

junior said...

You don't need to keep in touch...L_s_a is married anyway. We need to make you the chairman of the 20th reunion. Damn...only 7 years away...damn we gettin old.

Anonymous said...

Umm, I want to know more about your "bubblewrap fantasy".