Through swinging specks of snow, I watched a man who stood at a mailbox across the street from me. His face was scarred with time, and loss, and the fading promise that the kindness of strangers would somehow save the world. I saw the flaps of his rough coat try to escape from the wind like leashed dogs. I even saw his pooling brown eyes spiral with the horror of what the mind behind them had just done.
I saw him, and my frostbitten ear catapulted into reverie. I imagined my brick-heavy boots destroying the winter pavement as I’d sprint across the street, honking trucks be damned. I heard the shrieking nylon of my winter coat colliding with his as I would hug him and say, “You meant to mail that note. You meant it. The mailbox door is closed now, just as you meant it.”
But as these things happen, my ear wafted back down to earth, and there I squinted at him from the length of a blurry city street, angry traffic wedged between us, and there he stood on the other side, his gloved hand outstretched and frosted with snow and regret, wavering in front of a blue and metal mailbox door that reverberated from a squeaky-hinge slam.
Was it an RSVP with the wrong box checked?
A nonchalant letter with a confessional P.S.?
A scrawled declaration of love, naked if not barely veiled?
Unless he was the kind of rapscallion who would plunge his hand into the murk of strangers’ envelopes, however futile the box’s inner construct would make such an attempt, I felt to my bones an endless ribbon of pity for him. I wanted to breathe clouds into his ear and tell him, “We have all had days with our hands floating in front of mailboxes, and all you can do is carry your groceries home.”
I wanted to tell him, but I’m not that kind of person, and he doesn’t seem to have that kind of ear.