Bent Words

Bent Words

February 17, 2009

I've been stalking the mail area of my apartment building for two weeks straight, checking and rechecking the area over carefully as though the mail lady had, on a whim, digressed to hiding my personal posts behind various plants or under ragged, footprint filled rugs rather than bunching up my letters into little tight balls before placing them in my mail box as usual. I've even scheduled my lunches around her arrival -- instead of punching out at noon and heading home for a half hour, I wait until about 1pm to check my mail, just in case she were to meet a delay on her route. If there's nothing obvious waiting for me, I begin to look in the less obvious places. I have inquired at the table next to my building manager's door, poked my head around corners to check the other floors for misplaced packages and I've even ever so casually sifted through the medium sized garbage can next to the main door just in case someone dared to think that my personal property wasn't much worth saving.

Alas, nothing but cigarette butts and Coors Light cans in the can...

My greatest fear in mail delivery was planted by the wrath of our resident amnesiac, Crazy Lady (I'm sure she has a more proper name but since she can't remember mine, why should I make an effort to remember hers?). She has a habit of touching things. Especially MY things. In the past, if my mailbox was overfull, if I received a package I had not yet claimed or even a UPS note declaring that I had missed a package, Crazy Lady, who resides on the first floor, felt it necessary to pick up my belongings (touching!) and bring them to my third floor door. She would then proceed to knock (touching!) for a full three minutes, giving a little pause in between each series of taps, while missing the poignancy of my rolling eyes peering at her a mere foot away through the peep hole of my door. She would sometimes forget her goal. I would hear her curses quite plainly and watch as she scratched her head in derision and then, eventually, instead of leaving the package at my door, she would replace the item at the main entrance of the building from whence it came OR she would take it with her in complete remissness and leave it for dead in her own apartment (touching! touching! touching!).


So, yes, I have been relegated to stalking my own mailbox for fear of never seeing the fruit of my labors -- my college diploma.

And today was not unlike any other day.

At about a quarter to one I announced to anyone whose idleness had not completely encumbered their hearing that I was taking lunch. A couple of heads turned up from their Facebook accounts and I noticed the eyes of my co-workers brighten as they each inquired in unison as to my destination, naturally hoping I could perform the duty of "picking a little something up" for them along the way. And though my generosity knows no bounds, though I am always willing to lend a helping hand when needed and though I am ever the shining example of--

Yeah... I said NO.

'No' today, 'no' tomorrow and 'no' for every other day that you might make the mistake of asking me to do something for you when the desire has never and most likely will never strike me into action. (I did end up getting Bill a sandwich and a Red Bull because his life is like a country song with his girlfriend walking out on him with his one-year-old daughter on his birthday and all...)

Anywho -- here's the lunchtime ritual:

Get 'home,' park in someone else's parking spot because it's closer to my door, empty contents of car (i.e. Diet Coke cans) into recycle bins, hit the abode and clean for a half hour, find my mojo away from work, make myself a sandwich which I never get around to eating so I take it with me only to be ridiculed back at the shop when I pull out my lunch after being gone for an hour... on lunch, hit the mailbox, make my exit, crank the tunes, park, resume work. Today was not unlike any other day -- I did all of these things. The only difference was in my short venture to the mail area. Today, something besides total nothingingness was there.

As I descended the stairs, I lifted my sunglasses and felt the corners of my mouth curl upward. I saw the prize at the end of the obstacle course, I could feel the soft, leathery square edges in my hands, I could see my full name written in regal serif and I could almost smell the sweet scent of success...

My diploma.

But, from the corner of my eye I could see her. Disguised as a lazy, wandering lunatic, her eyes normally just boggling about her face in a daze of blissful ignorance, she now approached with a disturbing sort of awkward intent. She clutched her building key tightly in her hand -- it proceeded her like a weapon at the ready and her once ambivalent gaze appeared to turn solid as she spotted the prized package leaning innocently against the mail room wall. I knew in my heart that each of us had the same goal in mind; to get our hands on that square package. I clambered down the steps in due haste has but God! it was like a bad dream! Despite the impending desperation, all I could do was will myself forward in the painful stillness of slow motion. Like trudging through three feet of freshly fallen snow I slowly but surely made my way down the unattended steps of my apartment building's second floor with my arms and fingertips fully extended and I saw her and she saw me and we both saw the package and I was almost there and when I was just about to reach the package in due time with her stride, I suddenly realized that Crazy Lady has a very oppressive limp.

Though she was a mere five feet away from my mail, there was no way she could have reached it before my nimble legs.

I winced with realization, straightened my posture at the last step and dropped my keys at the threshold of the main entrance. Bending down to pick them up, I also noticed my shoe untied and sought to carefully rectify the situation. Meanwhile, Crazy Lady opened the front door, stooped down despite her load of groceries and picked up my Carroll College legal-sized envelope. She scanned the name, looked up at me in confusion and asked,

"Who's Laura Elaine Johnson?"

I smiled, holding out my hand,

"Ah, yeah, that's me."

Written at 10:43 p.m.