Boîte aux lettres

He made his way up the steps slowly. By this point he was drunk; the sweat and humidity had reduced his shirt to a wet washcloth. After a considerable amount of effort, he managed to find his mailbox key and steal away into the alcove of the apartment building allotted for mailboxes. The night was alive with the cries and pleas of crickets, but he paid them no attention. His purpose was singular.

‘So long ago now. There’s no way. The way she looked in Galveston; the mayflies dancing where the red lines met the sea in glow. Prague, of all places. The postage would be expensive. She could have emailed me. She didn’t. It won’t be there.’ His thoughts were a maze and he was trapped in them.

The key slipped loosely into the lock — a lock too often abused in its dutiful service to this tenant and many tenants before. It was all the same to the key lock, all relative. It gazed upon him with cool indifference. With a faint click it acknowledged the keeper of its key, and yielded to the turning, unsteady, and uneven motion of his wrist. There in a yellowed envelope sat a letter — its neatness and perpendicular relationship to the sides of the mailbox suggested a postal employee with either immense pride in his labors or a manic attention to detail.

He ripped the letter open by prying his finger into the crevasse on the far right corner where an errant tongue had neglected the glue. His vision blurred, he read snippets of the letter and snippets of the snippets again. After an eternity entertaining the man’s pleading gazes, the letter’s essence revealed itself.

“Not coming back.”

The thin aluminum walls of the postal box clicked shut once more and the lock turned back over to its state of rest. There it remained long after the man crumpled the letter and walked away. There it would linger.

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