The scene was the public post office of the small village of Rowley and the time was late afternoon. It was Wednesday, November 7, 1990, the day after the elections.
The man had briefly noticed the familiar car or the vehicle resemblance to her car as he had slowed down to turn into the parking lot. As he had gotten out of his car he had made the decision to wear his old weather beaten deer stocker. So what if it was worn out? His seven year old Woolwich jacket was also quite dirty around the collar and hood. The man was not taking good care of himself anymore. His trousers were not freshly pressed. It was if he had given up on that aspect of his life.
He approached his post office box at the rear of the room. The mail inside was not well organized. He had to reach into the box three or four times to remove it. This resulted in a rather disorganized pile in his arms. As he returned to the table, he noticed the postal clerk escorting the lady to her new post office box. Yes, her hair was still that artificial dark red color that he remembered. She wanted instructions on how to open the box's combination lock.
Instinctively the man did not acknowledge recognition. He did not need any more hurts in his life. There had been enough nine years earlier. Yes, he loved her and he knew it. And, yes, he had forgiven her. Yes, he wanted a relationships, even a tiny friendship, but he could not make a forward move in that direction. The hurt from the previous total rejection had been that severe.
He dropped his mail onto the table. It was a sorry pile. He glanced at the Danziger cartoon on the back page of the Monitor. It was of George Bush, "The Nothing President." The man's eyes were no longer able to read the fine print of the captions. He did not take in the contents of the cartoon. He did not then laugh at it. Later he would cut it out, but now his mental faculties were quite overpowered by his emotions.
He briefly thought of stuffing the mail into his briefcase and leaving. But, No. This was his territory. She was the one who lived a town away. Yes, this was his space. He was familiar with it. He was comfortable here. He could act out his role in this scene by rote. It was quite automatic to him. He felt safe here.
And, yes, he wanted her to speak to him. Yet, he would continue to pretend not to notice her. What else? He had been conditioned to perform this role. Last year at The Single Life dance, and last spring at the Brahms Requiem. He was afraid. Early in his life he had been pushed into living in his imagination. He knew this and he knew that this was not good, yet he now accepted and acknowledged it. It would continue.
He both loved and hated his mail. In his previous career he had reached the point of mental burn out and he did not relish having to peruse all of this junk. At home, it would require reading and a decision and such labors would tend to be deferred causing the mail to continue to pile up. His tables were quite stacked with the stuff.
It was his style to dramatically rip envelopes open and sling immediately rejectionable mail into the three waste barrels. If he missed one, he was sure to hit another. Today he may have been slightly more dramatic than usual. It was his way of acting out the frustration and anger of not being able to keep up with this never ending avalanche. He flung the coupons rather loudly. Maybe this was noticed.
The credit card bills - at least 20 per month, and today - his annual automobile insurance bill. He opened everything and unfolded it and threw out what he did not need. He consciously placed the Monitor and the Metropolitan Opera brochure where they would be conspicuous if she happened over as he continued his everyday routine.
He could hear her musical voice in the background. Yes, it did have an effect on his emotions. He wanted to hear that voice forever more. But of course it could probably never be. He could only think, "She's moving in to live with a new lover, near here," Such imaginary visions were very intense. He didn't need such intensity.
That voice - It seemed as if she was being assertive with it like a blue jay announcing its arrival into a new feeding territory. But he continued to ignore it. He, too was in his territory, like a large bear clawing the trees around him as high as he could reach.
She left the post office before him. He did not look to watch her at all. He had absolutely no need to. He knew exactly who it was. And she had not chosen to speak. Nor had he.
No, this was not a pivotable scene such as Eliza Bennett meeting Darcey on his property, nor of Mathilde discovering Julien Sorel's unopened love letters received from another.
Yes, the emotions were there within one party to the scene, but not to the other. It was one sided and quite sterile. Nothing happened. No human event happened. It was over for the day, maybe not in the man's mind, but he had learned the hard way that reality ruled over fantasy.
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