While out in the world I am constantly seeking out details to ferry back to this little white box.
Some days are just as plain as the box itself, monochromatic and empty, and so the smallest sensation of actual life sticks out. Last Friday, a fever, riding home in a cab from work. He had attached a small plastic hose to the passenger a/c vent, and it pumped air under the divider, directly onto my naked ankle. In my hyper-sensitive state the sustained blast of air was alternatingly soothing and intensely painful.
I sank into a kind of paralyzed trance, in rhythm with the throbbing veins beneath my skin.
Other days the world is so vibrant with narrative color that I can hardly take it all in. Not if I had a tape recorder for my thoughts, or a camera for the view. And so I marvel at the human mind, and how in a life full of gadgets it is still the best recording device I’ve got so long as I make sure each aspect of the world is remarkable in its own way.
I prise away at every little detail.
A beautiful voice is emerging from the post office boxes. At first I think it might be the radio, but it slips remarkably from disco to R&B to lullaby without changing key. I don’t think digital satellite can do that.
I peer through the keyholes and tiny windows in the doors of each box to try to catch a glimpse of her. Gilt, but fading, each door is set with a key hole surrounded by a multi-pointed star, each of ten successive letters marking its points.
I don’t understand why. I still can’t see her.
A pleasant-looking woman in a Ft. Lauderdale shirt strolls in with her toddling son, adorable with untied shoes. In line behind me he too is drawn to the singing, or maybe just the gilt, and strays beneath the nylon divider to investigate.
“Get yourself back in here,” she croaks. She speaks like a bull frog, lower and more destroyed than a woman who had smoked for twice her age. She yanks him under the rope and lays a firm smack across his midsection. It reverberates across the tiled floor as he looks up at her. No tears, still quizzical.
She catches me staring, and I hold her gaze for long seconds.
The posters, I notice, are coded. A star means to leave them up indefinitely. A plus means they will expire; their shelf-life is printed below, white on black. And it isn’t just the posters – laminated mats and signs as well.
The tiny woman in front of me is trying to pick up mail in her maiden name; she drops pennies into her purse and they make a peculiar clinking sound, like the inside is made of tin. At the next window the clerk informs a man that he was lucky to receive his package, as it had no address on it.
I can’t figure it out, either.
I am at my bullet-proofed window. I think I could slip a pvc tube around the edge and spray aerosol poison into the face of my clerk. But that wouldn’t be an effective way to pick up my package. She is fussing with her watch, which is clearly two or three links too small for her wrist. Had it swollen suddenly?
There are scratches everyone on the inside of the bullet-proofed window; who is trying to escape?
The woman behind me bobs, up and down, back and forth. The stamp machine does not take dollars. There is a mural on the wall of some Midwestern settlement, and I can’t understand what it has to do with post offices or Philadelphia.
I fiddle with each tiny ball bearing that chains the pen to the bullet proof window as if they are rosary beads.
I pray: remember each detail.